I’m continually learning new things about our southwest Minnesota region. Yesterday’s visit to Clara City for our bi-monthly Board of Directors meeting was no exception, as I learned about some amazing things happening in this bustling community.
Did you know that Cara City—population of about 1,300—is home to a natural foods company, Kay’s Naturals? This is a perfect example of how our region’s agricultural industry and commitment to innovation have come together to create a unique business, providing natural snack foods marketed for sports nutrition, diabetic health and medical weight loss.
And, SWIF’s very first business loan in the late 1980s was made to a Clara City/Maynard company, Impact Innovations. From holiday products like window clings and gift wrap to food merchandise displays, this manufacturer is producing things that we see in Wal-Mart, Target or grocery stores, likely without even realizing they were made here in our region. President/CEO John Dammerman currently serves on SWIF’s microloan advisory committee and CFO Ron Noyes is a past SWIF board member. Both have played an important role in helping SWIF support many other regional businesses to create, retain and sustain local wealth.
Aside from business, the MACCRAY (Maynard-Clara City-Raymond) School District has been an innovator. In 2008, they were the first in Minnesota to implement a four-day school week as a way to better use district resources and provide an effective learning environment for students. They also recently implemented an iPad Initiative—all students in grades 7-12 have iPads as a way to use technology to enhance learning.
Two final things that struck me yesterday:
- Mike Tebben, owner of Tebben Enterprises—a manufacturer of industrial and recreational products—shared the need for employees, specifically welders. This presents a GREAT opportunity for our region’s skilled workforce.
- We also learned that not all of our communities have natural gas resources, which can be a road block to attracting new business and development. The city is working to bring natural gas service into Clara City and nearby communities.
There are so many things that make this a vibrant community—long-standing family businesses, a strong banking presence, quality long-term care facility and strategic partnerships and planning by city and other community leaders. It’s exciting to see the great people and great ideas coming together to create opportunities for this area of our region!
What else would you say makes Clara City one of many southwest Minnesota ‘gems’?