West Central Blogger

Friday, October 31, 2008

Learn more about regional renewable energy grants and opportunities

The Board and Staff of the Minnesota Renewable Energy Marketplace – Alliance for Talent Development (MNREM) invites you to an informational meeting to hear more about opportunities to develop regional talent for renewable energy, value-added agriculture, agri-bioscience and supporting industries.

The meeting is scheduled for Friday, November 14, 8:30 AM at West Central Initiative, 1000 Western Avenue, Fergus Falls.

The MNREM Board will be awarding grants to fund innovative concepts for addressing the talent development needs of transforming the region from primarily agriculture-dependent to a knowledge and innovation-based economy that capitalizes on the region’s strength in agriculture and renewable energy. At the meeting, MNREM staff will discuss the Request for Proposal process, what to expect, and the application process.

Applicants must be based in one of the 36 MNREM counties listed below, however, that does not preclude partnerships and inter-regional collaborations that extend beyond those 36 counties.

MNREM Counties: Big Stone, Blue Earth, Brown, Chippewa, Clay, Cottonwood, Douglas, Faribault, Freeborn, Grant, Jackson, Kandiyohi, Lac qui Parle, Lincoln, Lyon, Martin, McLeod, Meeker, Murray, Nicollet, Nobles, Norman, Otter Tail, Pipestone, Pope, Redwood, Renville, Rock, Sibley, Stevens, Swift, Traverse, Waseca, Watonwan, Wilkin, Yellow Medicine

For more information, contact Teresa Kittridge, MNREM Executive Director, at 952-454-7211 or teresa@mnrem.org.

Or check the Web site at  http://www.mnrem.org/.

An early assembly in Alexandria

WCI staff headed to Alexandria and the Broadway Ballroom on Oct. 29 to learn the area's latest news and most pressing issues at a community breakfast.
Alexandria looks at itself as a regional center. It is well situated, not just in the state, but in the Upper Midwest. It is a manufacturing, healthcare and shopping hub. Many workers in Alec come from surrounding towns, so there's a symbiotic relationship between neighboring cities.

Alexandria is a giving place, too. The community comes together to successfully raise funds and awareness for many causes. There's an active Chamber of Commerce and healthy economic development. Alexandria Technical College is a real asset to attracting and retaining new people by offering custom training and lifelong learning opportunities. Businesses and organizations work together to bring in world-class speakers and trainers in order to become world-class themselves.

There are concerns. There's a lack of affordable housing in the city. There's also a disparity in the preparedness of young children who are entering school. Many aren't ready to begin kindergarten, and it becomes more difficult to catch up as they grow older. Educating parents is an important step to getting help as early as possible for the children who need it.

There's a need for an industrial park with the necessary infrastructure for businesses to start up or expand in Alexandria.

There's a change in diversity in the area. A survey conducted by the Diversity Resource Action Alliance (DRAA) found that many residents are uncomfortable with change. DRAA is bringing people together in social settings, like the Heritage Fest, as a way of helping folks learn more about each other in an informal, relaxed environment.

Then there are all these giving opportunities, which is great. But, are the older volunteers burning out? Are younger people too busy to join service groups or hold leadership positions for charitable organizations? The school district is working to raise up the next generation of leaders by requiring volunteer hours.

Finally, agriculture--food and renewable energy--is a very important sector in the area. Money is going out of the region to invest in renewables. What can be done to invest ag-based businesses locally?

Monday, October 27, 2008

A plan to obtain, train and retain workers in small communities

excerpted from WDAY-TV, Fargo

After years of staff leaving for new jobs in bigger districts and then trouble filling those positions. Some rural schools are trying new and unique programs to attract and keep people. In Lisbon, ND, the district has a plan to save staff money and provide a better education to both students and staff.

Could this idea work in your school district? Could this work in other work places in your community?

Friday, October 24, 2008

Meetin' at Wheaton

Anyone driving through downtown Wheaton bright and early on October 21 could see something was happening at the Country Corner Cafe. About 35 residents, business people, nonprofit representatives, public officials and community leaders filled the cafe's community room to enjoy a hearty breakfast and to talk about their town at the WCI-hosted community meeting.

WCI holds these breakfast gatherings throughout west central Minnesota each year. It's a way of learning more about the area and the issues that people are talking about. Here are just some of the highlights:
What did folks like best about Wheaton? The good people, a family friendly atmosphere, an excellent school system and a good hospital.
What were some of the concerns? Duebers variety store closing, young people leaving town due to the lack of good-paying jobs, few opportunities for young people to socialize in a healthy way, no local food source.
What were some ideas generated by the group? Come together regularly to talk about issues and create a plan for action. Find more ways--like the pool renovation and the early childhood mental health coalition--to bring families together for fun and education in Wheaton. Consider starting a local food co-op. Start up businesses that cater to young people. Consider a community-owned wind energy co-op.
The breakfasts have been a good way of generating discussion in our region. WCI staff plan to head to Alexandria, Moorhead and Frazee in the next few weeks to stir up a little more conversation!

Monday, October 20, 2008

Dream It. Do It.

"What are you interested in pursuing after graduation?"

That question strikes fear in the hearts of many high school students--at least those who don't want to be crime scene investigators (Thanks, CSI).

Dream It. Do It. is a new campaign by the National Association of Manufacturers that encourages young people to look at an amazing array of job opportunities.

The Dream It. Do It. Web site has a cool online career toolkit that includes a dream career quiz, a career calculator and even a business card designer (see the graphic)!

Local organizations are working to bring Dream It. Do It. to Minnesota. In the meantime, share the Web site with the young people in your life. It just might open up some awesome career avenues for them.

Hats off to Minnesota manufacturers

It's Minnesota Manufacturers' Week, Oct. 20-24.

Here in west central Minnesota, we're awfully appreciative of the overall impact manufacturing has had on the region's economy. Back in the 1980s, when the farming and mining industries were in sharp decline, it was manufacturing that helped provide jobs for the region. West Central Initiative, with generous support from The McKnight Foundation, worked--and continues to work--to help manufacturers start up and expand their businesses, and train workers to do their jobs better and more efficiently.

In the last decade, west central Minnesota's manufacturing wages have steadily improved, and, in the last few years, although economic growth has been relatively flat in the state, west central Minnesota's economy has grown, thanks in part to our active manufacturing sector.

So, hats off to you, area manufacturers!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

It's fun to be cavity free!

Participants at the "Cavity Free Kids" train-the-trainer workshop on Oct. 13 at the WCI offices found out that teaching good oral hygiene to kids and families doesn't have to be boring. The day's training was filled with hands-on projects, skits and role-playing that can be used to help pass along the message that taking care of one's mouth is an important first step toward overall good health.

The event was sponsored by the Early Childhood Dental Network and Delta Dental of Minnesota. The "Cavity Free Kids" curriculum was presented by Delta Dental.

Created with Admarket's flickrSLiDR.

Monday, October 6, 2008

New York Mills named RUPRI "Entrepreneur of the Month"

The RUPRI Center for Rural Entrepreneurship has named an entire town its "Entrepreneur of the Month." RUPRI recognized New York Mills for its entrepreneurial spirit in turning rural arts and culture into economic development.

Read about New York Mills.

RUPRI works to stimulate and support private and public entrepreneurship development in communities throughout rural America.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Donna's world

Donna is the smiling face people usually first see when they visit West Central Initiative, and the friendly voice people first hear when they call. She also has quite a talented and discerning eye when it comes to photography. Take a peek into Donna's world through the slideshow at the upper right of the blog.

Donna tells a funny story about the ladybug shot (or whatever ladybug-like insect it is). She was so intent on getting the image just right, she followed that one ladybug around with her camera for the longest time. It wasn't until she got the shot and looked up from the viewfinder that she saw the bush was filled with ladybugs!

Thanks for sharing your photos with us, Donna.