SMIF invites small towns to “jumpstart their community”

5 Rural Entrepreneurial Venture (REV) communities will be selected through a competitive process for new long-term investment

April 24, 2017, Owatonna, MINN. – What would it look like if your community started thinking more like an entrepreneur? This is the question Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation (SMIF) is inviting all communities with populations of 5,000 or  less to consider through its new Rural Entrepreneurial Venture (REV) program.

Starting on May 15, applications will be available to small towns in SMIF’s 20-county region for a unique opportunity: economic growth through processes that encourage entrepreneurship. “Entrepreneurs are innovative, flexible, persistent, networked, visionary, opportunistic and able to execute,” said SMIF Vice President of Economic Development Pam Bishop. “These are the same qualities that make for successful leaders and vibrant communities. These are the qualities we’ll be fostering in our REV communities.”

The REV program will help rural communities create more vibrant economies by helping local entrepreneurs that want to become more successful and grow. By focusing on entrepreneur development, the longer-term goal is to enhance the success of existing businesses, create more local jobs, expand local taxes through community economic development and generate rooted wealth for the selected REV communities. 

Five REV communities will be selected for a three-year commitment from SMIF. During this period, communities will form Champion Leadership Teams and be guided through a series of strategic goal setting and action steps in order to catalyze entrepreneurial activity and long-term economic growth. “REV communities will be expected to put in significant sweat equity, but the long-term payoffs will be worth it,” said Bishop.

Like most SMIF programming, the REV approach adopts an asset-based development model. The difference is the shift from a transactional, one-time investment to a long-term, transformational approach. It also focuses on leveraging existing talent and entrepreneurialism in one's community, rather than focusing solely on business attraction. 

“For the past 30 years, Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation (SMIF) has been leading the way as an economic development foundation in our 20-county region,” said Tim Penny, SMIF’s President and CEO. “However, through our latest strategic plan cycle, we recognized the need and opportunity to approach economic development from a systems-perspective so that even our smallest communities can be resilient in the face of inevitable challenges.”

SMIF is partnering with national Center for Rural Entrepreneurship to adopt their Energizing Entrepreneurial (e2) Communities framework, which has a proven track record of accelerating entrepreneurial activity in rural communities. “Over the past 40 years, we’ve seen economic growth in hundreds of communities from rural Kansas to eastern Washington,” said Don Macke, Co-Founder and Director of Entrepreneurial Communities at The Center for Rural Entrepreneurship. “Our rural communities are rich in entrepreneurs; we just help communities foster those existing assets and create the social and civic infrastructure for them to thrive.”

Holt County, Nebraska is one region that has seen great results from the Center’s e2 model. Holt County went from losing one percent of its population annually to gaining 400 new families since they started the program in 2007. They also developed a $5 million endowment, created 400 new jobs, 82 news businesses, 39 business expansions and 26 business transitions.

SMIF invites all interested communities to join them for an informational webinar at noon on May 25. Applications are due on July 14. The five REV communities will be announced at SMIF’s annual luncheon on October 17.

For more information on SMIF’s Rural Entrepreneurship Venture, contact Pam Bishop at or 507-455-3215.

About Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation

Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation (SMIF), a donor-supported foundation, invests for economic growth in the 20 counties of south central and southeastern Minnesota. The Foundation has provided more than $100 million in grants, loans and programming within the region during the past 30 years. SMIF's key interests include early childhood, community and economic development. To learn more about our work and mission, visit

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