SMIF Awards $69,020 in Incentive Grants

OWATONNA, Minn., June 2, 2016 - Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation (SMIF) recently approved four grants totaling $69,020 to support early childhood and economic development projects within southern Minnesota.

"SMIF's Incentive Grants are designed to support projects that involve collaboration and achieve sustainable, measurable results," says SMIF Grants Coordinator Jennifer Heien. Grants are reviewed by 14-person grant committee and awarded based on their likelihood to create measurable change in the areas of early childhood or economic development in SMIF's 20-county region. Typically, two rounds of Incentive Grants are offered annually. This round's grantees include:

- $20,000 to Brown County Childcare Enhancement Project. Brown County is experiencing a crisis in its day care offerings, especially from birth through age one. Brown County has lost approximately 30 day care licenses in the past two years, which dramatically affects Brown County businesses and families; SMIF's grant will help Brown County increase their capacity to address these needs by hiring a coordinator to assist in a child care assessment, family services recruitment project, training and mentorship of new providers, and coordination of existing care efforts.

- $14,000 to Mankato Area Foundation to implement the Shared Spaces Entrepreneurial Collaborative Center, an incubator for emerging nonprofits and established nonprofits that will provide resources, networking, and job opportunities for entrepreneurs starting nonprofits who will benefit from mentoring by established nonprofits.The Collaborative Center will serve the nine counties of Region Nine. Having nonprofits together in one building enables them to work together more efficiently and share costs and resources.

- $20,000 to Riverland Community College Foundation to offer boot camps for up to 300 entrepreneurs to introduce aspirational farmers to concepts such as high-tech farm operations design, niche market creation and business model sustainability. Attendees will also be connected to mentors and farming-related resources in the regional ag community. The boot camps will increase ag-related entrepreneurs' ability to create niche markets with higher price points to support a livable wage while adding value to family farms.

- $15,020 to Spring Grove Area - Past Present and Future to create a new, accountable model to support entrepreneurs and businesses in all stages through partnering with Community and Economic Development Associates (CEDA). The goal of this project is to provide leadership and coordination to aggressively move forward on their top five priorities: expansion of Farmer's Coop Elevator, establishment of campground next to Aquatic Center, creation and expansion of pathways through the community, expansion of downtown as a destination place, and coordination of efforts to meet housing and labor force needs.

Since 1986, the Foundation has provided over $27.6 million in grants to create economic vitality throughout south central and southeastern Minnesota.

"These Incentive Grant awards represent the many ways our grants can contribute to a vibrant southern Minnesota economy, from strengthening our pre-k caregivers to investments which support entrepreneurs and artists," says Tim Penny, SMIF President and CEO.

The application process and guidelines for the next Incentive Grant round will be announced in January 2017; applications will be due February 15, 2017. For details on applying for a SMIF Incentive Grant contact Jennifer Heien, Grants Coordinator, at 507-455-3215 or

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