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Incourage Community Foundation

After the loss of key employers in the paper and cranberry processing industries caused 40 percent of the jobs in rural South Wood County to disappear virtually overnight, Incourage Community Foundation created a unique partnership with the local chamber of commerce. The aim was to inspire local residents and businesses to take a more proactive role in their community and move beyond dependence on a few large employers. Rather than trying to attract new businesses, they sought to grow from within by cultivating community assets. In 2004, the two organizations launched the Community Progress Initiative (CPI), a multifaceted strategy for changing the local culture, creating new businesses, and developing leadership. Over four years, the CPI project launched more than 20 different programs, including an Entrepreneurial Boot Camp offering mentoring and training for those wishing to start a business, which helped more than 40 businesses start or expand. The project also set up venture funds and convened planning groups to develop industry clusters. The community foundation created Workforce Central, which provides training for 12 different companies. Manufacturing has been significantly revived in the area. In 2014, the foundation board made a path-breaking decision to move toward investing 100 percent of assets for mission.

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