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New Collaborative to Promote Economic Development in Greater Minnesota

A newly formed public-private collaborative is promoting a new regional approach to economic development in Greater Minnesota. The effort was formally announced on June 4 at the annual retreat of the Minnesota Initiative Foundations (MIFs) in Brainerd.

The effort is being coordinated under the umbrella of the Regional Economic Development (RED) Group. Members of RED Group include business groups, foundations, education systems, public sector agencies, nonprofits and others. It is funded by The <http://www.mcknight.org/ McKnight Foundation, Minneapolis, and Blandin Foundation <http://www.blandinfoundation.org/, Grand Rapids. In addition, each of the members of the RED Group is committed to contributions of financial and human resources.

"RED is an important advance in the way we approach community economic development because it enables private sector and public and nonprofit community development organizations to concentrate state and local resources more efficiently and effectively," said Jim Hoolihan, president of Blandin Foundation. "RED links powerful public and private resources to the same engine and puts them on the same track, heading in the same direction."

Rip Rapson, president of The McKnight Foundation, called RED Group "! economic development with a regional focus. It builds on the economic assets that areas of the state share, bundles the investments in opportunities that can be sustained in a global marketplace and aligns local and state agencies, education systems and other economic development tools in ways that support these investments."

The six initiative foundations are independent, philanthropic organizations that promote economic and social development in Greater Minnesota. Economic development initiatives in the MIF regions already are under way. The six foundations are the Initiative Foundation <http://www.ifound.org/ , Little Falls; the Northland Foundation <http://www.northlandfdn.org/, Duluth; the Northwest Minnesota Foundation <http://www.nwmf.org/ , Bemidji; the Southern Minnesota Initiative <http://www.smifoundation.org/ Foundation, Owatonna; the Southwest <http://www.swmnfoundation.org/ Minnesota Foundation, Hutchinson; and West <http://www.wcif.org/ Central Initiative, Fergus Falls.

An important RED Group role in the effort is to be a catalyst for the kind of system changes that will more effectively support economic development in Greater Minnesota. Success in realigning systems already can be seen in cooperative efforts with the state's education systems and public agencies. For example, the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) recently announced the creation of six new positions for regional workforce and economic development specialists. The regions of the new positions coincide with the six MIF regions.

Another example of RED Group helping to realign systems is in education. The Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system (MnSCU) is dedicating resources to coordinate its customized training network activity in the MIF regions and the Twin Cities metropolitan area. The fund will have at least $300,000 annual! ly. It will be used to help coordinate planning and communication among institutions in a MIF region. The fund also will be used to help connect the activities of MnSCU institutions in the MIF regions with RED Group initiatives, employers and business groups, and DEED and other economic development agencies.

"The fund will help create a single point of contact with MnSCU institutions," said Michael Murphy, MnSCU's associate vice chancellor for strategic partnerships and workforce development.

"Higher education - whether it is at a MnSCU school, the University of Minnesota, a private college or a technical or community college - is a critical component of regional economic development. When these institutions work closely with employers, communities and organizations like RED Group and the MIFs, we can more efficiently and effectively educate and train workers and apply research and technical assistance to economic development initiatives statewide. The fund will help foster this cooperation."

Submitted by Lois Schmidt
Nonprofit Resource Specialist

Bremer Bank, N.A.
lcschmidt@bremer.com
 

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