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Spread the word: SMIF can help you grow

Tim Penny

Tim Penny is president and CEO of the Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation

At Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation we sometimes joke that we are our region's "best kept secret." But it is true that despite the fact that we are regularly out in our 20-county region visiting with partners and facilitating trainings, we find that there are still many people who do not know about SMIF.

Unfortunately, that could mean an entrepreneur who doesn't know about our financing opportunities, a school that might not know they can apply for free books, or a community organization that will miss out on funding for a project. The thing is, we don't want to be a secret.

We want to make sure that people in southern Minnesota know that they can come to us for support in entrepreneurship, early childhood and community philanthropy. This is why we are launching our new Sprout! events this spring in the four corners of our region.

The events will be held in Cannon Falls (April 23), Spring Valley (April 25), Kasota (April 30) and Fairmont (May 2). A late afternoon open-house event, this will be a great opportunity for people to talk to SMIF staff and our area partners about ways we can support you and your community.

Focus areas

As mentioned above, at SMIF we have three focus areas: early childhood, economic development and community vitality.

In early childhood we offer training for child care providers, parenting classes for parents in the workplace, an annual conference attended by more than 400 early childhood professionals, an AmeriCorps school readiness program and early literacy support.

In economic development we provide business financing, technical assistance for entrepreneurs, support for minority business owners and programs for local food businesses.

In community vitality we provide support for the development of community foundations and other affiliate funds, free paint for community murals and facilitate asset-mapping for community visioning. This is just the tip of the iceberg.

Collaboration

None of what we do could happen without our many partners and donors. At SMIF we have a culture of collaboration — in fact, our tagline is "collaborating for regional vitality." We work with cities, counties, state agencies, banks, non-profits, and many more partners, in order to do the best we can do for southern Minnesota. Many of those partners will be at these events and will be extremely valuable to connect with.

We also look forward to hearing from several people at each event who have participated in SMIF's programming, received funding, or have partnered in other ways. We will hear short speeches from teachers, AmeriCorps members, loan clients and community foundation board members.

We hope these events will be an opportunity to meet new people and deepen existing relationships with those who are actively working to make southern Minnesota a great place to live. These events are open to all — we hope to see you there!

For more information about the Sprout! events and to register, visit smifoundation.org/sprout.

As always, I welcome your comments and questions. You can reach me at timp@smifoundation.org or 507-455-3215.