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Initiative Quarterly

Foundation Drives $7.8 Million in Relief Grants

August 11, 2020

St. Cloud Global Center one of 12 statewide to receive cultural mall operator grant

The Initiative Foundation has begun the process of distributing up to $7.8 million in grants to 765 Central Minnesota small businesses and a St. Cloud cultural mall that have been affected by coronavirus slowdowns, shutdowns and state-ordered restrictions.

“This is a stressful and demanding time for our small business community,” said Lynn Bushinger, chief financial and operations officer at the Initiative Foundation. “Our goal is to work quickly to drive these crucial resources into the hands of Central Minnesota entrepreneurs. These grants won't completely solve the economic strain, but they will help to ease the burden that has resulted from the statewide coronavirus response.”

The $10,000 Small Business Relief Grants are part of a $62.5 million program approved by the Minnesota Legislature during the June 2020 Special Session and signed into law by Gov. Tim Walz. The law named the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) as the principle organization in charge and states that half of the grant money should be distributed in Greater Minnesota by the Initiative Foundation and its five sister organizations. 

Most of the funding comes from the federal CARES Act, with a smaller amount, about $2.5 million, coming from DEED’s emergency loan fund. For Greater Minnesota, DEED has managed the application and lottery-style selection process, and the Minnesota Initiative Foundations will validate for eligibility and disperse the funds.

Included in the relief effort is a Minnesota Cultural Mall Operator Grants program. Global Center, an indoor cultural mall and food market with 32 tenants on Third Street North in St. Cloud, is one of 12 named recipients. Global Center, the only cultural mall awardee outside of the Twin Cities metropolitan area, is anticipated to receive a $110,000 grant. At least 50 percent of the grant must be used as rent relief for existing tenants.

About half of the Initiative Foundation’s 25-member staff is involved in validating grantee eligibility. Once validated, the Foundation’s team will administer and distribute grant payments to qualifying businesses. “This program is easily the biggest grant effort we’ve ever undertaken,” said Jeff Wig, Initiative Foundation vice president for entrepreneurship. “Normally we make about 150 grants in a year, but with this program we will make over 750 grants in just six weeks.”

The Initiative Foundation’s 14-county service area includes Benton, Cass, Chisago, Crow Wing, Isanti, Kanabec, Mille Lacs, Morrison, Pine, Sherburne, Stearns, Todd, Wadena and Wright counties and the sovereign tribal nations of the Leech Lake and Mille Lacs Bands of Ojibwe. Visit the Initiative Foundation’s COVID-19 page to learn more about relief and response efforts in the region.

About the Initiative Foundation

The Initiative Foundation exists to improve the quality of life and to build stronger communities in Central Minnesota by offering business loans, nonprofit grants, leadership training and donor services through its Partner Funds programs. Since 1986, the Initiative Foundation and its Partner Funds have invested multiple millions in the region through targeted grants and business financing investments.

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