Autumn is one of my favorite times of year — not just because of the beautiful colors, but because it means it's time for our Annual Luncheon. At Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation, this luncheon is an opportunity for more than 200 of our partners to come together from across our 20-county region to share successes and look to the future.
A couple of years ago we went through a rebranding exercise at Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation and settled on the tagline "collaborating for regional vitality" as a simple way to represent our work. This phrase gets to the heart of everything that we do, whether in early childhood, economic development or community vitality, and it really comes alive for me during our fall events as we gather with many partners and leverage relationships to strengthen the fabric of our region.
The Small Business Administration celebrates America's small business owners during National Small Business Week, April 29 through May 5. According to SBA's 2017 Small Business Profile, there are 509,732 small businesses in Minnesota, comprising 99.5 percent of Minnesota businesses. At Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation we are honored to have the opportunity to work with these entrepreneurs across our 20-county region on a regular basis.
Giving back to our communities is infused in American culture, whether through donating to charity, serving in the military or volunteering. At Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation we are proud to be placing people in service roles across the region through the national AmeriCorps program.
At Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation, we know that growth comes from within. In all of our programming we aim to lift up the communities in our region by providing them with resources and a framework for success, but it is the people within our partner communities who ultimately create the future they want to see.
In late July the Somali American Cultural Society of Owatonna was vandalized with spray paint and had a fire lit in front of its building. I was saddened by this senseless act of vandalism against SASCO, which has been a reliable and valued Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation grantee and client. Several years ago, SASCO was founded by Ibrahim Hussein to serve the job search needs of Owatonna-area Somali refugees, as well as provide after-school homework assistance to Somali children. Let me tell you more about Ibrahim Hussein.
When people try to find Minnesota's secret sauce to our high quality of life and seemingly common sense (comparatively speaking) approach to government, there's sometimes mention of the Itasca Group. This is a group of top Minnesota business leaders who get together every Friday morning to discuss ways to collaborate and advocate for a stronger Minnesota. Itasca Group exemplifies how Minnesotans come together to find win-win, common sense solutions, and then back those solutions with capital.