January 2021 E-Newsletter

Read Now

EDA grant targets south central Minnesota manufacturers hit hard by pandemic


NORTH MANKATO, Minn. (KEYC) — A $74,552 Economic Development Administration grant is set to aid south central Minnesota manufacturers.

Democratic Sen. Tina Smith, of Minnesota, says the grant will help manufacturers and communities in the region recover from economic losses caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

“A lot of businesses have struggled with COVID. Some businesses have done just fine and others have been deeply challenged and this is a way of helping those businesses and helping those that work for them,” Smith stated.

The funds will go to the Region Nine Development Commission to help the group establish a disaster and economic recovery plan for manufacturing and job losses in local communities.

Manufacturing accounts for more than 22% of the jobs in the region.

“Manufacturing is the backbone of our regional economy. In eight of our nine counties, it’s the highest industry,” RNDC Executive Director Nicole Griensewic said.

The project begins in March and will last through 2022.

“We are really working on trying to make sure their voices are heard. Work with stakeholders, those in industry, plant managers, individuals that are part of the logistic providers and so part of that is going to be really working with them to have an advisory committee and interviews with these industry stakeholders, plant managers, etc. of smaller and larger manufacturing businesses,” added Griensewic.

Region Nine is made up of Blue Earth, Brown, Faribault, Le Sueur, Martin, Nicollet, Sibley, Waseca, and Watonwan counties.

View the KEYC video here.

Choose your local farmers’ market


Still looking for a New Year’s resolution?

If you haven’t decided on a New Year’s resolution yet, you hope to lead a healthier life, and you want to support the local economy, this year choose to shop at the local farmers’ market.

For the past 40 years, the Mankato Farmers’ Market has become a primary provider of locally grown foods to most residents in the region. It offers a wide variety of products from fresh eggs, meats, produce, and fruits to fresh flowers, plants, baked and homemade products, fruit preserves, artisanal handicrafts, and more.

Despite all the challenges and disruptions caused by the pandemic to food supply chains, the Mankato Farmers’ Market continues to provide community members access to healthy food. The farmers’ market also promotes sustainability by requiring vendors “to make or produce their goods wholly or substantially from within 40 miles of Mankato.” Moreover, contrary to the popular myth, products at farmers’ markets are affordable and often priced the same or even less than at conventional grocery stores. Some other reasons to visit the local farmers’ market is that it helps residents to come together and connect while supporting local family farms and artisans. It also keeps the money you spend in your local economy, and it is a local source of jobs.  


Keep yourself accountable to this resolution by marking your calendars for the farmers’ market winter season dates. During the winter season, the market convenes at 281 Saint Andrews Drive (Drummers Garden Center). Their next event is February 6th, from 10:00 to noon. During the regular season (May-October), the market meets at 1895 Adams Street (Best Buy parking lot).

For students, faculty, and staff at Minnesota State University Mankato interested in visiting the farmers’ market at their Best Buy location, there are free shuttle buses available on Saturday. These bus services are open to the public for $1.50.

This year don’t forget your local farmers’ market when setting your New Year’s resolution list!


By: Alejandra Bejarano, Lead for Minnesota Fellow

Sources: Mankato Farmers’ Market. (2021). About Us. Mankato Farmers’ Market. https://www.mankatofarmersmarket.com/about-us/

Region Nine awarded funding for disaster and economic recovery plan

MANKATO, Minn. (KEYC) – The Region Nine Development Commission is awarded thousands of dollars to establish a disaster and economic recovery plan for the region.

The more than $74,000 in funding comes from the federal Economic Development Administration.

Region Nine plans to work with community partners to develop a COVID-19 recovery plan for the regional manufacturing clusters that have already been impacted by flooding in 2019 and trade uncertainties in 2019 and 2020. During the planning process, there will be opportunities for public input from community members, academic institutions, industry partners, and public entities.

Copyright 2021 KEYC. All rights reserved.

View online.

Guest Column: Collaboration is the way to move forward

When I served in Congress, I was dedicated to representing my southern Minnesota district. I was not there to simply vote the party line; I did my best to take into consideration the differing political ideologies that existed at the time among my constituents. As a legislator, I made it a priority to develop partnerships with other legislators — in both parties — to find common ground and to influence legislation to the benefit of the communities I served.

Tim Penny

As divisions in our country and state have become amplified in recent years, I believe it is important to emphasize that collaboration is central to how we will be able to move forward. Here at Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation, collaboration is a key value and a guiding force in how we do our work.

SMIF’s vision is that southern Minnesota will be a prosperous and growing region with vibrant communities, innovative and successful economies and engaged and valued citizens. As we celebrate SMIF’s 35th anniversary this year, and more than $121 million invested in our 20-county region during that time, we know that we would not have been able to make progress on this vision without the many partners that have supported our efforts over the past three and a half decades.

Partnerships have made it possible for SMIF to award 4,300 grants since our inception. For example, we work with Ace Hardware and Arrow Hardware & Paint, to distribute paint to communities for projects like murals through our Paint the Town Grants. We partner with publishers ABDO and Capstone to distribute thousands of books to children birth through age 5 through our Early Literacy Grants (and many more thousands of books get distributed through our early childhood programming). We recently partnered with Region Nine Development Commission and SE MN Together to launch a special Inclusive and Equitable Communities Grant program, awarding $160,000 to organizations that are increasing equity and inclusion within communities and supporting entrepreneurs of diverse backgrounds.

Since 1986 we have been able to support more than 700 businesses through our lending program because of our partnerships with financial institutions and economic development agencies. We have also partnered with our 30 Community Foundations by providing $823,000 in matching grants over the years, offering direct support to their communities.

Our commitment to collaboration made it possible for us to distribute $12.1 million in COVID-19 response dollars. SMIF partnered with the state of Minnesota throughout 2020 to distribute grants and loans to support children, child care providers, entrepreneurs and communities in our region during this crisis. Most recently we partnered with the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) to distribute $10.2 million in Small Business Relief Grants, helping keep more than 1,000 southern Minnesota businesses afloat. We also worked with the Minnesota Department of Education (MDE) to award $180,000 in Early Care and Wrap Around Grants to fund early care and education wrap around services for children birth to age eight from underserved populations impacted by the pandemic.

It is impossible to name every partner that has made a difference in SMIF’s work, but we are appreciative of each and every one of them. Without this culture of collaboration, we would have a vision for our region’s prosperity without the means to execute that vision. Likewise, Minnesota — and our country — will make progress when we all work together.

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

Tim Penny is the president and CEO of Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation. He represented Minnesota’s 1st Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1982 to 1994.

View article.