West Central Blogger
Monday, December 31, 2007
Why would a Californian foundation give money for a pool renovation in a small Minnesotan town? It turns out the foundation's founder, Robert Howard, is a 1942 graduate of Wheaton High School. Robert's family ran the Wheaton Gazette from 1925 to 1946. Robert went on to own several several newspapers of his own. Eventually he founded Howard Publications, which consists of 16 newspapers and other media holdings throughout the U.S.
The Wheaton Pool Partners established the Wheaton Pool Fund to help finance much needed renovation of the community pool. The volunteer group sent a direct mail piece to Wheaton residents as well as to alumni of Wheaton High School.
The Howard Charitable Foundation contribution is the second large gift to the fund. In November, the Wheaton Community Hospital gave $100,000 as well, citing the importance of the pool to overall community health and wellbeing.
Thursday, December 27, 2007
"Many of the systems were built in the 1930s with an estimated design life of about 50 years," said WCI President Nancy Straw. "Communities are living on borrowed time."
WCI is currently conducting an infrastructure pilot project as a follow-up to the 2003 infrastructure study. The cities of Battle Lake, Brandon and Ottertail have agreed to participate in the new study.
WCI has contracted with Yellow Wood Associates, Inc., an independent firm from Vermont, to conduct an inventory and assessment of the communities’ infrastructure. The engineering firms of Widseth Smith Nolting and Interstate Engineering will also be an integral part of this project and will work closely with Yellow Wood. The project is expected to be completed by mid-2008.
The three municipalities will receive individualized reports that will include options for alternative approaches to water, wastewater and storm water issues.
WCI will post the outline of the process on its Web site to share with other communities that are reviewing their infrastructure systems.
"Yellow Wood is helping us plan for the future—20 to 30 years down the road," said Lee Sherman, city coordinator for Ottertail. "They are environmentally concerned about things like storm water run-off. Also, we have [city] water but we don’t have a sewer and we need to plan for that."
"This is a tremendous opportunity for us to be a part of this study and take advantage of what Yellow Wood has to offer," he said.
Battle Lake clerk-treasurer Wanda Berg-Vorgert agrees. "Battle Lake is excited about the pilot project and helping create a template for other towns to use," she said.
"We are one city among many that struggle with infrastructure. It’s hard to be a town of under 1,000 and be looking at a multi-million dollar project. It’s scary. I think this template is going to be helpful for so many communities," Berg-Vorgert said.
Yellow Wood recently spent a day in each community to meet with city officials, tour the city and learn more about each town’s particular goals and issues.
"They’re great people, very knowledgeable and intuitive," Berg-Vorgert said of the Yellow Wood team. "It’s such an advantage to be able to pick the brains of people of this caliber. We’re anticipating new and novel approaches to infrastructure."
Read the 2003 infrastructure study.
Friday, December 21, 2007
Training for Douglas, Grant, Pope, Stevens and Traverse will be held on Saturday, Jan. 12 in Alexandria, and Saturday, Jan. 19 in Elbow Lake. For more information, call Robbie or Karen at 1-800-492-4805.
To learn about training in Clay and Wilkin counties, visit http://www.lakesandprairies.net/html/tax_site.html
Learn more about Becker County volunteer opportunities by calling John Haack, Mahube Community Council at 218-847-1385, or email him at email@example.com.
For more information about Otter Tail opportunities, call 218-385-2900 ext 115 or toll-free (1-888-687-2277) or visit our web site at www.aarp.org/taxaide.
Minnesota State Community and Technical College and Alexandria Technical College have teamed up to offer a Small Business Success Series in three locations, focused specifically on local business needs.
The training series includes two sessions held over the next three months on these topics:
Bottom Line Thinking is a unique approach to business owners’ and managers’ greatest challenge--getting the maximum performance from each and every employee day in and day out. MSCTC’s Debbie Johnson has been working with companies over the last 20 years to do exactly that. She has created this eye-opening, insightful session on how to inspire each of your employees to act like the owner, and what is at stake if they don’t.
10 Simple Steps to Small Business Marketing Success is presented by Brad Barth of Alexandria Technical College. In his role as ATC’s Small Business Center Director his experiences with regional businesses have shown that many businesses are not doing all of the steps necessary to achieve consistent sales and marketing success. In the workshop you will learn the 10 steps the SBC recommends that you should constantly be doing sales and marketing wise to achieve success.
Seminar Dates – Fergus Falls: Jan. 29 and Feb. 26 from 6-9:30 p.m.; Perham: Feb. 12 and March 12 from 8-11:30 a.m.; and Wheaton: Jan. 15 and Feb. 21 from 6:00pm to 9:30pm.
The cost is $25.00 per session
For more information or to register please call or email Denice Brewer at 800.426.5603 extension 6576 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The series is made possible through a grant from West Central Initiative and in partnership with the Department of Employment and Economic Development. The training will be offered in three local communities. United Community Bank is sponsoring the training in Perham, Fergus Falls Area Chamber of Commerce and Fergus Falls Economic Improvement Commission is sponsoring the training in Fergus Falls and Wheaton Economic Development Commission is sponsoring the training in Wheaton.
Wednesday, December 19, 2007
Monday, December 17, 2007
- Keep money in our community: Significantly more money re-circulates locally when purchases are made at locally owned, rather than nationally owned businesses. This multiplier is due in part to locally owned businesses purchasing more often from other local businesses, service providers and farms. Purchasing local helps grow other businesses as well as the local tax base. (A 10/04 study shows that locally owned businesses generate a premium in enhanced economic impact—For every $100 spent at a locally owned business, $45 goes back into the community and our tax base. For every $100 spent at a chain store, only $14 comes back).
- Support community groups: Non-profit organizations receive an average 250% more support from smaller locally owned business owners than they do from large businesses.
- Keep our community unique: Where we shop, where we eat and have fun—all of it makes our community home. Our one-of-a-kind businesses are an integral part of the distinctive character of this place. Our tourism businesses also benefit. "When people go on vacation they generally seek out destinations that offer them the sense of being someplace, not just anyplace,” says Richard Moe, President, National Historic Preservation Trust.
- Reduce environmental impact: Locally owned businesses can make more local purchases requiring less transportation and generally set up shop in town or city centers as opposed to developing on the fringe. This generally means contributing less to sprawl, congestion, habitat loss and pollution.
- Create more good jobs: Small local businesses are the largest employer nationally and in our community, provide the most jobs to residents.
- Get better service: Local businesses often hire people with a better understanding of the products they are selling and take more time to get to know customers.
- Invest in community: Local businesses are owned by people who live in this community, are less likely to leave, and are more invested in the community's future.
- Put your taxes to good use: Local businesses in town centers require comparatively little infrastructure investment and make more efficient use of public services as compared to nationally owned stores entering the community.
- Buy what you want, not what someone wants you to buy: A marketplace of tens of thousands of small businesses is the best way to ensure innovation and low prices over the long-term. A multitude of small businesses, each selecting products based not on a national sales plan but on their own interests and the needs of their local customers, guarantees a much broader range of product choices.
- Encourage local prosperity: A growing body of economic research shows that in an increasingly homogenized world, entrepreneurs and skilled workers are more likely to invest and settle in communities that preserve their one-of-a-kind businesses and distinctive character.
Tuesday, December 11, 2007
DL, along with Bemidji, New Ulm, Thief River Falls and Winona, will be recognized during Minnesota’s Statehood Week, May 11th – 18th, 2008. Communities will work with the Minnesota Sesquicentennial Commission to plan activities and help raise awareness for that area. Activities could include any number of events; visits by Sesquicentennial Commission members, tours of the town, picnics, recognizing Sesquicentennial grant winners, or hosting civic engagement roundtable discussions.
Here's when the Holiday Train is scheduled to arrive in west central Minnesota:
- Alexandria: 1-2 p.m. - east railroad crossing ny Hubbatrd Feed Mill, 8th Ave. and Nokomis St.
- Detroit Lakes: 4:15-5:15 p.m., Holmes St. railroad crossing near DL Community and Cultural Center
Saturday, Dec. 15
- Elbow Lake: 4:30-5:30 p.m., Main St. railroad crossing.
Thursday, December 6, 2007
Tuesday, December 4, 2007
and the Fergus Falls Economic Improvement Commission surveyed key businesses within 25 miles of Fergus Falls in the fall of 2007. The organizations wanted to create a roadmap of:
- What better jobs are usually available in the area
- What people need to learn to qualify for those jobs and,
- How do they learn and gain the skills they need to apply for these HOT JOBS.
See their findings in their booklet "Fergus Falls Area Hot Jobs: The Key to Your Career Future in West Central Minnesota."
"The articles in this issue cover four different areas: local government and whether it needs a new direction, rethinking how our schools are teaching our children, keeping rural hospitals financially viable, and which direction to head in the ongoing development of a broadband infrastructure." Werner continued. "Do these areas need comprehensive, fundamental change? And if they do, how much? How far do we go?"
Tuesday, November 27, 2007
Today, he returned to present findings from his September visit and to outline how Governor Tim Pawlenty's Strategic Entrepreneurial Economic Development (SEED) program could help the region.
There's a lot to be said about living and working here, the forum participants pointed out: outdoor attractions, clean air, low crime, short commutes and urban amenities. Still, businesses indicated a great need for skilled workers. Communities wanted more support for entrepreneurship and small business development, as well as more state, regional and local investment in infrastructure of all types. Participants also called for more two-way collaboration between education and employers, from K-12 through higher education.
McElroy then outlined how SEED would benefit Greater Minnesota and the proposed funding. Take a look:
Developing and Growing Entrepreneurs
New Capital for Rural Businesses
Sustained Competitive Advantage for Rural Minnesota
Sen. Coleman is currently shepherding seven bills related to rural healthcare through the Senate. "Quality of healthcare shouldn't depend on your zipcode," he told the audience.
- Every person should have health care. The senator believes it begins with tax reform and refundable tax credits.
- People shouldn't worry about losing their insurance if they get sick. Insurance needs to be portable. Leaving an employer, starting a new businesses, changing jobs or spending more time at home with family shouldn't risk one's health care coverage.
- There needs to be a change of attitude. "There is a need to focus on wellness and prevention. Obesity is a big problem," he said. "I'm also a big believer in individual responsibility. We need to educate consumers so they can make better choices."
- Health care decisions should not be made by Washington bureaucrats. While government can help, the decisions should be in the hands of citizens and their doctors. Health care reform shouldn't be a one-size-fits-all approach. There should be a variety of options.
Wednesday, November 21, 2007
The commission is holding a public forum in Alexandria on Nov. 30, 1-3 pm at St. Mary’s Catholic Church, 411 Hawthorne Street. It's an opportunity for residents of Douglas, Grant, Pope, Stevens and Traverse counties to share their personal experiences with living in poverty and its effects on their families and local communities.
The forum will also give legislators an insight into whether citizens have the will to support significant new efforts necessary to eliminate poverty in Minnesota by the year 2020. The commission is required to make recommendations to the full legislature by Dec. 15, 2008.
The forum is sponsored by West Central MN Communities Action, Inc. and the United Way of Douglas & Pope Counties.
Thursday, November 15, 2007
WCI currently partners with the Child and Youth Council through our Early Childhood Initiative.
Every Nov. 15, nonprofits pause to recognize the great contributions of philanthropy -- and those people active in the philanthropic community -- to the enrichment of our world. Frankly, without the support of our donors--individuals, communities, other foundations, etc.--we couldn't do our mission to help make west central Minnesota the best place in which to live and work.
Here at WCI, we just sent out our annual report highlighting what we've accomplished in the past year. It's one way we remain accountable to our contributors. It's our chance to recognize all of you for your generosity, as well. To all our fiscal year 2007 donors (July 1, 2006-June 30, 2007): we offer our thanks on your very own thanksgiving day--one week early!
Wednesday, November 7, 2007
MnCareers (www.iseek.org/mncareers) is a great place for students to start looking into careers. They can click on “Start Exploring” and take the online interest assessment. “Investigate Careers” describes many possible occupations that match their interests. There are resources available for parents, too.
Don’t think your child has to move far away from home to get a good job, either. There are many high-demand, high-pay occupations throughout west central Minnesota. The 2008 MnCareers supplement details the kinds of workers that are needed in this area, plus education requirements and potential wages. Download a PDF of the supplement, or learn more at www.iseek.org/mncareers/myplace/edr4.html or www.iseek.org/westcentral/.
Been out of school for a while? The same online tools can be applied to YOUR job search!
Monday, November 5, 2007
Minnesota State Demographer Tom Gillaspy and Minnesota Chief Economist Tom Stinson recently presented sobering statistics, interesting challenges and possible solutions at Alexandria's second annual Manufacturers and Industries Breakfast.
Read about their presentation.
Wednesday, October 31, 2007
Tuesday, October 30, 2007
Monday, October 29, 2007
Nancy has served since 2001 as the chief financial officer and vice president of the Lake Region Electric Cooperative in Pelican Rapids. In this position she has been an active member of the WCI-sponsored Labor Force Development Council and is currently its chair. She has also worked on other special projects with WCI.
"I am excited about the opportunities that lay ahead with the Northwest Minnesota Foundation," Nancy said of her new position. "I look forward to being part of the team finding positive solutions for the [northwest Minnesota] region."
The WCI staff extend congratulations and best wishes to Nancy and look forward to working with her as a colleague of the Minnesota Initiative Foundations.
Thursday, October 25, 2007
For the third week in a row, WCI staff headed out in the wee hours to host a town meeting. This time about 25 folks from all around Pope County met at the Village Inn in Glenwood to talk about their communities.
Employers talked about the barriers to getting positions filled: lack of housing and daycare in the area, and few skilled workers. Local industries are tackling this. "We just want people who want to work, and we'll train them," one employer said. This was true for manufacturers, healthcare facilities and other businesses represented around the table. WCI has helped several area employers with their training programs through its Workforce 2020 grants. Businesses are also working with local high schools to get students exposed to and interested in the kinds of work available in the area.
Child care is a growing issue.
"If you don't have quality child care, it's tough for workers to come in and do quality work," said Jeannie Pederson, Pope County Early Childhood and Thrive coordinator.
"(Lack of) day care can cost us 10 percent of worker hours," an employer added.
Pederson discussed the work that Thrive was accomplishing. She invited those gathered to attend a Nov. 14 presentation in Glenwood by Charlie Appelstein on "No Such Thing as a Bad Kid."
Some talked about the opportunities that this area has to offer--a beautiful location, available jobs, newer schools, the early childhood coalition--and challenged the area's communities to think of doing more together, like a joint chamber of commerce between Starbuck and Glenwood, and combining forces to tackle infrastructure issues.
WCI holds several of these community meetings throughout west central Minnesota each year. Want to know when we'll be in your area? Contact Kim Embretson to find out.
Tuesday, October 23, 2007
So, it's appropriate to take a week and say thanks to the manufacturers who not only make the things we need, but rank second in jobs in our region, about 14 percent of total regional employment. And they pay better than most other industries as well. Several towns are hosting manufacturer appreciation events throughout west central Minnesota. See if you can catch one.
Monday, October 22, 2007
“West Central Initiative works hard to provide resources that help create a better tomorrow for those living and working in west central Minnesota,” said WCI President Nancy Straw. “This ranking demonstrates our commitment to the region.”
The Minnesota Council on Foundations compiles the list each year. It ranks community and public foundations by grants and program-related investments paid in 2006.
"West Central Initiative partners with businesses, cities, counties, schools, human service agencies, individual donors and others to make a substantial investment in the communities and people of west central Minnesota," Straw continued. "We're all looking for ways to make this region a great place to live, work and raise a family. We're pleased this ranking shows at least the financial efforts of these partnerships."
Thursday, October 18, 2007
Contact WCI for information about how to contribute to the fund.
- Jonel says her favorite stop EVER is the Vining Sculpture Garden.
- Mong lists the Viking Cafe in Fergus Falls as one of his top 10 places to get a slice of pie.
- Dawn's family loves staying at the Tipsinah Mounds Campground in Elbow Lake.
- Norm thinks the White Earth State Forest is one of the best places to go for car rallies.
What are some of your favorite west central Minnesota spots and activities? Add your faves to My Favorite Minnesota's lists and help make our region shine!
Wednesday, October 17, 2007
Monday, October 15, 2007
Check back for Stoney's PowerPoint presentation. She suggests you read the notes section for more in-depth information.
Friday, October 12, 2007
“Building Nurturing Communities of Thriving Children” was produced by Wilder Research on behalf of the MIFs to determine the success of The Minnesota Early Childhood Initiative (ECI). The ECI is made up of individuals and organizations from around the state that have formed 64 early childhood coalitions. These groups work with 165 greater Minnesota communities and have implemented more than 400 projects, programs and activities to improve the well-being of young children.
“This report shows how these diverse coalition projects are contributing in measurable ways to the healthy development and school readiness of young children, and it connects these efforts to research and evidence-based practices,” said Nancy Jost, West Central Initiative’s Early Childhood Initiative coordinator. “Often, school readiness is simply measured by whether or not a child knows the ABCs and 123s, but it’s so much more than that.”
The report highlights some of ECI’s success stories, including west central Minnesota’s Early Childhood Dental Network, which is improving oral health awareness, education and dental access throughout the region.
To learn more about the Minnesota Early Childhood Initiative or to receive a copy of the report, “Building Nurturing Communities of Thriving Children,” please call West Central Initiative at (800) 735-2239; or view the report online.
Wednesday, October 10, 2007
It was clear fairly quickly that this assembly of city officials, businesspeople, civic leaders and concerned citizens loved their town, and expressed pride in what is being accomplished.
They talked about how the town draws people from miles around to take advantage of facilities like the Family Aquatic Center, the 4-H horse arena and the Bois De Sioux Golf Course. They raised up initiatives that have brought folks together to work hard to better their community, like the new Family Community Center, Project Breckenridge--whose work includes installing new playgrounds and park benches, planting flowers, and other beautification projects--and the current school referendum. They praised their healthcare, their early childhood and family education, their civic organizations and their schools.
They also identifed needs. Like more volunteers for Kinship, the area's youth mentoring program, more housing--especially for people over 55--and help for families struggling with mental illness, chemical dependency and other issues that are affecting their young children's abilities to learn and thrive.
All this and more was discussed--and the breakfast buffet was pretty darn good, too.
WCI holds several of these community meetings throughout west central Minnesota each year. Want to know when we'll be in your area? Contact Kim Embretson to find out.
Tuesday, October 9, 2007
You may not know the answers, but the residents of New York Mills do. They recently heard a report of its spending habits from Ryan Pesch, regional extension educator in community economics for the U of M Extension Service. The presentation was part of the Horizons community leadership program aimed at reducing poverty in rural and reservation communities with populations of 5,000 or fewer and with histories of economic decline and significant population change.
Monday, October 8, 2007
- Click on "Services" and you'll see that the library system provides outreach services to 65 daycares and Head Start groups on a monthly basis.
- The "Online Reference Resources" page is a great place to start on just about any research topic.
- If you're looking for something to read, try the "Bestsellers and Reading Lists" for suggestions on every type of book genre.
Friday, September 28, 2007
What Makes A Business Valuable?: Sat. Oct. 6, 8 a.m.-5 p.m., Vergas High School Media Center. Cost: $85, includes lunch.
Introduction to Government Contracting: Tues., Oct. 16, 9 a.m.-12 noon, Moorhead State Center for Business, room 103. Register at www.ptac-meda.net.
Doing Business with the States of Minnesota and North Dakota: Friday, Oct. 5, 9 a.m.-12 noon, Detroit Lakes Technical College. Register at www.ptac-meda.net.
For more info, contact Jackie Seifert at the SBDC office, 218-447-2289.
Wednesday, September 26, 2007
Webinar Instructions: Blandin webinars are Internet and conference call based. Click on this link to join us via the web: https://umconnect.umn.edu/blandinwebinar
Wednesday, September 19, 2007
Is your workplace a work-life champion? Businesses and organizations are invited to apply online to the Minnesota Work-Life Champions Awards by October 31, 2007.
Go to the Minnesota Work-Life Champions Web site to read about other success stories like American Solutions for Business. While you're there, take a look at the online resources, handouts and ideas for work practices that can help turn your workplace into a work-life champion.
This year, each employer applying to the Work-Life Champions Awards will receive by e-mail the following two gifts in PDF format:
A Work-Life History – Reports on Work-Life Trends
Best Practices for Small Companies
Tuesday, September 18, 2007
Friday, September 14, 2007
Thursday, September 13, 2007
On Sept. 11, more than 30 people from around the region met at West Central Initiative to talk about the future of their communities. Their challenge was to envision Minnesota's future two generations out.
The dialogue was all part of the Meadowlark Project, a learning laboratory initiated by Northern Great Plains, Inc., (NGP) a Fargo-based non-profit whose mission is to make a positive difference in the future of rural communities and businesses by helping them successfully adapt to changing market and social forces. NGP works in North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Iowa and Minnesota.
Tuesday, September 11, 2007
But now there's a new play area in E.L. Peterson Park that is designed specifically for children ages 2-5. And it took a whole community pitching in to help make it a reality. The WCI-supported Pelican Rapids Early Childhood Initiative spearheaded the project. They worked with city officials to plan the new play area, and helped raise $8,000 through private and business donations. WCI processed the donations. The local Jaycees provided volunteer labor to assemble the equipment.
The new play area will be dedicated Sept. 13, from 4:30-6:30 p.m. Ice cream will be served. Don't know where E.L. Peterson Park is? It's right next to Pelican Pete.
Wednesday, August 29, 2007
Meanwhile, G & B's Lakewalk, Downtown Streetscape and City Park/Landscaping Committees are working on plans, too.
Looks like big ideas are blossoming in Glenwood.
What's going on in your town?
Photos taken and provided by Amy Chaffins, Pope County Tribune
Monday, August 27, 2007
But we sure had fun, didn't we?
Helping Dad feed and water the hogs,
Douglas County Fair
Fishing at Phelps Mill
Mashed potato wrestling at Barnesville's Potato Days
Friday, August 24, 2007
"The Essentials of Nonprofit Administration: Enhancing Skills – Improving Programs" is a series of monthly workshops from Sept. 5, 2007 to May 7, 2007. This training is designed to address today’s critical issues that nonprofit organizations face daily. Participants of the program will experience an interactive, experiential learning of the program focus areas. In addition there will be opportunities for networking with the other nonprofit professionals and learned practical application techniques. The workshops will be held in either Alexandria or Fergus Falls.
Register online or, for more information, call the Heart of Lakes United Way office at (320) 763-4840.
If you're interested in improving your organization's financial health, then you'll want to attend the nonprofit training workshops Sept. 19, 2007, at the Courtyard Marriott in Moorhead.
Kate Barr, executive director of the Minnesota Nonprofits Assistance Fund, will present "Calculating True Program Costs" and "Measuring NonProfit Financial Health." Cost to attend the full day is $35. Register online today!