Leo Augusta Children’s Academy to receive $750K grant

Published 4:45 pm Wednesday, May 18, 2022

The Leo Augusta Children’s Academy in Blooming Prairie recently received a big boost from the Department of Employment and Economic Development earlier this week.

The nearly completed academy, which will provide daycare options to families throughout the surrounding area, was part of a second round of money from DEED’s  Main Street Economic Revitalization Program, totaling $40 million.

Of that $40 million, $2,340,000 is being allocated to the Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation. From there, money will be distributed through grants to hospitality, retail and childcare industries. According to Leo Augusta President Amy Hinzmann, the academy is slated to receive $750,000.

“It’s huge,” she said. “We were gifted the land and the building, but that doesn’t mean there wasn’t a cost associated with it. The renovation itself is over $2 million. We’re going to be able to take that $750,000 and put it right toward the renovation cost.”

This kind of substantial money is also going to help toward Leo Augusta’s $3 million overall fundraising campaign goal while at the same time will allow the academy to begin adjusting fundraising dollars toward supplies, financial assistance and bringing in specialized employees.

“We really want to fundraise for scholarships and for special needs consultants to come in and do one-on-one work with children,” Hinzmann said.

The entire process of applying for and securing the grants highlights how important the academy’s partnership with SMIF has been. With a broad pool of resources, SMIF has helped Leo Augusta solidify the base it needs to grow, including helping secure these latest funds.

“You can’t go at it alone,” Hinzmann said. “The initiative of the project is too big and to be able to collaborate with an organization like SMIF … is a great partnership because we can utilize them to help us get that. It is what we envisioned. It’s just a great resource.”

The DEED program in total has given out $80 million statewide in the two rounds. Money is granted to nonprofit partner organizations to either fund 30% matching grants up to $750,000 and guaranteed loans up to $2 million to eligible recipients.

The money is geared to address economic development and redevelopment needs that have arisen in communities across Minnesota since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in March of 2020.

“I’m thrilled by the range of creative and dynamic development proposals we got from Main Streets across the state,” said DEED Commissioner Steve Grove in a press release Tuesday. “These investments will help re-build business clusters hit hardest by the challenges of the last few years – and they’ll create jobs and spark economic revitalization throughout Minnesota.”

Leo Augusta is looking at a soft opening to its new facility in Blooming Prairie sometime in the first part of June at partial capacity. Over the next three years it’s hoped that it will be able to reach its full capacity of 144 children served.

For Hinzmann, this is a new beginning.

“I envision this to be the beginning between the donors who have donated, and now this grant lends all the credibility we need to see us apart from the others,” she said.