Press Releases

Tim Penny Opinion-Editorial: Christmas List

Op/Ed
Tim Penny, President/CEO
Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation
December 2014

All I want for Christmas

In the spirit of making lists and checking them twice, I've decided to come up with a list of my own: what I want for Christmas and for the New Year. And what we at Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation (SMIF) are doing to make this happen.

Part of our mission at SMIF is that all children enter school ready to learn and succeed. However, we know that despite significant strides that have been made in early childhood awareness, 40% of our Minnesota children are still entering Kindergarten unprepared. This leads to them falling behind early, and many never catch up. One way that we have found effective in helping children get a solid early foundation in education is by being in a quality Parent Aware rated pre-school. Whether in-home or center-based, child care settings that are Parent Aware rated are working to provide the best possible environment for future development.

SMIF is working through our Quality Child Care Provider program trainings to help more providers get on the track to becoming Parent Aware rated. This is important in our region because the state of Minnesota is significantly increasing early childhood funding - but only for centers/sites that are rated. We want to prepare more child care providers to meet that standard.

Another important item on our SMIF Christmas list this year is broader access to local foods. We've invested in several local foods businesses over the past year, as well as playing a role in the FEAST Local Foods Festival and Tradeshow in Rochester. There is a continued interest in the food industry, and we know our region is well-poised to benefit. Our FEAST Festival helped connect sellers with buyers - and we hope to make it an annual event. We also are looking to grow this sector by directing more of our loans and technical assistance to local foods producers and processors.

And lastly, on the list this year is for community leaders and stakeholders to come together to share ideas and learn from one another. We know there are many individuals across our 20 counties who have the passion and expertise to make a difference in our region. What SMIF wants to offer them is the opportunity to do so.

We will soon host a regional gathering with the Blandin Foundation's alumni network as well as Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation's network from our 24 community foundation boards, our Community Growth Initiative leadership teams, and our Early Childhood Initiative coalitions. Working together, we can identify areas of common interest and pool resources to enhance our region.

These are a few of the issues we hope to tackle in 2015, and we hope you can find a way to partner with us if these items are on your Christmas list, as well.

Since inception in 1986, SMIF has worked to create economic prosperity and community vitality within its 20-county region. Over the past 29 years, we have worked to identify and leverage our region's assets to achieve these goals. And we will continue to do that work by bringing people, businesses, and organizations together to pool resources and ideas for greater outcomes and to facilitate ongoing conversations that impact our region. Together we strengthen southern Minnesota - the place we all call home.

As always, I welcome your questions and comments. You can reach me at 507-455-3215 or timp@smifoundation.org.