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.
When asked what I love about southern Minnesota, one thing that always rises to the top is the drive that people have to help their neighbors. This was especially evident during the recent blizzard. Volunteers helped dig out vehicles, rescue stranded travelers and open their doors to provide shelter. At Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation we work to help our neighbors in many ways, including by placing people in service roles across our 20-county region through the national AmeriCorps program.
There have been moments throughout my life when opportunities arose to move to a different part of the state of Minnesota, or even a different part of the country. Anyone who knows me, knows that I love living in southern Minnesota and that there are many reasons why I choose to stay here. As the president of Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation, I can't imagine a better way to serve this region which has always been my home.
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.