1st Quarter 2013
Buy Local – Campaigns aim to protect prosperity. Pg 42
Pooled Resources – The allure of community centers. Pg 36
The Ripple Effect – Endowment funds ensure the future of lakes. Pg 20
Global citizens form a powerful, new palette for Central Minnesota business. page 24
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departments 6 Initiatives
32 Varsity Robotics
Global citizens form a powerful, new palette for Central Minnesota business.
High school teams build, battle and gear up for high-tech careers.
36 Pooled Resources Initiative Foundation Quarterly 1st Quarter 2013
Depending on their form and function, building a community center has varying degrees of difficulty.
42 Once Upon A Town
Table of Contents
Built on education and incentives, “buy local” campaigns aim to protect prosperity.
The Foundation’s regional investment highlights.
The Right Stuff – When it comes to hiring, what are the deal-makers and deal-breakers?
12 How To
We Need To Stop Meeting Like This – Effective organizations depend on well-run meetings.
Brand Loyal – Central Minnesota towns roll out campaigns to showcase their unique features.
The Ripple Effect – Buoyed by local generosity, endowment funds help to ensure the future of Minnesota lakes.
54 Home Made
Team Powdercoating, Hinckley – Products made right here in central Minnesota.
56 Where is IQ?
New Americans: On September 6, 2012, approximately 1,500 immigrants from 100 different nations were sworn in as new U.S. citizens in the largest naturalization ceremony ever held in Minnesota.
Photo courtesy of St. Paul Pioneer Press, photographer Jean Pieri
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Dear Friends, Any time a dinner conversation shifts to the subject of piñatas, you know it’s going to be a good night. After all, how many people do you meet who are striving to corner the piñata market? I met Yahaira Lopez at a Marnita’s Table event at the home of Dick and Mimi Bitzan. An innovative nonprofit organization, Marnita’s Table hosts a multicultural dinner experience where people share really good food and even better ideas. Our topic to tackle: How to encourage and expand immigrant-owned businesses in the greater St. Cloud area. Yahaira and her colleagues, Alma, Ericka and Blanca, discussed their successes and challenges, how business is booming, and how their products are designed to be broken. They got their first break with the help of Initiative Foundation Trustee Mayuli Bales, who leads the Casa Guadalupe Multicultural Community in Cold Spring. We thought about opportunities for hungry entrepreneurs. We talked about aligning business financing and consulting services. We dreamed about a St. Cloud global market bustling with vendors and customers of all ethnicities. That’s the power of grilled shrimp, guacamole and the teeniest slice of cheesecake.
Vo lu m e 11, 1 Qua rter 2 0 1 3 st
in itiative fo unda ti on President | Kathy Gaalswyk Vice President for External Relations | Matt Kilian Marketing & Communications Manager | Anita Hollenhorst EDITOR IAL Managing Editor | Elizabeth Foy Larsen
In this issue of IQ, our cover story offers an economic lens through which to view the new faces in central Minnesota. Sadly, we too often see our immigrant and refugee neighbors as a problem to be solved instead of a customer to be served, an employee to be hired, an entrepreneur to be supported. They represent the future of business and an exploding market opportunity.
Writer | Laura Billings Coleman
You know, kind of like a piñata.
Writer | Gene Rebeck Writer | John Reinan Writer | Laurie Stern Writer | Maria Surma Manka
Creative Services Coordinator | Eric Rittmann Photographer | John Linn Photographer | Justin Wohlrabe
Kathy Gaalswyk President
ADVER TI SING / S UBS CRIPTIONS
P.S. If you’ve read many of my letters, you know that we’ve welcomed a few new grandsons in the last few years—four little guys age three and under. Make that five grandsons! Conrad Eric Lund was born to our daughter Melanie and husband Andrew on February 2, weighing in at 7 pounds, 10 ounces. And we look forward to the arrival of his cousin in a few weeks. Yes, another boy!
4 Initiative Foundation Quarterly
Advertising Director | Brian Lehman Advertising Manager | Lois Head Advertiser Services | Eric Rittmann Subscriber Services | Katie Riitters 405 First Street SE Little Falls, MN 56345 320.632.9255 | www.ifound.org IQ Magazine unlocks the power of central Minnesota leaders to understand and take action on regional issues.
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Initiatives Regional Investment Highlights
Wellness in Wadena Wadena County
Congratulations to Wadena for its astounding fundraising success to build a new Wadena Regional Wellness Center. Local donors, foundations, and other funding sources contributed more than $11 million to the tornado recovery project, which is scheduled to break ground this fall. The Initiative Foundation is proud to provide a charitable giving vehicle for the fund.
A Life Well-Lived Cass County
The Foundation honors the legacy of Jack Wallschlaeger, who recently passed away at the age of 81. Jack and his wife, Judy, were leaders in forming the Land & Waters Preservation Trust, an endowment fund that supports water quality efforts on the Whitefish Chain and Pine River Watershed in the Brainerd Lakes Area. Jack, you will be deeply missed.
Perfect Pairing Todd County
A grant to Staples/Motley area Kinship Partners will help expand their mentoring program. The program recently joined forces with Brainerdbased Kinship Partners, which has been pairing up youth with adult mentors since 1986. Research has found that if youth have a stable relationship with adults, their chances for success increase significantly.
A Legacy of Learning Morrison County
The Foundation honors the legacy of Beverly Pantzke-Johnston who recently passed away at the age of 90. A 1941 graduate of Little Falls Community High School, Beverly established an Initiative Foundation scholarship fund that has helped five students pursue their higher education goals. Her memory lives on through their achievements.
More than 300 leaders attended a forum to add new community priorities to the St. Cloud area's "Top 10" list. The Initiative Foundation, Central Minnesota Community Foundation and the St. Cloud Times facilitated the presentation and discussion. Priorities have ranged from restoring regional air service (completed in 2012) to expanding Mississippi River amenities.
Congratulations to the Sauk Rapids-Rice Education Foundation, which achieved its first-year fundraising goals and also earned a Benton Telecommunications Foundation grant to support student technology. The Initiative Foundation also hosts school endowment funds in Pillager and Crosby.
A grant to the City of Montrose will help attract new businesses and encourage the expansion of existing businesses along the Highway 12 corridor. The community will continue to improve the appearance and safety of the highway area for families, customers and commuters.
6 Initiative Foundation Quarterly
Long-Term Commitments Crow Wing County
Nor-Son, a residential and commercial builder based in Baxter, recently renewed their pledge to the Foundation. A donor since 1990, Nor-Son remains committed to central Minnesota by supporting the Foundation's community and economic development work.
Quality of Life Pine County
A grant to the City of Sandstone will help implement economic development projects such as improving ordinances and standards that lead to a more attractive community. Their goal is to bring youth and other citizens together to enhance the quality of life in the greater Sandstone area.
Community Centered Kanabec County
A financing partnership with Unity Bank, Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development and the City of Braham will allow Tusen Tack, a nonprofit thrift store, to build a 13,000 square foot community center. After six years of planning and fundraising, Braham area residents will soon enjoy a space for meetings, reunions, youth activities and family celebrations.
Grant Central Mille Lacs County
In partnership with the Initiative Foundation, the Milaca area's Rum River Community Foundation hosted a community event to celebrate fundraising success and announce their spring round of grants. Support went to a student arts show, a mentoring project, and holiday assistance for families with financial hardships.
Food for Growth
A financing partnership assisted Princeton-based Biomatrix to expand production of natural algae-based feed additives for livestock. The Foundation's business financing programs aim to secure quality jobs by investing in businesses that strengthen Central Minnesota's economy.
A grant from the Foundation will assist the Allina Associated Foundation in their efforts to provide books to children during health appointments at Cambridge area clinics. These efforts give our youngest citizens a foundation for early literacy, which is crucial for school and lifetime success. Read to a child today!
A grant to the City of Chisago will help to expand and improve the city's farmers market and create entrepreneurial opportunities for youth. Markets help to keep dollars local, encourage community connections, and offer tasty, nutritious food.
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The Right Stuff When it comes to hiring, what are your deal-makers and deal-breakers? By John Reinan | Photography by John Linn & Justin Wohlrabe
Every business owner knows that personnel mistakes are expensive. Hire a bad fit who has to be cut loose, and it will cost you at least 50 percent of that employee’s annual salary to get a replacement settled in. For a successful business, finding the right employee is about much more than dollars and cents. It’s about building a corporate culture, strengthening customer relationships and passing on institutional knowledge. A resume doesn’t always reveal the hidden attributes that make a great employee. So we asked three Initiative Foundation loan clients to tell us their secret to making smart hires.
A Family Affair: Traci and Lori Tapani, sisters and co-presidents of Wyoming Machine.
Traci Tapani Initiative Foundation Trustee and Co-president—Wyoming Machine, Stacy
We fabricate sheet metal for transportation, electronics and machinery customers. We have 55 employees, less than when we started our business 20 years ago. Changes in technology mean that we can do more work with fewer people, although we are planning on doing more hiring in the future. Our employees stay an average of 10 ½ years.
Confront failure One of the things I’m interested in is people’s willingness to talk about disagreements they might have had, and how they resolved them. It’s easy for any of us to talk about our successes. If someone can’t take responsibility for a problem or be accountable for what went wrong, that’s something I don’t know how to teach them.
Discover their passions We often find that really successful people in our industry have some outside passion related to their work here—building stock cars, restoring motorcycles or designing equipment for four-wheeling. My quality manager is always doing things like welding vases or making a table for her kids.
We came to realize that if a person doesn’t fit with our culture, it will never work, no matter how great their technical skills are.
More heads are better than one Usually multiple people will interview a candidate. And we’re going to talk about it afterward. It’s a very close-knit group. So for our most recent hire, we did at least three interviews with multiple people in each interview. And now there’s not a single person who wouldn’t say this was an excellent hire.
Culture counts There was a time in the ‘90s when things were booming, and what we cared most about was getting a body in the door. What we wound up with was a workforce that didn’t fit the cultural values we were looking for: honesty, integrity and willingness to share knowledge. We came to realize that if a person doesn’t fit with our culture, it will never work, no matter how great their technical skills are.
10 Initiative Foundation Quarterly
Founder and president—Netgain, St. Cloud
Principal—Adventure, St. Cloud and Minneapolis
We are an IT outsourcer and cloud computing provider specializing in the healthcare industry. We started with three employees in 2000 and now employ 92 people, with plans to expand to 112 by the end of 2013 and 225 by 2018.
We’re an advertising agency with 15 employees. Our clients include Polaris, Essentia and Bernick’s. We currently have 14 employees, up from the three we started with when we opened our doors in 2005. We are planning on hiring in the future, depending on our clients’ needs and the evolving media landscape.
Scoring on service We’ve got 1,800 servers running, but that’s the easiest thing we do. It’s the 5,000 customer service requests we handle every month that make or break us. These people will talk to more of my clients in a day than I will in a month. At the end of the day, what I want to know is: Are they happy because they fixed a computer or are they happy because they put a smile on someone’s face? Creamy or chunky? In the interview, I’ll ask, “How do you make a peanut butter sandwich?” What I’m doing is asking them to explain something that’s simple to them, but may not be to the person who’s asking. If the answer’s very simple, I’ll start pushing for more information. Is it crunchy peanut butter or creamy? Is it Jif or Skippy? What kind of knife are you using? What’s revealed is how they describe a process to someone. Because you may know how to change a password, but the person on the other end of that phone doesn’t. Give them the airplane test Do you want to sit next to this guy on an airplane for three or four hours? If not, you’re not going to want to spend 30 years with him.
Listen up I’ve found that people with a high degree of success are self-starters and hold the conversations themselves. So, I tend to be a listener rather than an interviewer, allowing them to take the conversation where it best displays their assets. Feel the vibe We believe that everything in this world is attracted to energy. One important thing we bring to our clients is an energy that attracts people to their brands. So, when you’re assessing a candidate, certainly you do immediately recognize an energy level. But I’m looking for energy without cockiness or arrogance. A confident energy. Fitting in Fit is very important. What’s on the resume gets you the meeting, but the decisions to hire someone is made across the table from them. 1st Quarter 2013
Let’s Stop Meeting Like This By Laurie Stern | Photography by John Linn
Effective organizations depend on well-run meetings. Here’s how to improve your get-togethers.
Steve Uban: “As a group, we finally feel we are creating something in common.”
Even though the Pillager Education Foundation had no shortage of ideas about innovative classrooms, arts education and infrastructure, their team had a problem that initially threatened to derail all their good work. “The first meetings didn’t even follow an agenda,” said Steve Uban, the chair of the foundation’s advisory board. “There were no decisions, no direction.” The Pillager Education Foundation is not alone. There are an estimated 11 million meetings daily in the U.S., so the chance for a mediocre meeting is high. And if you put credibility in a corporate study, Verizon claims that nearly a third of meetings held every day are deemed unproductive. Experts say that productive, well-organized meetings, help attendees feel their time and contributions are valued. Poorly organized meetings, on the other hand, frustrate and distract attendees. So after a few long, muddled meetings, the Pillager Education Foundation sought help from the Initiative Foundation, where the volunteer-led group holds an endowed fund. Here’s what they learned.
Start and end on time.
Know how to deal with disruption
Attendees, especially volunteers, deserve to know what their time commitment is. Having a firm start and end time can actually make meetings themselves more enjoyable and well attended. Effective leaders are typically involved in multiple projects and serve on many committees, teams or boards, so their time and talent must be respected according to Linda Holliday, vice president for organizational development at the Initiative Foundation. You want the meeting to feel well-organized from the very beginning. Make it standard practice to not wait for stragglers or repeat content that they missed.
Experts say there are two kinds of disrupters: people who won’t stop talking and people who want to divert the agenda for their own purposes. “Have the courage to thank them and let them know that the group will be moving forward out of respect for everyone’s time,” Holliday said.
Set goals “The best meetings have goals set ahead of time,” said Holliday. “Attendees should know what they hope to accomplish during the meeting.” Facilitators should print and distribute agendas in advance, so as not to waste precious meeting time. In fact, a majority of Verizon’s survey respondents (73%) believed that having a prepared agenda is the most important factor in having productive meetings.
Have a strong facilitator or chair A good leader is someone who can “facilitate the meeting without controlling it,” said Holliday. If your organization doesn’t have that person in-house, consider hiring a professional or investing in facilitator training for a key staff or volunteer.
Ask members to “be present” Start every meeting by asking participants to turn off their cell phones and turn their attention to the agenda. “We have a multi-task world and a million things on our minds,” said Amy Wyant, a nonprofit resource specialist with Bremer Bank in Brainerd, who runs a monthly networking roundtable and is a sought-after facilitator. So she specifically asks attendees to put distractions aside.
Think about ambiance “Food and drink are always good,” Wyant said. She usually plays background music and offers door prizes such as soaps or bakery goods. She prefers to seat people in a circle, but said a rectangular table can work too. The goal is for everyone to see each other.
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Encourage participation “It’s important to make sure everyone’s voice is heard and to attempt to reach consensus,” said Holliday. Not everyone likes to talk, though. So, Holliday and Wyant encourage people to write their ideas and opinions on sticky notes, to be shared at a later time. “Be okay with silence,” Wyant said. It often leads to creative contributions.
Know parliamentary procedure You don’t have to follow Robert’s Rules of Order, but when it comes to meetings, it’s up to the facilitator to make sure everyone understands the rules and the goals of the meeting. Wyant give speakers time limits. In addition to meeting length and location, other key procedural questions that need to be answered include: How many votes do you need for action items? What happens when you can’t reach consensus? Those tips did the trick for the Pillager Education Foundation, which is now using a committee structure to clarify individual responsibilities. “As a group, we finally feel we’re creating something in common,” Uban said. An essential component to the groups’ future and the future of their kids, as they dedicate their efforts to keeping Pillager’s school stay nationally competitive.
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Brand Loyal Central Minnesota towns roll out campaigns to showcase their unique features. By Laurie Stern | Photography by John Linn
You could say that Eden Valley is a sleepy, blink-and-its-gone town in the middle of Minnesota. Or you could say it’s an innovative hub of activity with a beautiful new library and a vision for the future. The difference is branding. Jack Schultz, author of Boomtown USA, The 7 ½ Keys to Big Success in Small Towns, makes the case very clear: “What branding does for companies, products and people, it also does for towns. A brand is a town’s calling card—it can put a town on a map and keep it there for all the world to see.” Marketing is a common strategy for communities across central Minnesota as they compete—and cooperate—to attract residents and businesses. Eden Valley latched onto the idea since taking part in the Initiative Foundation’s Thriving Communities Initiative in 2009. “People come right through our town on their way up to the lake,” said mayor Peter Korman. “We’d like to see if we can get them to stop here.” Despite local con16 Initiative Foundation Quarterly
sensus on Eden Valley’s many virtues, the community wanted to be proactive about increasing their population and growing their businesses. “The Initiative Foundation lit the fire and we had the people to keep it going,” said Nancy McNab, who heads the library action committee. The residents knew
drag downtown. Perhaps most important, community pride is high: the city has passed two school levies in recent years and the library building was a gift from residents Peter and Linda Zahn, owners of State Bank of Eden Valley. To promote their town as the gateway to Minnesota’s lakes region,
What branding does for companies, products and people, it also does for towns. A brand is a town’s calling card—it can put a town on a map and keep it there for all the world to see. where to start. The town is within ten miles of more than a dozen lakes and boasts a nationally-recognized secondary school. The new library and events center occupies a once empty hardware store on the main
Eden Valley is reaching out to nearby communities to jointly promote events and is distributing a new brochure for tourists as well as people who are considering relocating. They hope that simple investments like
You’re invited to a special luncheon featuring... Calling Card: Nancy McNab heads the library action committee and is a driving force in Eden Valley’s push to market the town.
three “Welcome to Eden Valley” signs will also attract newcomers. Other towns are also taking steps to build their brands. Six towns on a 26-mile stretch of Highway 12— Cokato, Dassel, Delano, Howard Lake, Montrose and Waverly formed the “Best of 12” marketing campaign. The effort will promote business and residential opportunities and strategically transform the corridor into a collaboration that will highlight Montrose Days, the Cokato Corn Carnival, the history center in Dassel and other events, businesses and tourist attractions. Because it wanted to market specifically to the 700 workers located eight miles away at Camp Ripley, the town of Randall invested in a housing study and promotes its housing options to all area residents. “If you’re located in the middle of nowhere, without a strong population base for hundreds of miles, you had better develop something that sets you apart from everyone else,” continues Schultz. “The clearer your brand is, in terms of what it promises to outsiders, the more it will draw business and the greater your town will profit.” While the success of these campaigns can be difficult to measure, there are signs that marketing, while still in the very early stages, is working for Eden Valley. The town’s population passed 1,000 in the 2010 census—the first time in 100 years—and the school has a new gym and six new classrooms to accommodate the growing number of students. The events center is bringing people into town for author signings, used book sales and knitting clubs. Eventually, community leaders envision a dining room for senior lunches and a revenue-generating rental space. “This building will help us get more people out, and not just our residents,” said Dan Thielen, long-time owner of Thielen Machine and Welding and a member of Eden Valley’s marketing committee. People who visit Eden Valley, “might want to live here, might want to start a business here. It’s a thriving town and we’re growing!”
Author of Boomtown USA: The 7½ Keys to Big Success in Small Towns Wednesday, June 12, 2013 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.
River’s Edge Convention Center, St. Cloud As CEO of a company whose mission, in part, is to develop business in rural communities, Jack Schultz felt like a detective looking for clues. The questions: What separated the thriving towns from the struggling ones? Did the people within a prosperous town approach their lives differently than those in a struggling town? Can communities that are struggling rebound? If so, how? After more than three years of intense research, Schultz published, Boomtown USA: The 7 ½ Keys to Big Success in Small Towns. These keys don’t come together to form a magic wand but they can lead to significant improvement in a town’s economy and growth. Schultz has found that manufacturing in the USA is alive and well, and the entrepreneurial spirit of millennials—our young people under the age of 29—is a powerful economic development tool. Boomtown USA constructs a case for exploring America’s hometowns. Cost is $25 and includes lunch.
To reserve your spot next to other area leaders contact Dan Frank (email@example.com, 320-632-9255) or visit www.ifound.org.
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The Ripple Effect
By Maria Surma Manka
Buoyed by local generosity, endowment funds help to ensure the future of Minnesota lakes. As Darril Wegscheid sees it, the case to protect Minnesota’s lakes is shored up by simple economics. And that’s only if you aren’t already convinced by the need for environmental responsibility or family heritage. “The real economic engine across northern Minnesota is our tourism industry,” said Wegscheid, a former Minnesota state senator who now enjoys a lakeside retirement. “Lakes are a fundamental draw to this part of the state, and they’re being threatened.” Increased development and poor land use practices also produce ecological damage that can require years to reverse. From Asian carp to zebra mussels, the relentless spread of invasive species also looms. Underlying the numbers and challenges, however, is a deep love for lake life that is synonymous with Minnesota recreation. Family memories form on the water, and shoreline residents have a vested interest in preserving lakes for generations to come. Lake associations are on the front lines of monitoring and taking action on issues that impact their local waters. Wegscheid is a member of the Roosevelt and Lawrence Area Lakes Association (RALALA), which spans parts of Crow Wing and Cass Counties. While working with the Initiative Foundation, he learned about creating an endowment fund that generates annual revenue through the power of united generosity. “We’ve learned that people are very generous when they understand how 20 Initiative Foundation Quarterly
their giving benefits the local waters they love,” explained Don Hickman, Initiative Foundation vice president for community and economic development. “With a lake association endowment, people can invest in their own lake and leave a legacy that will support ongoing efforts.” Endowment funds are foundationowned “accounts” in which the principal donations are professionally invested but never spent. Only a portion of the annual earnings (about 5 percent) are used to sup-
If we want our children and grandchildren to enjoy the lake, we have to invest in its future. port local lake association projects such as native species restoration, storm water management, lakeshore owner education and fish or wildlife habitat improvement efforts. The unique features of an endowment are its permanence and flexibility to meet the unpredictable needs of the future. Over a period of 20 or more years, the charitable revenue exceeds the endowment’s original value. “This is a long-term strategy,” said Matt Kilian, the Initiative Foundation’s vice president for external relations. “If we start with the understanding that our lakes are going to be here forever, then it makes sense to build vehicles that will preserve them forever.”
Since 1999, the Initiative Foundation has helped more than 400 Minnesota lake associations to develop action plans to preserve water quality. It currently hosts eight endowment funds for lake associations, including RALALA as well as those representing the renowned Gull and Whitefish chains in the Brainerd Lakes Area. In a little over one year, the Gull Chain of Lakes Association raised $50,000 in endowment funds from shoreline property owners, which was doubled by a matching contribution. “We’re just scratching the surface of what is possible,” said Marv Meyer, board chair. “People understand that if we want our children and grandchildren to enjoy the lake, we have to invest in its future.” Kilian added that the foundation also works with associations to process non-cash gifts that can earn donors more significant tax advantages. These gifts include stock, real estate, business interests, life insurance and trusts. Wegscheid said that RALALA is currently finalizing abra mussels at area boat landings. If approved by the counties and the Minnesota DNR, pilot project to halt the spread of zethe project will be supported with funds from its endowment. “Twenty years ago, how many people even knew what a zebra mussel was?” said Hickman. “Nobody knows what the future will bring, but we can be sure that these endowments will be around to help.”
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Checks should be made payable to “BLA CommunityFoundation” with a notation of “Friends of Nisswa Lake Park.” Send your tax-deductible donation to The Friends of Nisswa Lake Park, PO Box 262, Nisswa MN 56468.
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1st Quarter 2013
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he help you need. T At your place or ours. For more information about our communities and agencies in the Brainerd Lakes and Pine River area, call (218) 820-8975 or visit good-sam.com/brainerdlakes.
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22 Initiative Foundation Quarterly
Honest. Original. Different.
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1st Quarter 2013
Global citizens new palette
hough she’s lived in central Minnesota for more than 20 years, it wasn’t until Mayuli Bales saw a billboard on her drive home that she felt that she and other Latinos in the region had finally arrived. “It was an advertisement for a tax preparation service, and it nearly made me drive off the road,” said Bales, executive director of the nonprofit Casa Guadalupe Hispanic Ministries in Cold Spring and a native of Oaxaca, Mexico. “Someone actually paid the money to advertise to us in Spanish. I was so shocked, I couldn’t believe it.” Signs of central Minnesota’s increasingly diverse community are everywhere, from the Latino-owned businesses that have given new life to Long Prairie’s main streets, to the Halal grocery stores that now serve St. Cloud’s growing Somali population. But for Bales, seeing an established tax firm trying to earn her business by speaking in her first language signaled a meaningful shift in the dialogue about immigration in central Minnesota—not as a “problem” to be solved, but as a potential source of new business
Mayuli Bales: “Something as simple as seeing your own language on a sign makes a big difference.”
By Laura Billings Coleman
form a powerful, for business. and economic growth. “Something as simple as seeing your own language on a sign makes a big difference,” she said. “It makes you think we must not be invisible anymore.” In the last decade, Minnesota’s Hispanic population grew 75 percent, more than tripling the number of Hispanic-owned businesses in the state since 1990. Here in central Minnesota, an informal 2009 survey of about 30 local Latino firms found that these businesses accounted for more than $20 million in gross sales, according to Heladio Zavala, the chief executive of MAFO, a national partnership of farmworker and rural organizations. Immigrants from Mexico and dozens of other countries have such a profound economic impact that if they were removed from the labor force, one estimate says the state would lose more than 24,000 permanent jobs and $1.2 billion in personal income. No wonder that reaching out to the region’s newest arrivals has become a growing priority in towns like Long Prairie. Photography by John Linn
Snow Boots to Standardized Tests: Ismail Ali has been helping Somali families navigate the St. Cloud public school system since 2007.
1st Quarter 2013
Rosemond and Isaac Owens: â€œWhere we come from, no one hands you anything. So in our DNA, we are entrepreneurs.â€?
Latino families drawn to jobs in food processing now account for nearly a third of all public school students. As the demographics of the town began to transform, local clergy encouraged journalist Tim King to start a bilingual newspaper that could relieve the isolation felt by Latino women and invite them into the community. Though most newspapers were hitting hard times in 2004 when La Voz Libre launched its first edition, “we were warmly embraced by advertisers,” said King. “They wanted to do business with these Hispanic and Mexican families. They saw the value of it right away.” After nearly a decade of advertising in English and Spanish, realtor Jean McDonald, owner of McDonald Realty, Inc. in Melrose and Sauk Centre, said that Hispanic families now account for between 10 and 25 percent of her home-buying customers. While her own language fluency is “still limited to the words you need to sell a house,” she said reaching out to this new audience has been an unexpected and rewarding learning experience. “The benefit is obviously that you increase your market of customers, but it’s also been really gratifying to learn more about other cultures.” Marketing messages directed at Hispanic, Somali and Hmong customers have become commonplace in large national chains such as Home Depot, Walmart and McDonalds, Access to “native tongue” information is
If immigrants were removed from the labor force, one estimate says the state would lose more than 24,000 permanent jobs and $1.2 billion in personal income. essential to immigrant transitions, whether it happens in business, healthcare or the news media. That’s why KVSC station manager, Jo McMullen-Boyer, formed a partnership with Abubaker Kulletin, also known as Haji, to create St. Cloud Somali Radio. KVSC is an educational public radio station licensed to St. Cloud State University. “As our local colleges and universities graduate technicians, nurses, accountants
and engineers who come from immigrant families, we can see the economic power of this community being created in real time,” said Earl Potter, St. Cloud State University president and Initiative Foundation trustee. “Change is happening in Central Minnesota, and it is good.”
Ready To Work Since 2007, Ismail Ali has been a “cultural navigator” for Project Jump Start at the St. Cloud School District 742, serving as a translator to other Somali parents and students, and introducing them to new concepts like snow boots and standardized tests. With ten children of his own, he knows his way around nearly every grade, and like all parents, he wants to see his children thrive in their new surroundings, perhaps by pursuing careers in healthcare or starting their own businesses. “If you go to any big town in America you will find a lot of Somali business owners, because it’s part of our culture to have a business,” he said. St. Cloud’s English language learner coordinator Natalie Prasch said Somalis, many of them refugees, are now the largest non-native ethnic group in District 742, followed by students (both immigrant and U.S. born) who speak Spanish at home. “We’re also starting to see refugees from places like Sudan and Syria,” Prasch said, adding that English learners—who all see learning the language as a necessity—now comprise more than 1,100 of the district’s nearly 9,700 students. Bridging the language gap can be an added expense for communities welcoming a new wave of non-English speakers. But the short-terms costs can have long-term pay-offs, said Katherine Fennelly, a professor at the University of Minnesota’s Humphrey School of Public Affairs. As she pointed out, younger workers are the solution to nearly every “social issue in the headlines—the aging population, school closings, the exodus of young people to urban areas, whether we’re going to have enough money for Social Security and who’s going be taking care of the elderly. But people don’t always make the connection that immigrants are a source of new young workers in the U.S. We can extend the retirement age, but we can’t make ourselves younger unless we’re including immigrants.” Immigrants tend to be younger, on average, than native-born Americans. Not only have foreign-born workers 1st Quarter 2013
Mark Ronnei, Grand View Lodge
Tohow Siyad (center), with employees of National Home Health Care Transportation, his growing transportation service.
driven almost half of the nation’s workforce growth between 1995 and 2005, they will also be critical to replacing Baby Boomers in the workplace—such as the 350,000 highly skilled workers in the Twin Cities region expected to retire by 2020. Nationwide, immigrants account for a quarter of all the country’s physicians and 40 percent of engineers holding doctoral degrees—just the sort of highly skilled workers most regions are trying to attract. Newcomers are also poised to play an important role in easing the country’s primary care provider deficit, helping rural Minnesota to fill a predicted shortage of 8,000 registered nurses in the next decade. A 2006 study estimated that immigration has been responsible for 14 percent of job growth among college graduates, and 20 percent of job growth among workers without high school diplomas. “When we talk about immigration we sometimes forget that it’s a job creation phenomenon,” said Fennelly. “When you have an 28 Initiative Foundation Quarterly
influx of new employees of any kind, then you often need to hire more people in human resources, administration, clerical and other areas, so there’s a net positive effect.” In fact, when south central Minnesota saw an influx of 2,600 Latino workers employed primarily in food processing and packaging firms, a Region Nine Development Commission study found that their jobs sustained 3,770 jobs held by non-Latinos. After factoring in the consumer demand created by those new workers, researchers found that those foreign-born workers had helped generate an additional 4,100 jobs in the area. “We hear often that employers are suspending their expansion plans because they can’t find the workers they need, which is why our new neighbors must be part of the solution,” said Kathy Gaalswyk, president of the Initiative Foundation. “Community leaders are recognizing that new immigrants can fill worker shortages, provide
the talent needed for our companies to grow and replace retiring Boomers. But this won’t happen unless we are intentional about reaching out and making connections one community, one business and one employee at a time.”
Natural Born Risk-Takers As critical as immigrants will be to filling positions in existing businesses, newcomers are also twice as likely as native-born Americans to start new businesses. That statistic is no surprise to Rosemond Owens, a health literacy and cultural competency specialist at CentraCare, who said, “Where we come from, no one hands you anything. So in our DNA, we are entrepreneurs.” Before she came to Minnesota from Ghana for a degree in public health, Owens helped pay for college by selling ceramic pots “to anyone who would smile at me,” she said—a micro-business background experience shared by many immigrants and refu-
gees in the area. “Once people find their bearings, I think that spirit of wanting to provide for your family never leaves you, and you start to see ways that you can make a contribution,” said Owens. In fact, Owens and her husband, Isaac, who works at the Hennepin County Medical Center, started their own weekend catering company, Kalahari Foods MN, introducing peanut brittle and goat kebabs to the crowds at St. Cloud’s Summertime by George! events. “At first, people said, ‘Oh, no, I could never eat goat,’” Owens said. “The next week, there was a line. By the end of the summer, we were selling out every night by 7 p.m.” Ethnic food carts and restaurants are often the first round of new businesses started by immigrants, but as newcomers become more integrated into the community, they often see other business niches that others might not have noticed. For example, Orange Oak Advertising was launched in 2011 by founder Haji Abu and creative director Mike Wambua, two former St. Cloud State classmates who saw a need for a local video production company that could market to new immigrants in their native languages. “Reaching out to people in their own language makes them feel special and noticed,” said Abu, who is originally from Somalia. “Somali people are very open-minded about business, and once you make that connection, they will stay loyal to your company.” Orange Oak got off the ground with a $10,000 microloan provided through Central Minnesota Small Business Development Center (SBDC), which has seen a growth in inquiries from immigrant entrepreneurs over the last three years, according to director Barry Kirchoff. Not only does the center help newcomers navi-
Reaching out to people in their own language makes them feel special and noticed... once you make that connection, they will stay loyal to your company. gate the process of launching a business or understanding tax laws, they’ve also provided translation services for Spanish-speaking business owners, and have financing for Muslim borrowers that comply with the dictates of their religion.
Headquartered at St. Cloud State, the SBDC recently hosted a reception for business clients and community partners including a number of diverse entrepreneurs. According to SBDC State Director Bruce Strong, the gathering was “special and unique” in Minnesota. “Our understanding is instrumental in shaping new partnerships and approaches that engage our whole community,” Potter added. Gaalswyk believes connecting newcomers with the resources available to them and encouraging them to share their skills with the community will be critical to the future of central Minnesota. “The strongest and most vibrant communities are those which engage all ages, classes and cultures,” she said. “So, we need to find creative ways to reach out, involve and include our new neighbors in the work of building our communities.” Last spring, the Initiative Foundation and Central Minnesota Community Foundation hosted dozens of established business leaders and new arrivals to an event in St. Cloud, facilitated by the Minneapolis nonprofit Marnita’s Table, to build connections and talk about the potential of immigrant entrepreneurship. CentraCare’s Owens was at the table along with Tohow Siyad, a Somali native, who had started several grocery stores with his business partners and who owned a single cab that he used to drive other immigrants in his community to medical appointments. “My advice is to always be talking to people about what you can do,” said Siyad. “You have to see what’s going on, meet the people who are the decision-makers, and always take the ‘maybe’ for the answer—never take the ‘no.’” Following his own advice, Siyad reached out to CentraCare, offering his service as a resource for helping new immigrants keep their appointments with healthcare providers. His firm, National Home Health Care Transportation, now has a fleet of 19 vehicles, and has moved beyond serving just the Somali community. “I think Tohow is a great example that integration drives economic development,” said Owens. “Just look at all the people he is employing. There is a myth that refugees only take, but here’s a business that now serves the whole community.” Owens adds that businesses like this prove the economic impact of immigration is no longer invisible. “I think we’re on the map now,” she said. “And everyone has a card to play.” 1st Quarter 2013
Although central Minnesota’s foreign-born citizens account for less than 3% of the population, their economic impact is steadily increasing.
Spectrum Mirroring the nationwide rate, central Minnesota’s foreign-born population increased by 50% from 1990-2011. The state’s foreign-born population increased by over 70%.
44% Mille Lacs
30 Initiative Foundation Quarterly
National net economic gain from immigration per year.
Minnesota’s net income from immigrant owned business.
Minnesota’s growth in foreignborn workers (age 15-64) from 2000 to 2011.
Minnesota’s collegeeducated immigrants who were underemployed in 2010.
New cultures of
manufacturing education, health, social services
Comparing U.S. and foreign-born workers by Minnesota industry.
arts, entertainment, recreation professional, scientific, management, administrative retail trade
other (such as construction, agriculture, transportation, wholesale trade)
finance, insurance, real estate
1 in 3
foreign-born residents in Minnesota hold a college degree
Between 2007-2011 the majority of U.S. and Minnesota immigrants arrived from Latin America and Asia.
SOURCES: U.S. Census Bureau/American Community Survey, Minnesota Compass, University of Minnesota
4% 2% <1%
1st Quarter 2013
By Elizabeth Foy Larsen Photography by John Linn
High school teams build, battle and gear up for high-tech careers.
drenaline pulsed inside the University of Minnesota’s Mariucci Arena, but the crowd didn’t go wild for a hockey player scoring a hat trick. These particular screams, fist bumps and high fives celebrated the success of a rookie robotics team from Becker, Minnesota. By way of innovation, teamwork and the miracle of sport, they made it through their first test. With 120 high school teams from Lake of the Woods to Pipestone, the Minnesota Regional FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC) combined the excitement of sports with the rigors of inventing. Six weeks of intense preparation culminated at Mariucci. Teams of about 25 students built and programmed robots to toss Frisbees through a goal, block other teams’ shots and try to climb three rungs of a tower before the clock ran out. Surrounding the action were sweatsoaked competitors, screaming fans, flashing scoreboards and loud music. This was definitely not your parents’ science club.
Techies: The award-winning Becker High School robotics team, with vice principal Mark Kolbinger (first row, far left) and their mentor, Jason Pfingsten (second row, far left). 1st Quarter 2013
Most Likely to Succeed: FIRST contestants are twice as likely to major in science and engineering and ten times as likely to have internships with a company.
Less than 24 hours earlier, Becker’s 104pound puzzle of metal and plastic was the last of 60 to pass the required safety inspections. Referees ruled that a solenoid—a coiled wire that converts energy into motion—had too much electrical capacity, requiring the team to quickly borrow a replacement from another team. “We definitely had some work to do,” said Mark Kolbinger, Becker High School’s assistant principal. Kolbinger was the driving force in rallying the community support and financial sponsorship needed to bring robotics to his school. The robotics team had to use not only its programming smarts but also the kind of fast-thinking, collab-
34 Initiative Foundation Quarterly
orative problem-solving skills you’d find at a NASA control station.
Rebooting the science club The Becker students aren’t part of an isolated experiment. In fact, the popularity of this high school “varsity sport of the mind” is surging. Today,there are more high school robotics teams than boys’ hockey squads in Minnesota. The state has the third highest number of teams in the country, after California and Michigan. “We knew we would reach a different group of kids and we wanted those kids to connect to their school community just like they do with debate clubs and hockey,” said Amy Doherty, project specialist at the Minnesota State High School League (MSHSL), of the organization’s decision to sponsor its first state robotics tournament in the spring of 2012. Robotics competitions got their U.S. start in 1989, when New Hampshire inventor and entrepreneur, Dean
Kamen, saw an opportunity for young people to get excited about science, engineering and technology. His nonprofit, called FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) is considered the goldstandard of robotics leagues. The programs pair professional mentors with students in order to spark an interest in science and technology while hardwiring communication and creative thinking skills that are must-haves in the modern workplace. Teams also raise funds, design a “brand,” and come up with a plan to recruit future participants.
“Robotics brings it all together. Team members need to be diligent. They need to be responsible. They need to know how to start and finish a project and work through it. That’s why our company is behind it.” Unlike the rivalries of athletic sports, robotics stresses what it calls “coopertition.” Competitions pit three robots against three other robots, necessitating alliances with different schools. If teams like Becker have problems with their robots, other schools are expected to step in and help. “I come out of a sports world, where you wouldn’t ask another team if they had an extra pair of skates,” said Doherty. “Veteran teams mentor new teams.” Becker, for example, learned the ropes from robotics students in Elk River. The program is showing results. A 2005 study conducted by the Brandeis University Center for Youth and Communities in Waltham, Mass., found that FIRST contestants are twice as likely to major in science and engineering and ten times as likely to have internships with a company. (The study will be updated in 2013, and researchers anticipate similar results.) If they participate in FRC, girls are four times as likely to study science and engineering while non-white students are twice as likely to enter those same fields. Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts and 4-H Clubs also host robotics squads, often for younger kids. “We are interested in the achievement level of boys in the world today,” said David Trehey, who leads the VEX Robotics team of his St. Cloud Boy Scout troop. “We know we need to attract kids with programs that will keep them more challenged. Science and math are very important so we want to be part of the solution.”
Ready to work Those achievements have made robotics not just a way for tech-minded kids to feel school spirit, but also a potential path to career success. “We see high school robotics as one of the most creative ways to build STEM skills in youth and a great workforce development tool for businesses across central Minnesota, many of which are facing massive retirements as Baby Boomers age,” said Don Hickman, vice president for community and economic development at the Initiative Foundation, which has provided startup grants to the Becker and Pierz teams. Students also develop skills in highdemand fields, including engineering, precision manufacturing and technology. Xcel
Energy recently announced a new initiative called Productivity Through Technology that will explore how to better use technology as a competitive advantage across the company. “Partnering together with the school district and the business community clearly supports our goals,” said Cindy Shore, business support manager at Xcel Energy in Becker. “(Students) will become our future leaders and guide companies through technology.” A total of 18 adult volunteers serve as professional mentors to 26 students (seven of whom are girls) on the Becker team. Mentors are from Xcel Energy, Liberty Paper and Becker Furniture World, with positions ranging from engineers to marketing professionals. “The entire engineering department at Liberty Paper has been here,” said Kolbinger. “Our kids have talked to them and know what Continued on page 48
Ultimate Challenge: In addition to throwing Frisbees, the robots for the 2013 FIRST competitions had to climb the rungs of these pyramid-shaped towers.
Resources Depending on its form and function, building a community center can have varying degrees of difficulty. By Gene Rebeck | Photography by John Linn
his spring, the city of Braham broke ground on a project nearly a quarter-century in the making: a community center that will include a library, two multipurpose rooms and a commercial kitchen. Once it’s completed, Braham will finally be able to host anything from weddings to proms, not to mention more intimate gatherings for seniors and young people. “It will tie our community together,” said Dorothy Johnson, treasurer at Tusen Tack, a local thrift store that has contributed $100,000 to the project. The store’s donation was a catalyst for the center, which has also received funding from the state of Minnesota and the Initiative Foundation, as well as a loan from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. From Braham to St. Cloud—where the city is partnering with the YMCA to build a multi-million dollar aquatic center that will also house a gymnasium and a fitness facility—the idea of a central place where local residents can gather to get fit, conduct meetings, hold wedding receptions and socialize is very appealing. So appealing that for St. Cloud, building this center is one of the top 10 priorities determined by citizens through the Greater St.
Cloud Area Community Priorities process. Communities that have the facilities to host out-of-town sports teams and conventions can also boost their economies. But that doesn’t mean a community center is a solution for every town. Dan Frank, the Initiative Foundation’s senior program manager for community and economic development, cautioned that while residents may be enthusiastic at first, they have to face a sobering reality: the price tag. Local community centers “are going to have to be funded by local people,” said Frank. “Often, eighty percent or more of the center is going to have to be funded from the community.” That typically means local fundraising to cover construction costs and loans. Even if the community can raise funds for construction, the money hunt doesn’t end. Towns should expect that the annual operating budget for a center will run 5 to 10 percent per year of what it costs to build the facility, according to Frank. If your town is considering a community center, these central Minnesota towns have a great deal of collected wisdom about how to creatively confront funding challenges. They also are proof that when done properly, community centers can boost a city’s spirits.
1st Quarter 2013
Coffee Time: Seniors gather at the Hallett Community Center in Crosby.
Crosby Embracing the region’s hockey culture to boost a small-town economy. The Hallett Community Center in Crosby is a source of community pride. Opened in 1999, it hosts hockey tournaments throughout the winter that attract outof-town visitors. “The people are totally amazed coming up here from Minneapolis and Duluth and looking at this in a small town saying, ‘How did you ever get a facility like this?’” said Maurice Slepica, the center’s general manager. In addition to an aquatic center and 24-7 fitness facilities, the center also offers numerous recreational programs for young people, including summer day-camps and baseball. The center also established a number of popular programs for seniors, including snowshoeing during the winter and coffee social time. The project began in 1993 when several area communities gathered together to establish the facility. All but Crosby
pulled out of the project by 1999, citing financial concerns. The Hallett Charitable Trust, founded by Crosby philanthropists E. W. and Jessie Hallett, invested $2.5 million in the project, including $270,000 for seed capital. Additional funding came from the State of Minnesota, the Initiative Foundation and the Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation Board. The Trust has continued its support since the center was opened, covering operating shortfalls, according to Slepica. While Crosby residents originally envisioned the center’s economic benefits coming through hockey tournaments, auto shows and other events, fitness clubs memberships have become a key revenue source. Slepica says that the center also is working with the Cuyuna Regional Medical Center (CRMC) to develop a health assessment program that could become another potential revenue stream. CRMC will identify patients who need help improving and maintaining their health and refer them to the fitness classes and dietary programs offered at the community center.
Maurice Slepica: “People coming up here from Minneapolis and Duluth are totally amazed.”
Towns should expect that the annual operating budget for a center will run 5 to 10 percent per year of what it costs to build the facility.
Ice Time: The Walker Area Community Center’s skating rink is enjoyed by hockey players, curling enthusiasts and casual skaters alike.
Walker A welcoming space for disadvantaged youth and community leaders alike. Set amidst the bays of Leech Lake and the Paul Bunyan and Chippewa state forests, the Walker community has long been a tourist destination. “We don’t have a college, we don’t have a factory, we don’t have a hospital,” said Melanie Rice, a member of the Walker Area Community Center (WACC) board of directors, which oversees management of the center. What Walker has is people, particularly children, who are struggling. According to a 2009 survey, almost 30 percent of the kids in the surrounding county live in poverty, and only 69 percent graduate from high school in four years. That’s why the center, which opened in 2007, serves as much more than a place for hockey tournaments. Meetings with civic and recreational partners also support the town’s impoverished communities. Working with the Walker school district’s Community Education program, WACC provides science, cooking and other skillbuilding projects when there is no school. The center also offers a fitness program for employees of local businesses, which are given special pricing for bulk memberships. Employers pay a portion of the member-
ships of employees who exercise a certain number of hours per month. The project got underway when what Rice described as “a group of community members and hockey parents” gathered in 2000 to bring together Walker’s disparate meeting, fitness and sports facilities into a central location. The City of Walker passed on funding the project so the group set up a nonprofit entity to raise money. Community members and local businesses contributed $1,975,000; the Blandin Foundation and the State of Minnesota pitched in. Still, it wasn’t until 2006 when the board had enough money to feel confident breaking ground on what turned out to be a $4.6 million community center. While Rice acknowledges that paying off the debt is an ongoing challenge, WACC now has two full-time employees, three part-timers and a host of volunteers. It also receives about $10,000 annually from surrounding townships to help handle operating costs. The rest of the operating budget is covered by money from events, donations and programs.
Cold Comfort: Community center board of directors member Melanie Rice (left) hopes the center will become a valued resource for the area’s children.
Taste Test: Local organic market owner Erin Haefele teachers local kids how to make smoothies.
Wadena A new wellness center proves life goes on after a devastating tornado. On June 17, 2010, a tornado with winds of up to 170 miles per hour hit the ground in Wadena County, destroying numerous commercial structures and hundreds of houses. Among the buildings reduced to debris was Wadena’s community center. It didn’t take long for the city to make plans for the Wadena Regional Wellness Center, a new 53,000-square-foot facility with meeting and party rooms, racquetball courts, a fitness center, a gymnasium, a warm-water therapy pool and indoor swimming pool. The new center, however, will be lacking one feature that took up about 80 percent of the space of its predecessor: a hockey rink. The local hockey organization, fearing that the wait for a new center would hurt Wadena’s program, constructed a privately owned facility. City leaders hope to have the new center completed by the end of 2014, right next door to the hockey facility. 40 Initiative Foundation Quarterly
Even without an ice rink, the price tag was an ambitious $11 million. Because it suffered tornado damage, Wadena did attract a $4.2 million grant from the state Department of Employment and Economic Development, $1.2 million from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and about $900,000 from insurance settlements. Still, that left the city, which will own and operate the new center, nearly $4 million short. The fact that Wadena County is one of the poorest in the state only made those numbers more daunting. Yet as of early April, the city is only a few hundred thousand short of its goal. “We have a very motivated fundraising group,” said Wadena Mayor Wayne Wolden. So far, they’ve reached out to donors from across the United States, including Wadena school system graduates. Donations also have come from people who were moved by the city’s plight. The Initiative Foundaiton has helped with fundraising by managing the growing funds and processing gifts. Wolden hopes the new center will “impact people’s health in a very positive way.” With that goal in mind, he wants to be sure “that income is not a barrier to being a member of this facility.” HealthPartners donated $50,000 “to ensure that we are able to get people of all the socioeconomic levels to be part of this facility.”
A vacant space on Main Street turns into a town’s prize asset. “There just aren’t enough places in town for groups like Boy Scouts, 4-H’ers, firearms training, snowmobile training,” said Eden Valley Mayor Peter Korman of the organizations that were meeting in his town’s church basements and the corner bar backrooms. The solution, Eden Valley residents agreed, was a community center. The problem was that building a new structure was financially unfeasible. Then the city lucked out: The State Bank of Eden Valley, which got wind of the city’s wish, donated an empty building on Main Street. Now the former retail space is being steadily refitted with up-to-date plumbing and insulation as well as handicapped accessibility. Grants from the Initiative Foundation helped conduct a feasibility study and jump-start the renovation. Korman estimates that the city will need about $75,000 more to “get it completed the way we want it.” Beyond that, Korman said, “the strategy is basically to plead and beg and sell as many bratwursts as possible,” lightheartedly referring to the center’s first fundraiser where sausage sales brought in all of $900. Still, momentum is building. A group of about 30 citizens meets monthly to oversee the project and organize volunteers to run
Gathering Space: The State Bank of Eden Valley donated an unused building on Main Street for the town’s new library and event center.
Community Center Chat Dan Frank
with Initiative Foundation, Senior Program Manager
What do community centers bring to their towns? Ready to Renovate: Eden Valley City Clerk and Treasurer Mona Haag and Mayor Peter Korman. book sales, music concerts, dinners and other events. Local businesses have contributed money and materials. “We have a lot of good support, a lot of good volunteers in the community that have helped make things happen,” said Mona Haag, Eden Valley city clerk and treasurer, who brought the idea of a center before the city council in 2009. Last year, an experienced grant writer volunteered her services to help Eden Valley find other sources of funding. Currently, about one-third of the building houses the town library. The event center, which will hold up to 350 people, will occupy the rest. Korman hopes that the center will inspire entrepreneurial-minded residents to open a coffee shop and other new businesses in vacant spaces on Main Street. “We hope it’s the start of a center of revitalization,” Korman said. Brick by brick, and brat by brat.
They’re a central place to meet and to hold different types of events. They might also have a specific amenity like a pool or hockey rink that folks would normally have to travel to find. Some see them as economic engines, where conference attendees bring in new money for food, lodging and entertainment. And they serve as places for young people and families to do things—that’s important in our long Minnesota winters!
So, why don’t more communities have them? Cost. And it’s not just the cost to build but also to keep the lights on, the carpets clean, the systems up to code, the website updated and the potholes in the parking lot filled. In our region, I’ve never seen a community center that has supported their long-term operations purely through their own revenue-generating activities—all have some sort of external funding. After all is said and done, I’d say only two out of every ten communities that look at having a center are actually able to build and sustain one.
Tell us about some of the more unique ones. Braham—a town of only 1,800—operates a social enterprise where the profits from their thrift shop will help build and provide ongoing support for their future center. It’s unique because the more common revenue streams include city or state-funded subsidies, rental fees and memberships. St. Cloud definitely has some unique advantages. They have a local sales tax to support a center, which in smaller towns simply can’t happen. Plus, the city’s partnership with YMCA gives them a leg-up because of the Y’s experience, reputation and systems that are already in place.
What are some alternatives if a community can’t afford to build a center? Many communities are using existing facilities such as schools, churches or restaurants. We encourage communities to first look at the activities they need to support and then seek out the places that fit best. You always have to consider the extra costs for using any space, though, like paying a school’s custodial staff to come in and clean up afterwards. On the flip side, it’s much less than the alternative—operating your own space and paying for everything.
How can the Foundation help a community that’s considering a center? We can help any community in our region walk through the steps and weigh the options of building and operating a community center. That assistance, combined with some referral to other resources, usually helps leaders make more informed decisions about embarking on what can be a challenging journey. 1st Quarter 2013
Built around education and incentives, “buy local” efforts aim to protect prosperity. By Gene Rebeck | Illustration Chris McAllister | Photography by John Linn
y the time you read this, Bookin’ It bookstore in downtown Little Falls will have written its last chapter. Owner Laura Hansen will continue to sell new books on her website, but the hard-copy version of her store will close after 20 years. The plot twists and turns are familiar: Amazon, of course; the fact that many Little Falls residents drive to St. Cloud every day to work and shop, including at the Barnes & Noble; major hits to the economy after 9/11 and the financial crash; and, finally, e-books, which Hansen said have taken a minimum of 25 percent of the market. “We have tried to be nimble and roll with the changes and hold on to the things we could offer that would be of value to the community,” she said. Hansen’s store did build up a passionate coterie of local book lovers. There just weren’t enough of them. The Little Falls business community encourages people to shop at local stores. But Hansen would like to see those efforts go further, as they have in other small towns and cities throughout the country—by establishing a more organized buy local campaign. There are plenty of good reasons for towns to do just that. A recent survey of independent businesses nationwide, conducted by the Minneapolis-based Institute for Local Self-Reliance, found that communities with an active “buy local first” initiative reported average revenue growth of 8.6 percent in 2012, compared to 3.4 percent for those in areas without such an initiative. In addition, 75 percent of survey respondents in these cities say that the buy local campaign has improved their businesses.
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Why purchase goods and services from locally owned businesses? Simply put, the more money you spend at local, businesses, the more money stays in the local economy, providing jobs and creating a virtuous circle of economic growth that can strengthen a community. In central Minnesota, the Initiative Foundation has encouraged buy local movements in part by connecting communities with the 3/50 Project (www.the350project. net), a national organization that provides strategies for setting up such programs. A study by Civic Economics, an economic development consulting firm, found that for every $100 spent at locally owned businesses, $68 is returned to the local economy while $100 spent at the chain store yields just $43 in local economic impact. As Hansen put it, “People like to shop online and not pay tax, then they wonder why the roads aren’t fixed and there isn’t enough money for our schools. If a resident is shopping online or out of town, that money isn’t coming back into our community.” Buying local hasn’t yet become a grand movement in central Minnesota. But area citizens are becoming more aware of how their purchasing choices—from retail shopping to the food they eat—can build and improve their communities.
From hardware to hairdressers Laura Hansen, Bookin’ It: “People like to shop online and not pay tax. And then they wonder why the roads aren’t fixed.”
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When it comes to buying locally, communities are dealing with some formidable opponents, including its own residents. “We have become so enamored of the Internet and free shipping and those kinds of things,”
said Sam Griffith, administrator for the City of Sandstone and one of the leaders of his city’s buy local campaign, which launched in April. Services that were once provided by separate, family-run shops—the bakery, the meat market, the hardware store, the women’s clothing shop—are increasingly available at one-stop stores whose location and ownership reside far from Main Street. Convenience, however, has a price tag. For many communities, that breadth of goods often requires a long drive, which can get expensive, “If you have to drive 60 miles to shop, shouldn’t you count the cost of gas?” asked Griffith. How can people learn the value of local stores? And how can those stores better market to local customers, including providing the items they’ve been looking for online or at a big box option? That’s the kind of awareness Sandstone is seeking to raise through its new buy local campaign. As an incentive, the Sandstone campaign is starting with a contest: shop at seven out of the 13 participating local businesses, and get a sticker from each, to qualify for a quarterly prize drawing. Other central Minnesota communities have experimented with various types of buy local campaigns. Last year, staff members of Milaca’s school district created a shop-in-town program. The teachers and staffers realized that since the district is one of Milaca’s largest employers, “our group can make a pretty good impact on our economy,” said Dave Dillan, a special-education teacher at Milaca High School and a member of the Milaca city council. Milaca’s campaign was similar to Sandstone’s. At the beginning of the year, bingo-like cards with the names of local businesses were passed out to all teachers and staff. Once staffers had stopped at a requisite number of local stores, their cards were put into a drawing for gifts from local merchants. “We wanted to get them to realize that we’ve got a really good hardware store, we’ve got a great grocery store, we’ve got good hair places, and so on,” said Dillan.
Farm to table
Lynn Schurman, Cold Spring Bakery: “We have a lot of visitors who like to have access to local products.”
A more modest and informal buy local effort has been ongoing in Little Falls since 2002. The Little Falls Business Association (LFBA) encourages its 100-plus members, most of whom are retailers, to patronize other businesses in the area. The association also sponsors several city-wide sales throughout the year and spreads its shoplocal message via the local radio station and newspaper. Association members, including Walmart, also support the program. During the holiday season, locals pick up specially-printed cards at LFBA member businesses. Once the shopper has spent $500, the stamped cards are put into a drawing. The grand prize was 500 “LFBA bucks” that the winner could spend in a local store. In 2012, $1.4 million worth of cards were turned in. “This was just a tremendous promotion for us,” said Sandy Smith, LFBA president. In cities where tourism plays a significant economic role, “buying local” is often what visitors are seeking to do. Lynn Schurman,
owner of the Cold Spring Bakery, sells not only her own bread and pastries, but also locally-produced gifts; even books written by local authors are for sale. “We do have a lot of people coming up to the lakes and visiting the area who like to have access to those types of local products,” Schurman said, rather than items “you can buy anywhere.”
Shopping isn’t the only realm where buy local movements are garnering community interest. Another is food production where small farms that raise and sell vegetables, fruits, herbs and sometimes even meat, at farmers’ markets and through communitysupported agriculture (CSA) programs. Local food production is “a key component of creating sustainable, resilient communities,” said Molly Zins, executive director of the Central Regional Sustainable Development Partnership, a University of Minnesota-run organization in Brainerd that promotes and funds food production and other local-development programs. Besides the growing number of farmers’ markets in the region, Zins noted that numerous schools and healthcare facilities have become interested in purchasing locally grown produce for the meals they supply. The Lakewood Health System in Staples is one of the larger central Minnesota institutions seeking out local food. In Brainerd, The Farm on St. Mathias is cultivating an ambitious vision. Launched in 2005 as a CSA farm, St. Mathias uncovered other markets for its organic produce. “There is a huge amount of interest in buying local foods, from executive chefs at a lot of premier resorts and other restaurants, to the food service directors in our school districts who are becoming more engaged in [what’s called] the farm-to-cafeteria movement,” said Arlene Jones, the co-founder of St. Mathias.
1st Quarter 2013
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In 2010, Jones’ farm began selling food to the Brainerd school district only to find that she didn’t have the capacity to fill large institutional orders. So she began networking with other farmers to band together as sources of supply. In 2011, St. Mathias combined with three other area farms to supply 4,000 pounds of produce to the Brainerd schools. Last year, Jones brought together 15 farms to sell 16,000 pounds to both the Brainerd and Pierz school districts.
“It’s more than just a fad, but a permanent cornerstone that can support thriving rural economies.” Jones’ networking with other farms has inspired her to co-create SproutMN, a “food hub,” or aggregation/distribution system where locally farmed produce is easily available to institutions seeking healthier meals. Jones believes SproutMN’s market potential is strong, citing a feasibility study she put together in which she surveyed area institutions. “They’re willing to spend a bit more money because they know that that dollar is going to relocalize in their communities numerous times,” she said. Don Hickman, vice president for community and economic development for the Initiative Foundation, thinks local food production can have the same positive economic impact as other buy local campaigns. The hope, Hickman said, is that “it’s more than just a fad, but a permanent cornerstone that can support thriving rural economies.”
Spoken Here How to start a buy local campaign in your town.
Form a steering committee. Talk with key business owners about the benefits of launching a buy local campaign. Identify those who would like to be involved and ask them to join a steering committee. The committee should include 6-15 people, mostly local business owners, along with a few individuals and leaders of any relevant organizations, such as a downtown revitalization group.
Set a date for a kick-off event to give yourselves a concrete goal. The kick-off event might be a press conference to announce the campaign, which would give immediate media visibility and help with recruitment. You could also hold a gathering for business owners, perhaps at a local restaurant or performance venue.
With a Total Connect Security System, you can: • Mind your store • Protect your business • Arm and disarm the system • Watch for shoplifters • Control employee theft over the Internet, with cell phones, or other web-enabled devices.
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Devise a name, slogan and logo. Your group's name and slogan should be positive and proactive, and your logo professionally designed. Consider asking local designers if they might volunteer their services in exchange for free membership. A few names of successful campaigns from across the U.S. include: Cambridge Local First (Cambridge, Massachusetts), Homegrown El Paso (El Paso, Texas) and StayLocal (New Orleans). Your logo can incorporate a recognizable and beloved feature of your community.
Develop a campaign kit for businesses. It might include a welcome letter, a window decal of the campaign logo for their storefront, tips for promoting the campaign and a "Top 10 Reasons to Support Locally Owned Businesses" to distribute to customers. You should also create a basic website. (Again, consider asking local print shops and web developers to volunteer their services in exchange for free membership.)
Source: Institute for Local Self-Reliance.
Serving all of Minnesota and Beyond
A more detailed list of tips can be found at ilsr.org/start-buy-local-campaign.
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Central Minnesota was represented by 15 teams during the 2012 robotics season.
Albany Annandale Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa Brainerd Cass Lake Delano Elk River Isanti-County 4-H Mora Pierz Pine River-Backus St. Cloud Apollo Sauk Rapids-Rice Staples-Motley Wadena-Deer Creek
Continued from page 35
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48 Initiative Foundation Quarterly
they do on a daily basis. It’s been such an authentic experience that you can’t really get in the classroom.” The mentors also see the long-term dividends. “I’d love to think that these kids could one day be working at a Becker company,” said Jason Pfingsten, engineering manager at Liberty Paper, who mentors the team. “You build those relationships and who knows when one day down the road you cross paths. There are some students on the robotics team with the skills that businesses need.” Those skills were evident during the regional competition, as the Becker team fielded questions from judges. Even though robotics teams are considered varsity sports, they aren’t funded in the same way as athletic programs. Teams create detailed business plans to raise money and build their programs. It cost the Becker team $14,000
Happy employees. Healthy employees. Healthcare savings. We offer many different health-related services for businesses and organizations in the region, including: · · · ·
On-site health testing and assessments, such as hearing screenings. Assessments and rehabilitation for on the job injuries. Contracted on-site health professionals–temporary or long-term. Identiﬁcation of potential health risks and workplace hazards.
Call Lakewood’s Occupational Health Team at 218-894-8621 for more information.
YOUR HOME FOR HEALTHCARE
Although robotics is an activity sanctioned by the Minnesota State High School League, groups that are interested in learning more about the program should contact FIRST.
in cash and $2,000 in donated materials to compete in the regular season. Becker students Emily Knudsen and Brandon Pearce walked the judges through their marketing plan, which included a website as well as a social media presence on Facebook and Twitter. They made presentations to the Becker Area Chamber of Commerce and planned a youth robotics summer camp to build their team for the future. Other central Minnesota teams have also increased their visibility with grassroots efforts. The Pierz Mechaneers, also in their first year, plan to take their Frisbeelaunching robot to summer parades.
Thrill of victory To everyone’s surprise and delight, the rookie Becker team was part of the winning alliance that advanced to the national com1st Quarter 2013
petition in St. Louis. They blocked ten of an opposing robot’s Frisbees in the first round, which made them attractive to other teams who needed a defensive partner. “Robotics brings it all together,” said Phil Knutson, a former Becker city council member who is director of operations at Becker Furniture World, a sponsor of the Becker robotics team. “Team members need
“Students will become our future leaders and guide companies through technology.” to be diligent. They need to be responsible. They need to know how to start and finish a project and work through it. That’s why our company is behind it.” Additional businesses jumped in to help with the $20,000 it costs to compete. The team experience and accomplishment is thrilling, said Team Captain Jake Bernier who, will study electrical engineering at North Dakota State University next fall. “There’s no other activity,” he said, “that challenges the brain like this.”
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Brainerd | Baxter
MinnesoTA’s 4 Th of July CAPiTAl Arts in the Park
Gregory Park, Brainerd, MN
Sunday, July 7, 2013 Celebrating 39 Years of Art in the Brainerd Lakes Area!
Thursday July 4th
The American Celebration 12 noon — BaSEBall Brainerd B’s Vs. Ft. ripley rebels sponsored by riddles Jewelry
12 noon — Corn on thE CoB FEEd sponsored by Brainerd JC’s
EntErtainmEnt: Pat surface – Folk singer Paul imholt – Dulcimer Mike the Banjo Man Featuring fine art in the categories of stain glass, photography, pottery, jewelry, water color and acrylic paintings, and wood.
4 pm — paradE Beginning at East river road to Laurel street to 5th street to College Drive
6:30 pm — EntErtainmEnt Winner of Battle of the Bands and Featuring “Ladies of the 80’s”
10:00 pm — national anthEm 10:15 pm — World ClaSS FirEWorkS World class fireworks by Zambelli Fireworks
reserve your parking spot by calling Brainerd Community action at 218-829-5278 Visit www.BrainerdCommunityaction.org for more information 1st Quarter 2013
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52 Initiative Foundation Quarterly
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1st Quarter 2013
Team Powdercoating Hinckley, Minn. By Maria Surma Manka | Photography by John Linn
The keychain in your pocket, the computer on your desk and even the tag on your pet’s collar: All may have passed through Hinckley-based Team Powdercoating’s maze of conveyor belts and ovens, where a very fine powder is used to color and cover an array of everyday items. The process is relatively straightforward: a metal component—typically small enough to be handled by one person—is hung on a 600-foot long overhead conveyor line. It is washed and dried, then moved to a semi-enclosed booth where a worker uses a spray gun to evenly “paint” the piece with powder. From there, it’s heated in a 400-degree oven to set the powder. Team Powdercoating started in the Twin Cities, but moved to Hinckley in 2009 after finding a facility large enough to support its growing operations. Although the move coincided with the recession, Team Powdercoating president Kim Johnson credits programs like JOBZ and support from partners including the Initiative Foundation for helping the company upgrade its machinery and employ more people. Today, millions of components and pieces move through its facility each year. We went to Hinckley to learn the ins and outs of this powdery process.
When you rub a balloon on your shirt and stick it to a wall, it stays there because you created an electrostatic charge. That same concept is how powder adheres to metal. As the powder passes through a spray gun, the turbulence charges it and the metal attracts it like a magnet.
In a Matter of Seconds
As the powdered component is heated, the powder turns to liquid for about 11 seconds before it hardens and dries without dripping or streaks.
Mixing It Up
Team Powdercoating keeps approximately 600 types of powders in stock. Their properties vary by color, gloss level, texture, ability to resist weather conditions and level of corrosion protection.
Future Projections The company currently employs 15 people but expects to add a second shift in 2013 if sale trends continue.
There are many different kinds of powder, including polyester, polyurethane and epoxy. Choosing which powder is best for a component depends on its end use, including whether it will be exposed to outdoor weather conditions.
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Here, Fishy Fishy
Theyâ€™re a big fish in a big pond: The company is the top custom coater of fishing lure components in the U.S. A single employee can powder 5,000 jigs in one hour.
Team Powdercoating serves companies in the agriculture, medical, retail and technology industries, as well as the military and law enforcement.
Permanent Press Around The Bend
A manual press is used to adhere powder-based images to the metal. The heat and pressure from the press essentially tattoo the image to the item. Unlike paint, it cannot be scratched off or chipped.
Team Powdercoating was the first company in the U.S. to master the application of powder-based images to curved metals for commercial use. Now, the company receives orders for images on everything from drum wraps to spoons. 1st Quarter 2013
Where is IQ?
Think you know? Send your best guess to IQ@ifound.org by June 15, 2013. Three winners will be chosen, at random, to receive a $25 GiveMN.org gift card to support the charity of their choice. Hint: 45° 4’ N / 93° 58’ W Congratulations to everyone who correctly recognized the Elvis-inspired Babe the Blue Ox on Brainerd’s east side in the previous issue. Mary Jo Wimmer and JoLeta Buss were the lucky winners of GiveMN.org gift cards.
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Enough about us. LEt’s taLk about You. All you have to do is contact Range and say, “Here’s my challenge.” We look forward to helping you succeed.
Aaron W. Hautala was recognized by Prarie Business Magazine as one of the region’s top 40 business leaders under 40 years of age. He was selected for his professional excellence, community service and personal leadership in the Brainerd and Cuyuna Lakes areas.
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