Originally published in the Fergus Falls Journal on December 8, 2014.
What could a small regional foundation like West Central Initiative have in common with the likes of the California Community Foundation or the New York Community Trust? Turns out, it is their ability to help revitalize and rebuild more equitable, sustainable local economies by using their knowledge of their communities to kick start economic development.
Across the country, innovative community foundations are finding new ways to deploy all their resources to build community wealth. The Democracy Collaborative’s new report, A New Anchor Mission for a New Century, lifts up the work of 30 such leading community foundations, including West Central Initiative.
The report’s authors, Democracy Collaborative Senior Fellow Marjorie Kelly and Community Development Associate Violeta Duncan, describe community foundations as “anchor institutions” with significant resources that are highly unlikely to abandon the communities in which they reside. With many of these communities in both rural and urban areas struggling with deeply entrenched economic problems, Kelly and Duncan make the case for community foundations to take up the “anchor mission”: recognizing the impact they can have as engines of community economic development and local mission-driven investment.
The report’s authors highlight WCI because of its strong economic development presence in west central Minnesota, which include:
• Acting as the Region Four Economic Development District designee that enables it to oversee regional economic planning and to provide technical assistance to communities who apply for federal grants for public works infrastructure;
• Offering loans for business start-ups and expansion;
• Providing support to nonprofits and schools specializing in business creation and expansion;
• Providing grant programs for workforce training and development;
• Supporting the work of the Family Economic Success Council through grants to nonprofits developing strategies to help families find and retain quality employment, build wealth and save for the future.
The Democracy Collaborative’s report is available as a free PDF download at: http://democracycollaborative.org/new-anchor-mission
West Central Initiative is a regional community foundation serving the nine west central Minnesota counties of Becker, Clay, Douglas, Grant, Otter Tail, Pope, Stevens, Traverse and Wilkin.