October 22, 2019

After several busy months of taking advantage of warm weather, the leaves start to drop from the trees in preparation for winter and I am reminded of the importance of slowing down and connecting with others. At Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation (SMIF) we are spending this season connecting with many of our partners in our 20-county region at several major events.

We recently held the Entrepreneurial Bridge Event in Austin for the fifth year in a row. Business owners from around our region spent the day hearing from inspirational speakers and learning from each other to help their businesses grow. This year’s theme was Achieving Greatness, and we were exposed to many ways of doing this. John McHugh, director of corporate communications at Kwik Trip, talked to us about the importance of creating a culture of community and compassion, and finding a purpose in the workplace. Cindy Ebert, president of The Growth Collaborative, walked everyone through a series of interactive sessions to help them hone in on their leadership styles and develop a goal-setting system to support growth in the business and the entrepreneur. We also heard from Mike McCabe, former director of air warfare at the Pentagon, who taught us the importance of being a strong leader by creating a culture in the workplace that others can buy in to.

We also saw greatness from the college students who participated in the student competition portion of the Bridge event. Their inspirational business pitches ranged from stylish headbands to robotic defense mannequins for sports training. I’m always amazed by the innovation that comes from our youngest entrepreneurs. Three winners – JockLab, 2True Headbands and School Shark – walked away with prize money to invest in their businesses, which we hope will support their ideas in taking root and sprouting into lasting businesses in our region.  

The connections we are making with partners in this region don’t end there. At the end of this month we will welcome 500 early childhood professionals to the Owatonna High School for the fifth annual Early Childhood Care Conference. At SMIF we believe that making sure our youngest generation is prepared to be the leaders of tomorrow starts with early childhood professionals who are raising our future leaders, workers and citizens. These educators have developed a network over the years that is creating a better future for the children in our region. We want to be sure they are equipped with the tools to help our children grow and succeed, and this conference is an important way to do that.

Finally, we are already looking ahead to the winter when the FEAST! Local Foods Marketplace will be taking place at the Rochester Mayo Civic Center on December 7. This is a great opportunity to get some holiday shopping done while supporting artisan food vendors from the region. From honey and jam to hazelnuts and chocolates, this event is the perfect way to make a direct connection with the people who make your food.

As we prepare for what might be another long winter, let’s take the time to appreciate the beauty of this time of year in each other’s company. Don’t forget to connect with us directly if you have questions about opportunities through SMIF.

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

Tim Penny, President & CEO of Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation

Tim Penny is the President & CEO of Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation. Tim represented Minnesota’s First Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1982 – 1994.