West Central Blogger

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Online caucus finder makes it easier for Minnesotans to "get out the vote"

Feb. 5 is "Super Tuesday," the day when Democrat and Republican parties will be holding caucuses and primary elections in 24 states, including Minnesota.

The Office of the Minnesota Secretary of State is pleased to offer residents an online non-partisan precinct caucus finder--the first of its kind in the nation. Although not all political parties are having caucuses on Feb. 5, you can still find where your local Green, Independent, Constitution party caucus will be held.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Callaway shows how a small town can overcome a big problem

Callaway is a town of just 200 people, but it had a pretty big problem: a deteriorating 90-year-old water system, plus a 60-year-old "hand-me-down" treatment plant purchased from another town. Its infrastructure wasn't just old, it was unsafe.

It was obvious and imperative both the water system and the treatment plant needed to be significantly updated--but at what cost to the townspeople?

Callaway's leaders set to work coming up with a two-part plan and enough funding to complete the ambitious project in two years.
Many west central Minnesota communities are facing infrastructure crises like Callaway. Read WCI's infrastructure study report.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Barnesville directory offers "Every product you need; every service you want"

Each year the city of Barnesville's Main Street Program compiles its annual Goods and Services Directory as a way of encouraging residents to buy local. As the cover of the directory says, "Every product you need; every service you want" are listed in the pages--from accounting services and acupuncture to where you can get frozen yogurt in town (Renee's Drive-In!). The directory also lists local organizations and contact information.

The Main Street Program consists of community leaders, business people and private individuals who work together to strengthen the local economy and make Barnesville a better place to live and work.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

The best of thanks

The WCI staff have particularly enjoyed a couple hand-made thank you cards that have recently made their way to the office. We thought you'd enjoy them too, dear reader!

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

WCI remembers Paul Sukke

West Central Initiative board and staff are saddened by the loss of Paul Sukke, board member and former board chair, who died Saturday, Jan. 19.

"Paul was a terrific board member: candid, sincere and dedicated to the work of WCI. He was highly respected by both board and staff and had an excellent understanding of community and how communities work. I considered him a friend and mentor, and appreciate all he did for WCI," said Nancy Straw, WCI president.

Kim Embretson, vice president of development, shares this memory: "Paul was a new board member at WCI at the same time I became a new employee. Shortly after we started, there was an opportunity to take some national training In Washington DC on community foundations. Paul volunteered to take time off from his business and I was selected as the staff member to attend. Paul was always interested in learning more about an organization when he volunteered. During the training and travel we had a lot of time to talk about our communities. I was impressed with Paul's passion for serving his community. Caring about his community went beyond being good for business. It was what it means to be a good citizen.

"After the conference we returned to the DC Airport via the commuter train. We arrived early for the train and decided to separate and do a little site seeing before the train departed. I became worried when it was time for the train to leave and I didn't see Paul on the platform. This was the last train that would get us to the airport on time. At the last minute I boarded the train took a seat and started wondering how I would explain losing a board member in Washington DC. A few minutes later I was relieved to see Paul walking up the aisle of my train car. We didn't miss the train, but Paul's passion for community will be dearly missed."

The board and staff extend their condolences to Paul's wife Madalyn, son Erik and daughter Allison, and to all of his family.

Share memories or thoughts of Paul.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Community projects needed for Valspar Picture It Painted Program

Are you looking for a way to spruce up your community, neighborhood or park? West Central Initiative (WCI) may have a solution with the Valspar Picture It Painted program. Through a continued collaborative effort with the Valspar Corporation, paint and coatings will again be available in 2008 to communities and public organizations located in the west central Minnesota counties of Becker, Clay, Douglas, Grant, Otter Tail, Pope, Stevens, Traverse and Wilkin to complete a rehabilitation or restoration project.

Paint and other products, including stain and sealant, will be awarded for interior or exterior restoration or beautification projects that best meet the eligibility criteria. Selection will be based on the visual impact of the project, public benefit to the community, local volunteer participation and support, intended use of the building and benefit to the needy.
Projects that qualify include, but are not limited to, historic buildings, senior citizen or handicapped facilities, community centers, public buildings and murals. Projects that do not fall within the scope of the Picture It Painted program include denominational churches, schools, city maintenance or privately owned facilities. Projects outside of WCI’s nine-county service area do not qualify.

Applications are due March 1, 2008 and approved projects will be announced on or after March 22, 2008.

Download the application here, or, for more information on the Picture It Painted program, call Roberto Tapiz at 1-800-735-2239 or email him at roberto@wcif.org.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Brianna McAleer joins WCI as donor services officer

There's a cheerful new presence at WCI who's bringing smiles to the faces of WCI staff, and soon to our donors and prospective donors.

Brianna McAleer joined WCI on Jan. 7 as the new donor services officer, effectively completing an intensive, months-long search.

Brianna is responsible for making sure our donors receive the best possible service, as well as helping culivate new and prospective donors to the unrestricted endowment fund and the 60-plus component funds established by WCI.

Brianna comes to WCI from Jamestown, ND, where she recently served as associate director of annual giving at Jamestown College. She directed all aspects of fundraising for athletic and arts fundraising clubs, oversaw several giving programs, managed the general fund and participated in special gifts campaigns.

A Moorhead native, Brianna received the Bachelor of Arts degree in economics from Colorado College, Colorado Springs, Colo., in 2005.

Brianna enjoys running, reading, traveling, hosting dinner parties and spending time with friends and families.

Feel free to stop by the WCI offices and meet Brianna. If that's not possible, don't worry. With her rapidly filling travel schedule, chances are she'll be in your neighborhood soon!

Dads and early literacy (FRED training)

Can a father's participation in reading to his little kids make a difference in his children's own ability to read? Yes, says the Minnesota Humanities Center, and there's research to prove it.

The center will be offering "Dads and Early Literacy," a workshop for area educators, social service professionals, librarians and others involved in literacy programming. The event will be held Friday, Feb. 1 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at West Central Initiative.

Participants will learn about research and resources related to fathers and early literacy. A statewide provider of programs and resources in the humanities, the Minnesota Humanities Center is coordinating this workshop with support from West Central Initiative.

Learn more or register online.

P.S. FRED isn't one particular dad we're training. It stands for Fathers Reading Every Day.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Who would promote a town with a pun? Hawley would.

Perhaps you've seen the billboard after a shopping trip to West Acres in Fargo: "HAWLEY WOULD be a great place to live and work!" The city of Hawley, pop. 1,882, located 22 miles east of the Fargo-Moorhead area, has been using this campaign for about a year now, and people have noticed.

The "Hawley Would" campaign is run by the Hawley Community Club, an all-volunteer group that seeks to bring new homeowners and new businesses to the town, raise awareness about opportunities to live and work in Hawley and improve the image of Hawley in the eyes of potential home and business owners.

While the campaign hasn't produced an influx of new homeowners, businesses or new construction, marketing coordinator Lee Schwartz says the publicity has certainly helped raise awareness, thanks in part to some excellent coverage by local media. Schwartz is also optimistic by the steady sale of existing homes and feels Hawley is positioning itself well for positive outcomes in the coming year.

Find out more about "Hawley Would."

Watch news coverage about "Hawley Would."

Friday, January 4, 2008

Our New Year's wishes for the region

The West Central Blogger asked WCI staff and folks from around the region to share their New Year's wishes for west central Minnesota. Add your own wish to the list!

Marsha Erickson, WCI program assistant:

  • Access for young children, whether it be for dental care, mental health care, or finding a loving place to call home.
  • Appropriate funding for schools, so we do not need to cut budgets, time and again.
  • A strong winter tourism season to boost the local economy.
  • An Old Navy and Kohls dept. store closer to Fergus Falls than Fargo!

Sue Uhlir, Lakes & Prairies Community Action:

  • I wish for us all to commit to one random act of kindness a day to help another person have a better day!
Nancy Straw, WCI president:
  • In 2008, communities in west central Minnesota take steps toward becoming recognized as one of the most environmentally green areas in the U.S.
  • West central Minnesota health care providers continue to provide top quality services.
  • An Italian restaurant opens in Fergus Falls
  • Young families moving to area increase by 200 percent.

Jill Christopherson, Wilkin County Early Childhood Initiative coordinator, and ECFE teacher:

  • For every child to feel safe and be nurtured in the own home.

Sheri Holm, WCI communications director

  • A redesign of the WCI Web site (in the works)!
  • An online social network for people in west central Minnesota to come together to share ideas, comment on regional issues and engage each other and their communities in regional projects.
  • A coffeehouse on the west side of town (Fergus Falls).

Jim Ellickson, Pine to Prairie GIS users group steering committee member:

  • I wish that in 2008, supervisors of GIS practitioners throughout west central Minnesota (and beyond) would realize that Pine to Prairie quarterly meetings provide such an exceptional educational value for their people at only the marginal cost of time that these managers would not only allow but encourage their GIS folks to attend and participate in each meeting, and reward them for doing so.

Roberto Tapiz, WCI economic development coordinator and resident cycling enthusiast:
  • My wish is for bicycle racks in front of all buildings and sidewalks along all streets!

Nancy Jost, WCI Early Childhood Initiative coordinator:

  • My wish is that children become a priority in our actions and not just our words.

Wayne Hurley, WCI planning director:

  • I wish that the State and Federal governments would come up with a fair and equitable way to ensure adequate funding for the critical transportation projects in west central Minnesota for next year and well into the future.
  • I wish for continued economic prosperity for all the communities in west central Minnesota.
  • I wish that Best Buy and Grizzly's (restaurant) would open locations in Fergus Falls. My wife also wishes for a Steve & Barry's store.

New Solutions for business growth

Business expansion can be a boon not just for a company but for an entire region. Still, expanding one’s capacity requires a commitment of time, expense and planning.

That’s exactly why the New Solutions Group was formed. West Central Initiative has joined with several area organizations to work to enhance the economy of west central Minnesota by helping companies that may be poised for growth to take that next big step.

New Solutions’ members collaborate to find new ways to help businesses succeed. It brings important partners to the table, including economic development professionals from several communities, the CFO of a large regional company, Minnesota Technology, Inc., Alexandria Technical College, Minnesota State Community and Technical College, The Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development, the University of Minnesota Extension and the Minnesota State-Moorhead Small Business Development Center.

New Solutions has identified two businesses in the region that have a high potential for growth and will work with them in the coming year. As part of the collaboration, the businesses and the New Solutions group will share the costs for an in-depth assessment by a third party, which will form the basis of a business plan to help the companies achieve the next level of success.

If successful, New Solutions hopes to expand the number of companies involved in coming years.

The potential benefits for the businesses participating include increased profitability, lower operating costs and increased productivity, as well as enhanced technology and worker retention.