For 35 years, Southwest Initiative Foundation has been part of writing southwest Minnesota’s success story. The most recent chapter has been a hard one. A year ago, I could not have imagined the challenges our communities would face as a result of the pandemic. Many businesses and nonprofits have struggled to survive, and despite efforts to create safety nets, some did not. Since March of 2020, Southwest Initiative Foundation has distributed $15.2 million in emergency grants, loans and community support.
While we have been deep into the immediate relief, we are also looking ahead to rebuilding our regional economy in a way that creates opportunity with all people who call our region home. We’re committed to building vibrant and welcoming communities and working with Black, Indigenous and People of Color, women, and families making lower incomes – people who are vital to our communities and aspire to make a great life for their families here.
At the second annual Cultures on the Prairie event earlier this year, southwest Minnesotans shared their personal stories of migration and immigration. In our newest issue of CONNECT newsletter, you’ll hear from Charlie Rattler III, who came from Texas and has built a life in Marshall. Cultures on the Prairie sparked meaningful and insightful conversations around race, culture, history and belonging.
As I hear stories of struggle and triumph from across our region, it brings to mind the narratives that shaped my experience growing up. My elders often encouraged me to “pull yourself up by your bootstraps.” It inspired me to work hard, but it reinforced a notion that everyone had boots. As I got older, I realized that hard work wasn’t enough because some people, through no fault of their own, simply don’t have boots.
At the foundation, we’re committed to changing that and removing barriers that prevent full participation in southwest Minnesota’s abundant opportunities.
While there are stories of hardship in our shared history, the spirit of innovation and collaboration that defines small towns across our region is an incredible asset. I’m thrilled in CONNECT to share stories from several women entrepreneurs who have used our business finance programs to follow their dreams and create self-employment opportunities. I consider it an honor to be part of the incredible network of people working daily to offer southwest Minnesotans the inspiration and tools to make their ideas a reality.
Southwest Initiative Foundation is in a unique position to take an asset-based approach to regional community and economic development. And the events of the past year have accelerated our commitment to create inclusive opportunities for social and economic growth that makes life better for us all. I’m more hopeful than ever that we can move toward an economy that works for all. It’s an exciting time to be doing this work! We are grounded in current data and inspired by bold new ideas to move from response to recovery and beyond. Our story is far from over: There’s more work to do, and we’ll continue it together.