West Central Blogger

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

What are you thankful for, west central Minnesota?

"I am thankful to be able to live and raise my family in a small town, and to be surrounded by people with similar lifestyle desires."  Chuck Johnson, Director, Perham Economic Development Authority

"I'm thankful for my family and the spirit of the holiday season." Laurissa Stigen, Executive Director, Central Minnesota Area Health Education Center
"I'm thankful that I get to spend Thanksgiving surrounded by family and friends. I'm grateful that they and loved ones I can't be with are all well this holiday season. I'm thankful that I get to play games all day long (in between the eating, of course)! And I'm thankful that they make medication to help me with my cat allergies since my gracious Turkey Day host has three kitties." Sheri Holm, WCI Communications Director
"In this tough economic time, I am thankful for what I do have . . . a healthy, happy family, a great job and a place to go home to at the end of the day. The downturn has forced me to reevaluate my priorities. Although difficult, sometimes we need to do this." Marsha Erickson, WCI Program Assistant

Add your voice to the thankful roster. Just click on "comment."

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Good morning, Moorhead!

This week WCI traveled to Moorhead to meet with the city's leaders, business people, nonprofit reps and educators over a breakfast buffet.

Moorhead is the largest city in west central Minnesota. Even though it's smaller than its sister city, Fargo, it's more than holding its own.

Moorhead boasts a strong and diverse economy. Housing is booming. It has an unbelievably strong educational system, from preK all the way to higher ed, with lots of community education and lifelong learning opportunities. It has five colleges--five!--that enriches the city in ways other communities would love to emulate. New Americans are finding a peaceful place to call home, thanks in part to the melting pot created by the diverse students from many countries attending school.

Being the largest city in west central Minnesota brings its challenges, as well. There is a large influx of homeless, including youth. There are waiting lists for childcare assistance, Head Start openings and the senior food assistance program. Transportation, especially special mobility transport, is getting to be a challenge as the city grows and the population ages. The lack of childcare is at a crisis stage. More and more people are using social services as they look for help with escalating energy and food costs. The same colleges that are providing so much to the vibrancy of the city are bracing for the impact the economic downturn will make on endowments, donations and grants.
Still, the city knows how to collaborate to tackle issues and create opportunities. The EDA and the City of Moorhead have some exciting plans for business development, including creating a business outreach position to work with new and existing businesses, and collaborating with Minnesota State University Moorhead to develop a wet-lab facility that can be used as a business incubator through scientific research. Organizations like the Lakes & Prairies Community Action, the Metro Youth Partnership, Early Childhood Alliance and Mujeres Unidas work with the schools and the city to reach out to children from the youngest on up, to make sure they grow up healthy and whole.  And groups like the Immigration Development Center and Community Ed are providing opportunities for New Americans to use and expand their skills and knowledge as they learn to make their home in the Moorhead-Fargo area.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Frazee Friday

WCI staff traveled north last Friday to learn about all things Frazee at a community breakfast. Community leaders, public officials, business owners, residents and other members of the community met at the Frazee Event Center, which has become an important gathering place for the Frazee area.

What are some of the great things about Frazee? It's location, for one. It's close to nature and outdoor pursuits, close to good highways and close to services. It's a safe environment, with 24-hour fire and police departments. The schools are good. The residents are community-oriented, generous and interested in community vitality. It's a good place for all ages to live and work.

Are there any challenges, then? Sure. There's a lack of housing, for one, so many workers actually live in neighboring Detroit Lakes and other surrounding communities. Business owners live out of town, and seniors often retire to other communities.

Residents wish there were ways of bringing more people into town. It can be hard, with only one restaurant and no hotel. There are some great shops downtown, and some wonderful annual events, like the upcoming Festival of Trees on Thanksgiving weekend. The group brainstormed additional ways of attracting people, including more specialty stores, more restaurants and public art like murals.

The group also talked about redevelopment of the old Swift plant that was torn down and the property prepared for commercial development--including adding a brand new street (a street naming contest is being held by the City of Frazee. Entries are due Dec. 1!). They discussed the pros and cons of an industrial park.

After the official meeting was over, many stayed to talk, eager to keep the conversation going. The group decided to convene regular meetings and set the next one for the third Friday in January. If you live or work in Frazee and are interested in attending, contact Lori Thorp at Community Ed at lthorp@frazee.k12.mn.us, or call her at 218-334-2525.

Friday, November 7, 2008

WCI welcomes Tom McSparron, donor services officer

West Central Initiative is pleased to introduce our newest staff member, Tom McSparron.

Tom joins WCI as donor services officer. He 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 69 component funds administered by WCI.
Tom brings more than 20 years of professional fundraising experience to WCI. Most recently he served as director of development for the North Dakota 4-H Foundation for seven years. He is an active member of the Association of Fundraising Professionals.

Feel free to stop by the WCI offices and greet Tom. But don't worry if you can't. Tom's traveling schedule is filling up quickly. He'll probably be in your area soon!

Brush up on your winter driving techniques

West Central Initiative is committed to improving the quality of life in west central Minnesota, which means keeping you safe is a priority! That's why we're passing on MnDOT's recently released helpful reminders for winter driving. Seems like we all have to relearn this every year. And don't forget to put together that winter survival kit to keep in the trunk. Time to stock up on batteries, candles and high-energy snacks (I recommend granola bars--the plainer the better. Otherwise it's too tempting to sneak out to the garage and eat your entire "high-energy snack" stash during those personal crises that only chocolate can soothe--not that I'm speaking from personal experience. SBH).

Monday, November 3, 2008

SJE-Rhombus receives award for international trade success

SJE-Rhombus, Detroit Lakes, was one of nine Minnesota companies to receive the 2008 Governor's International Trade Award from the Minnesota Trade Office.

The employee-owned company manufactures pump and motor controls for the water and wastewater industries. Thanks to an aggressive expansion strategy, the 240-employee company has sales and operations in 27 countries.

"These companies, many of them small firms, show that you don't have to be a major corporation to sell your products and services in foreign countries," said Tony Lorusso, executive director of the Minnesota Trade Office. "Thanks to these and other firms, Minnesota is on track for a record year in manufactured export sales."

Minnesota's manufactured exports reached a record $4.4 billion in the second quarter of 2008, led by sales of computers and electronics, and followed by machinery, transportation equipment, miscellaneous products including medical devices, and food products.