West Central Blogger

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

The West Central Blogger has moved!

The West Central Blogger has moved to its new location on West Central Initiative's Web site: http://www.wcif.org/.

Click here to join us at our new location.

While you're there,
We look forward to seeing you at http://www.wcif.org/!

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Exploring high-demand, high-pay occupations in west central Minnesota

What are some of the high-pay, high-demand occupations in west central Minnesota? A consortium of organizations, including Minnesota DEED, iSeek Solutions, Rural Minnesota CEP and West Central Initiative, compile this information each year to help folks with career and education decisions.
See the results of their occupation research. Or you can request a print copy at 651-201-1521.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

It's a new Web site!

West Central Initiative is pleased to announce the birth of its new Web site, http://www.wcif.org/. It was a somewhat difficult birth (several weeks overdue!) but parent and child are doing well. And isn’t it just the prettiest thing?!! We will continue to monitor the Web site’s health to make sure everything is functioning properly. If you see any issues (links that don’t work, toes that are missing) please let us know.
Brand new and we already feel the need to brag about all the amazing things our newest addition can do:
  • It allows us to move functions to one Web site that were on separate sites before, like the events calendar, online donations and our blogs.
  • Its events calendar feature gives WCI the capability of online registration. You can also "Tell a friend about this event," see a map of the event location and receive an event reminder.
  • The biggest change is that http://www.wcif.org/ now has online communities for the groups WCI works with. Members of our online groups will be able to use them to post messages and questions to each other, chat online with another member, create online photo galleries and file libraries, keep a group events calendar, post surveys and quizzes, and work collaboratively on a document. Another feature in the works is online forums for each group. If you're interested in being a part of a group, we're inviting anyone--particularly those who live and work in west central Minnesota--to join "Regional Community."

Friday, February 6, 2009

USDA has programs to help lower income families with home ownership or repair

USDA Rural Development has funds available for housing programs to help lower income people become homeowners or to make home repairs.

Rural Developments direct housing program offers 100 percent financing to qualified applicants to become homeowners. Its home repair program offers a one percent interest loans for a maximum of $20,000 for up to 20 years based on a household's repayment ability.

Learn more about the housing programs and specific qualifications by calling the Alexandria office at (320) 763-3161, ext. 4, or email allan.cowles@mn.usda.gov. If you're in Becker or Clay County, contact the Detroit Lakes office at (218) 847-9392.

Information is also online at www.rurdev.usda.gov/mn.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

A little patch of spring

A tin of wheatgrass is providing WCI staff with a little reprieve from winter every time we look at and touch it. If only it were big enough to run barefoot through it....

Friday, January 30, 2009

Get more/do more with your tax refund

It's Earned Income Tax Credit Awareness Day in the U.S. The IRS wants people to know that tax credits are available for low- to moderate- income working individuals and families. In today's economy, a larger refund is particularly welcome. See if you qualify.

Wondering what's the best thing to do with your tax refund? The U of M Extension Service suggests four smart uses:
  1. Pay off bills.
  2. Save for needs in the coming year. Maybe you know a big bill is on the horizon, or you just want to put something aside as an emergency fund.
  3. Save for long-term goals. Think "retirement."
  4. Save for special purchases. Need to replace an appliance? A sofa? Use your tax refund to start saving toward it.
Read more and use the handy decision-making worksheet.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Starbuck has big plans for community blog

Members of Starbucks' Horizons Leadership program have launched a community blog, with area residents as the bloggers.

Recent topics include upcoming musical events, the need for licensed child care/foster care, information about home-delivered meals for seniors, invitations to join local groups, and WCI/Valspar's Minnesota Beautiful project. The site also has links to discussions by the Horizons group on poverty, leadership and community awareness.

Blog administrators hope the site will become a valued resource and an informative starting point for the entire county in the fight against poverty.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

MSCTC is now M State

It's still Minnesota State Community and Technical College, it's just a lot easier to say. The lengthy "MSCTC" acronym has been changed to "M State." The new "M State" moniker applies to all four campuses of Detroit Lakes, Fergus Falls, Moorhead and Wadena.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Mn/DOT's 20-year transportation plan is available for review/comment

Have you ever wondered how transportation might change in the next 20 years? Now's your chance to find out. The Minnesota Department of Transportation is making its Minnesota Statewide Transportation Plan for years 2009-2028 available for public review and comment.

The plan, “Transforming Minnesota’s Transportation System,” sets a long-range vision for transportation in Minnesota and identifies transportation system needs, goals and priorities for the next 20 years.

There are several opportunities to review and comment on the plan:

  • Attend a stakeholder outreach meeting from 9:30 to noon on Thursday, Feb. 5, at West Central Initiative, 1000 Western Ave., Fergus Falls, to hear a brief presentation and view the Minnesota Transportation Policy Plan. To request an ASL interpreter or other reasonable accommodation for this meeting, call 218/846-3609, call the Minnesota Relay Service toll-free at 1-800-627-3529 (TTY, Voice or ASCII) or 711 or e-mail your request to ADArequest@dot.state.mn.us.
  • Attend a statewide video conference public meeting from 9 a.m. to noon on Thursday, March 26, 2009, at Mn/DOT Detroit Lakes, 1000 Highway 10 West, or Mn/DOT Morris, 610 Highway 9 South (or in a location of your choice, see list attached). An ASL interpreter will be available at this video conference.
  • Review and comment on the Statewide Transportation http://www.dot.state.mn.us/planning/stateplan/Plan online. To request this document in an alternative format call 651-366-4718 or e-mail ADArequest@dot.state.mn.us.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Paint available for beautification projects through WCI and Valspar

Are you looking for a way to spruce up your community, neighborhood or park? West Central Initiative (WCI) may have a solution, thanks to Valspar’s Minnesota Beautiful (formerly Picture It Painted) program. Through a continued collaborative effort with the Valspar Corporation, paint and coatings will be available in 2009 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 are ineligible for the Minnesota Beautiful 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 2, 2009 and approved projects will be announced on or after March 25, 2009. Download the Minnesota Beautiful application here.

For more information on the Minnesota Beautiful program, please call Greg Wagner at 1-800-735-2239 or email him at greg@wcif.org

Congratulations, Fergus Falls High School Marching Band!

Even as this entry is being written, the Fergus Falls High School Marching Band is standing in formation ready to march in today's inauguration parade in Washington DC.

Just five weeks ago the band found out that they had been chosen to perform in the parade. Since that time, people, organizations and businesses from around the community, the region and the state have helped quickly raise the funds to cover the substantial costs of transporting, housing, caring and feeding this group of talented students.

Students and band directors are keeping loved ones at home in the loop through the use of technology. From the Fergus Falls High School site, people can learn the latest about the band using Twitter, Flickr and FirePin.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Seven tips for tapping volunteer resources during tight financial times

When cash resources are short for nonprofits and government organizations, volunteers count for a lot. Literally. In fact, volunteer time in the U.S. has an estimated economic contribution of $3.4 billion dollars annually. The Minnesota Association for Volunteer Administration offers these tips to maximize the value volunteers bring to organizations to help them survive tight financial times.

1. Maintain the volunteer manager position, even if faced with the need to make cuts. The dollar value he/she brings to the organization is many times his/her salary.

2. Intensify the impact of volunteer recruitment messages by drawing powerful images from media attention about increased needs.

3. Look for new pools of volunteers such as job seekers or people who want give gifts of skills and time because they are less able to give less financially.

4. Assess the organization for new ways volunteers can meet community needs and reduce staff stress.

5. Avoid any perception that volunteers might be used to replace staff.

6. Make sure there are volunteer opportunities that do not require out of pocket costs.

7. Increase your ability to take advantage of opportunities available through use of volunteer talent by ensuring that leaders of volunteers are well trained in the best practices for volunteer management, and by placing the volunteer manager on the management team, if he/she is not already on it.

Read more about capitalizing on volunteer resources.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Top 10 things a small town should have

In his latest article in the e-zine The Agurban, rural development guru Jack Schultz from the Boomtown Institute listed the 10 things every small town should have. Read what he has to say, and then ask yourself how your own town is doing. What would it take to make these things a reality in your community?

Top Ten Things I'd Do in Every Town

(reprinted with permission)

Community Foundation - A Community Foundation allows a community, whether it be a single town, county or even a region, to marshal small donations and funds into the efficiency of a large foundation, altering the fabric of that community for the long term. Indiana has been the leader in setting these up in every one of their counties, because of the leadership of the Lilly Foundation.

Brain Bank - Many of our small towns have seen a tremendous brain drain of their best and brightest. However, that drain could be converted into a tremendous asset and several towns have started to cultivate those ex-residents into ambassadors for their communities. North Dakota is doing it in a state-wide initiative.
Entrepreneurial Education - The new paradigm in economic development is to cultivate your own entrepreneurs. Just as the best high school sports teams start to develop their talent in grade school, those towns that want to be part of the new economy are developing entrepreneurial educational initiatives into their high schools and grade schools. Generation E Institute in Battle Creek, Michigan, is the best that I've seen.

Young Professional Organizations - Gen X and Gen Y needs to be nurtured. They are the leaders of the future and those leadership skills need to be developed now. The best I've seen are YPIowa in Iowa and YBNext in my hometown of Effingham, IL.

Arts - Quality of life issues are going to be more important in the decision of where to live and develop a career. Baby boomers went to where the jobs were. Gen X & Y young people are more focused upon quality of life for that decision. All arts are becoming more important for them in that decision. Make it easy for them to choose your town by emphasizing your art assets. Paducah, Kentucky, has done it best.

Tourism - Find the inexpensive ways to promote visits to your town. Use videos on your cable system, motel keys with info and very inexpensive ezines to let people know why they should come, visit and stay.

Downtowns - They are going through resurgence with the upstairs being fixed up into apartments and condos. Having people living in the downtown area encourages more restaurants, bars, coffee shops, etc. That in turn encourages more to live downtown and the cycle continues upward. Oxford, Mississippi, is the best I've seen.

Mentoring - Two models stick out for me. One that I saw in Carroll, Iowa, has developed a mentoring program for their college students, pairing them up with local jobs and CEOs during the summer. The other is aimed toward at-risk grade schoolers, putting local volunteers in one-on-one mentoring. We're up to 130 mentors in Effingham.

Downtown Signs - You can't have enough signs that show visitors how to get to your downtown. If they can't find it, how are they going to shop there? Jackson, Michigan, has the best I've seen. From every direction signs route visitors to the downtown area.

Angel Investor Network - Local banks can help to provide most of the start-up funds for new businesses, but having an angel investor network provide the equity to help get the new entrepreneurs into operation.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Pre-nursing course offered in two locations

Interested in a nursing or healthcare career but need to increase your skills and knowledge before registering for an academic program? Then this MSCTC- and Adult Basic Education-developed pre-nursing course is just for you. It will help you:

  • develop academic and personal skills for succeeding in nursing and other college courses;
  • know career options, expectations and tasks of professional nurses; and
  • demonstrate knowledge of nursing vocabulary, skills and ethics.

The course will be offered in both Detroit Lakes and Fergus Falls. Classes begin in February and run through May.

Learn about the Detroit Lakes pre-nursing course.

Learn about the Fergus Falls pre-nursing course.

Friday, January 2, 2009

TV show examines the infrastructure crisis underneath our feet

Liquid Assets: The Story of Our Water Infrastructure explores the looming crisis underneath our feet and how 10 cities and towns are trying to meet the challenges. While the public takes system reliability for granted, cities must find the funds to rebuild eroding systems, separate sewer and stormwater flows, and protect the watershed. Industry and environmental experts, government officials, front-line water workers and citizens reveal how their communities are working to ensure the viability of water infrastructure assets.

See Liquid Assets on Sunday, Jan. 4 at 3:30 p.m. on Pioneer Public Television. If you get Twin Cities Public Television's Channel 17, you can watch it on Tuesday, Jan. 6 at 8 p.m.

Want to learn more? View the trailer.

Read what WCI is doing about aging water infrastructure.