SE MN Together Projects get $20,000 in grants

Published 10:12 am Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation (SMIF) awarded $20,000 worth of grants to four different projects that arose out of the SE MN Together regional gatherings.

SE MN Together is a collaborative group working to address issues related to the workforce shortage in southeastern Minnesota; southeastern Minnesota faces a predicted 45,000 worker shortage over the next 20 years as the Destination Medical Center (DMC) initiative brings new job opportunities and demands into the area. The group is a result of SMIF’s 2014 Regional Community Growth Initiative and received an $80,000 SMIF One Big Thing Grant to create opportunities for smaller communities to work together to identify, utilize, and develop their own regional assets to positively grow workforce capacity.

After a year of community meetings with over 300 southeastern Minnesota stakeholders, several working groups emerged to focus on issues such as housing, transportation, regional marketing, and inclusive, diverse workplaces. “A vibrant regional economy needs more than jobs: it needs quality, affordable housing, easy transportation, good education, and things for people to do,” said SMIF Vice President of Economic Development Pam Bishop.

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SMIF will be funding four collaborative projects presented by some of these working groups. Grants were award to projects best demonstrating: collaboration, benefit to multiple communities, leveraging of the work of the DMC and Journey to Growth, innovation/transformation, and ability to be executed within 9 months. Grantees that received $5,000 each include: Project FINE for a Discovering Diverse Workforce Solutions project, Southeast Minnesota Housing Initiative project in Albert Lea, “An Introduction to the Community” video project and the first phase of the Southeast Minnesota Regional Transit project.

“We’ve been really encouraged by the outcomes of SE MN Together,” said Bishop. “The goal of the Regional Community Growth Initiative in 2014 was to get the smaller communities working with those in Rochester area to help raise all boats – small towns as well as Rochester – as the Destination Medical Center planning continues. We need to collaborate to address the worker shortfall and all the connecting issues, and the collaborative projects coming out of the SE MN Together meetings are a great starting point.”