JULY 2010 – Volume VIII, Number 7
Compiled and edited by Deb Miller Slipek, Ann Treacy & Jane Leonard
–Across the Field
ACROSS THE FIELD, by Jane Leonard

What If? Why Not? We Can Make a Difference. One Person, One Business, One Job at a Time.

Thoughts and ideas continue to tumble out of my head from the three-month sabbatical I took earlier this year in Australia. One thought pestered me while I was there as I saw how the smallest, remotest communities managed to create jobs one by one, along with accompanying housing and other infrastructure improvements. The thought continues to pester and inspire me here at home. It’s the phrase: “What If? Why Not?”

It haunts me as the U.S. unemployment news gets gloomier in this jobless recovery we currently experience. Politicians on both sides blame the other side for how HUGE the economic problems grow but are unwilling to do much together for the common good of the country because it might weaken their inflated sense of political party purity. Pundits from talk radio to Wall Street drone on how massive the problems are, too, undercutting any confidence we have in ourselves to invest in and grow the economy back to health.

I think back to September 11, 2001 and understand even more how lethal the blows were that day, to lives and livelihoods then and nearly 10 years later. For a few brief moments we were held together by our shared grief. But the attacks did their job more insidiously than we care to admit, setting off a cascade of decisions that have fractured and fragmented us emotionally and economically at home, focusing attention and funding on homeland security and wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. That has in turn weakened our reserves for domestic community and economic investment and worsened the economic peril in which we now languish. Natural and corporate disasters have also damaged our hearts, our communities, our economy, and our environment.

In short, we are a mess. But not beyond repair, if we just remember who we are and dig deep down into that inner well of resilience and imagination.

There are many spots of light amid the darkness if we pause long enough to see them, like the fireflies I saw on the hillsides above Winona this past July 4. It was the first time in many years I have seen fireflies. And I say to myself on that U.S. Independence Day, “What If? Why Not?”

I recall the light of the common sense and inspiration of Muriel Krusemark, economic development director for Hoffman, MN. She talked at the recent Rural Urban Gathering and Symposium on Small Towns in Morris last month about the amazing infrastructure improvements and business/job creation happening in that small prairie town on Minnesota’s western border. After a successful 2009, their goal this year among several: create five new jobs, impressive in a community of just under 700 people. What If? Why Not?

I attend an education hearing hosted by the Minneapolis Youth Congress where 100 inner city kids in North Minneapolis last Wednesday evening talk with each other and several adults in the room, including the mayor and school board members, about their ideas for how to improve their schools: more math and arts, more training on entrepreneurship, more passionate teaching, more ways to increase engagement in their community. What If? Why Not?

I attend a talk by Minnesota Secretary of State Mark Ritchie earlier this summer where he points out that his office registered 63,000 new start-ups of all kinds last year, a 14% increase over the previous year. They are on track to match that again this year. Those 63,000 business registrations represent the potential for 63,000 jobs and at the very least, some supplemental income for the persons starting those businesses.

In 2007, young companies accounted for 64 percent of new job creation in the United States, according to a 2009 survey by the Kauffman Foundation that looked at start-up formation since the 1970s. If federal, state and local efforts to create an environment more conducive to entrepreneurship and small business growth were emphasized more than they are now, those potential jobs could be secured and doubled or more. What If? Why Not?

The significance of entrepreneurship was reinforced again yesterday when I received the Center for Rural Entrepreneurship’s e-newsletter with a reference to the recent Inc. magazine article on Revitalizing America: “Our highly practical, eminently doable, totally reasonable, 16-point plan to create thousands (upon thousands) of new companies and a million new jobs. http://www.inc.com/magazine/20100701/revitalizing-the-american-dream.html

An excerpt: “We need more start-ups. A lot more of them. New companies mean new ideas, new approaches, new products and services, and new jobs. What’s more, in the wake of the Wall Street meltdown and the catastrophic oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, a wave of start-ups could spark a new sense of optimism about what businesses can actually accomplish — something else this country sorely needs.

“We are not just talking about the fast-growing “gazelle” companies that expand at double-digit rates — though we could certainly use more of them. Nor is this solely about sparking, say, a green business boom or the creation of more tech companies or a bunch of cool new iPhone apps — though we like all of those, too. Instead, what we are seeking is a kind of rebooting of the entrepreneurial ideal — the notion that starting a company is a viable option for all Americans, regardless of where they come from. This country has long been a haven for entrepreneurs. Ten years into the 21st century, it’s time to rethink exactly what that means.”

And I recall the article in Sunday’s New York Times about the loss of the Census worker jobs now that the 2010 Census is nearly done and how skilled the temporary hires were. A supervisor (a former retail management executive who is also losing his Census job) turned to the reporter and said, “You could start a hell of a business with these folks.”

Yes you could. Bravo! What If? Why Not?

So here’s one more way to help stimulate us out of this jobless recovery. People who are working are stressed to the point of overload (I’ve heard this across the country because there have been so many layoffs but the workload remains).

Call me crazy (and do tell me “Why Not?”) but, “What If” existing businesses offered existing staff the option of working 32 hours/week – and paid them for 32 hours/week but kept health insurance intact as if they were 40 hour/week employees. (The health insurance companies should welcome the plan and maybe even lower the coverage rates as it might leave employees more time to exercise!).

If four employees did that in each organization, employers could afford to hire one more person (or more depending on the salaries of those existing employees) at 32 hours/week to fill the remaining day. With one day each week now available to all those “What If, Why Not” employees, they could volunteer in their community (reading to kids 0-5 years old, for example, to improve the chances that those kids grow into productive, healthy adults; or cleaning up streets, parks, lakes, and streams since we’ve cut back on government services to save money), or they could spend more time with their family. By doing this, you would probably raise productivity, lessen stress, and open up the job market.

In Minnesota today, we have 190,185 people unemployed, according to statistics from the MN Department of Employment and Economic Development (May 2010 stats). That’s a 6.4% unemployment rate. We have a labor force of 2,967,234 people, and 190,185 companies with 5 or more employees (2006 Statistics of U.S. Business, US Economic Census). If every one of those companies offered 4 employees the chance to spend 8 hours more a week helping their community and spending more time with their family, and hired one more person to pick up that slack, we’d drop unemployment down to 65,848. We’d probably also have a happier, healthier people, economy and community.

If the 27,981 companies in Minnesota with 100 employees or more offered this plan to 12 more employees each and hired 3 more employees, we’d end unemployment in Minnesota.

Maybe to sweeten the pot and lessen some of the risk, the federal or state government could offer a tax credit to those individuals and those companies who invested in their and the state’s future in this way. And ensured those workers they would not lose their health insurance by working fewer hours each week (if they were covered already by their company, and if they were not covered, got them coverage on the Minnesota or national health insurance plan).

We Can Do It. What If? Why Not?


–The “2010 Reinventing Minnesota – Minnesota Community Pride Competition” is open for nominations, with winners announced and cash awards distributed at the Minnesota State Fair. The Minnesota State Fair is donating $15,000 in cash awards. Applications are due July 21. The program is open to all Minnesota communities, including neighborhoods. Special categories this year include Rural Urban Partnering and Youth-Led Community Engagement. http://www.reinventingminnesota.org/mn_pride.html

–Green Mini-Loans a new lending program from Enterprise and the National Housing Trust Community Development Fund provides nonprofit owners and developers capital to jump-start green retrofits of older affordable rental communities. Green mini loans of up to $50,000 provide below-market financing to incorporate green designs and techniques into preservation projects, and they can be used for standard predevelopment activities, capital needs assessments and energy audits. To learn more go to: http://www.nhtinc.org/downloads/nht_enterprise_green_mini_loans.pdf.

–HUD has issued a NOFA for the 2010 Sustainable Communities Regional Planning Grant Program to support metropolitan and multijurisdictional planning that integrates housing, land use, economic and workforce development, transportation, and infrastructure investments to empower jurisdictions to consider the interdependent challenges of: (1) economic competitiveness and revitalization; (2) social equity, inclusion, and access to opportunity; (3) energy use and climate change; and (4) public health and environmental impact. Deadline: 8/23/10. For more information, please visit: http://www.hud.gov/offices/adm/grants/nofa10/scrpgsec.pdf.

–Ameriprise Financial Community Relations Program offers grants to nonprofits that match the guidelines of one of three giving priorities: Meeting Basic Needs (for food, shelter, and self-sufficiency); Supporting Community Vitality; or Volunteer-Driven Causes. Deadline: 9/1/2010. For more information see: http://www.ameriprise.com/about-ameriprise-financial/company-information/ameriprise-community-relations.asp.

–USDA is offering Hunger-Free Communities Grants to nonprofits to establish hunger-free communities and to learn more about effective strategies to reduce hunger. Deadline: 9/1/2010. For more information and to apply go to: http://www07.grants.gov/search/search.do;jsessionid=2SyfMZQQv42Y1nvtpbXY42tKMhRBpVVLNvfgWLl95c6Y2dQ8lb7n!-169038256?oppId=55063&mode=VIEW.

–USDA Seeks Applicants for Grants to Assist Rural Cooperatives and Businesses to Spur Job Creation. The USDA is accepting grant applications to assist rural businesses and create job opportunities through cooperative development centers. Grants of up to $225,000 may be awarded to colleges, universities, and non-profit groups to create and operate centers that help individuals or groups establish, expand or operate rural businesses, especially cooperatives. Cooperative program grants can be used, among other things, to conduct feasibility studies, create and implement business plans, and help businesses develop new markets for their products and services.

USDA may award up to $7.9 million in grants through this notice of funding availability. Grants may finance up to 75 percent of the cost of establishing and operating the cooperative centers. Recipients must match 25 percent of the total project cost. Applications are due August 9, 2010. The application guide for this grant program can be found at http://www.rurdev.usda.gov/rbs/coops/rcdg/rcdg.htm.
For more information, please see the June 25, 2010 Federal Register at: http://edocket.access.gpo.gov/2010/2010-15428.htm.

–Rural Microentrepreneur Assistance Applications Being Accepted. USDA is seeking applications to support the development and ongoing success of rural microentrepreneurs and microenterprises through the Rural Microentrepreneur Assistance Program (RMAP). http://www.rurdev.usda.gov/BCP_RMAP.html A microentrepreneur or microenterprise is a small business with fewer than five employees, startup costs lower than $35,000 and annual revenue of less than $100,000. Assistance provided to rural areas under this program includes loans and grants to rural microenterprises, microentrepreneurs, and business-based training and technical assistance grants to rural microborrowers and potential microborrowers. It also may include other activities as deemed appropriate by the Secretary to ensure the development of rural microenterprises.

Applications will be accepted throughout the year and awarded on a quarterly basis. For fiscal year 2010, applications must be received by July 16, 2010. Applications received by Sept. 30, 2010, will also be considered for fiscal year 2010 funds, but not obligated. The total amount available in fiscal year 2010 is $45.1 million. Of this, $36.2 million will be available for loans, $7.6 million will be available for microlender technical assistance grants, and $1.3 million will be available for technical assistance-only grants. More information on how to apply for funding is available at the USDA website. http://www.rurdev.usda.gov/BCP_RMAP.html To read the NOFA in the Federal Register go to: http://edocket.access.gpo.gov/2010/pdf/2010-13380.pdf . An article from the Center for Rural Affairs describes the program in detail and shows how it works. To read the article, visit http://www.cfra.org/renewrural/federal-micro-program.

–Minnesota Campus Compact will award approximately 8-10 Collaborating for Change mini-grants of up to $1,000 to support innovative and promising student-led campus-community partnerships that address important public issues and engage students in project development and leadership. All mini-grant proposals must be submitted by a team that includes at least one student, one community-based organization (non-profit, school, governmental unit, etc.), and one Minnesota Campus Compact member institution. Either the student’s institution or the community-based organization may serve as the fiscal agent. The student must have already been involved with the community partner for at least one semester/term. Considering Applying? You can register to participate in any of three technical assistance conference calls. To register for a call, just click the date of the call you’d like to join and fill out a simple form. Conference call dates:
• August 2, 2010 – 10 a.m. http://augustcall.eventbrite.com/
• September 2, 2010 – 1 p.m. http://septembercall.eventbrite.com/
• October 8, 2010 – 3 p.m. http://octobercall.eventbrite.com/
Questions? Contact John Hamerlinck john@mncampuscompact.org.


–DEED Takes Road Show to 11 Cities. The Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) is visiting 11 Minnesota communities during the agency’s annual summer road show. This year’s theme, “New Tools for New Times,” will feature presentations about new initiatives designed to encourage economic development in the state. One of the key measures that will be discussed is the Angel Investor Tax Credit, which is expected to encourage job creation in Minnesota by giving tax incentives to investors or funds that put money into startup businesses focused on high technology or new proprietary technology. The three-hour sessions are planned for Rochester, Fairmont, Marshall, Little Falls, Hutchinson, Pine City, Brooklyn Park, Fergus Falls, Hibbing, Bemidji and Thief River Falls. The events will include time for questions and answers. Read more about the DEED Road Show. http://www.positivelyminnesota.com/Newsroom/Press_Releases/Jun_14_-_DEED_Road_Show.aspx
— Nonprofit Current Conditions and Economic Outlook Briefing will be held Monday, July 19, 3:30 – 6 p.m. at the Verizon Wireless Center, Bank Vault Room

1 Civic Center Plaza, Mankato. The event is FREE but registration is required.
Register online now https://online.mncn.org/mcnssa/ssaauthmain.login_page – log in and select “RSVP for Free Events, Briefings and Convenings.” The Minnesota Council of Nonprofits is tracking in real-time how the economy is impacting nonprofits. At MCN’s Nonprofit Current Conditions and Economic Outlook Briefing, you will hear information reported from our members about how the economy is affecting Minnesota’s nonprofits, and give some indication as to what you can expect for the near future.

The Nonprofit Current Conditions and Economic Outlook speakers will illuminate information from the Nonprofit Current Conditions Report to be release that day. The report illuminates the current financial strengths and challenges of our members and compares the findings to those previously reported by members since the current recession began in 2008. As part of the presentation, to be held in Mankato, participants will take part in a town hall meeting-style conversation about fundraising, financial sustainability and human resources challenges organizations are facing now, and potential strategies.

–Strategic Planning: Putting the Pieces Together. As the old axiom says, “Failing to plan is planning to fail,” but how can you create a plan amenable to staff, management, the board and community stakeholders? Do you need a costly consultant? Will this process take a long time, and will it be any fun at all? This workshop will help you answer all those questions! Whether you’re dealing with fundraising, marketing, technology or individual work plans, strategic planning is the foundation of your organization’s future. This essential plan is key in creating, sustaining, and maintaining your nonprofit.

During this workshop, you will learn how to assess your organization’s readiness for planning, what a strategic plan is, how to use it, who needs to be involved and resources needed to help with strategic planning. You will learn how to engage a wide range of organizational voices in an inclusive and effective way to create a cohesive and dynamic tool that can guide your organization. This workshop is best suited board members, staff members or volunteers of small to mid-size organizations of all activity areas that are, or may be involved in, planning the future of your organization. This workshop will be held Thursday, July 29, 2010, 6:30 to 9:30 p.m., at the East Central Regional Development Commission Office, 100 Park Street South, in Mora, MN. There is no charge for any of these workshops but you must register in advance. To register contact ECAC by telephone (320) 679-4065 extension 33; or by e-mail at: ecac@ecrdc.org.

–A Brisk Walk Through the Basics – Introduction to the nuts & bolts of planned giving instruments will be held Thursday, August 12 from 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. at Southwest Minnesota State University Conference Center in Marshall. This is the a first-time ever opportunity with a significant savings for southwest Minnesota attendees. And, it’s not just for larger nonprofits or nonprofits that have a planned giving program. This is for any nonprofit executive director or development generalist who needs to know basic information about planned and other non-cash gifts. Attending this day-long session may help a small nonprofit learn what they can and should do to accept even the simplest planned gifts. Registration limited to 35 attendees. Cost is $50. To register, please contact Stefanie Ryan at 320-564-4911 or sryan@projectturnabout.org .

— Register now http://www.midwestruralassembly.org/index.php?q=registration for the second Midwest Rural Assembly, August 16-17, 2010 in South Sioux City, Nebraska at the Marina Inn and Conference Center! http://www.marina-inn.com/ The cost of the Assembly is $145. Scholarships are available; contact (612) 870-3429 or midwestruralassembly@iatp.org to inquire about scholarships. Check out the 2010 MRA program and speakers! http://www.midwestruralassembly.org/index.php?q=program For more information, contact midwestruralassembly@iatp.org or call (612) 870-3429

— Heartland Center for Leadership Development is offering a Webinar Series on Leadership Development and Board Effectiveness. The cost of each webinar is $59.99. The schedule is July 13, 2010, Working with Groups; August 24, 2010, Engaging the Community; September 14, 2010, Stewardship Essentials; and October 19, 2010, Governance Effectiveness. Webinars will begin at 12 pm CT and last one hour and will be hosted by an experienced team of Heartland Center trainers. For more information and to register go to: http://www.heartlandcenter.info/webinar_reg/.


–Civic Engagement at Rural Campuses. With support from the Blandin Foundation, Minnesota Campus Compact will work closely with select rural institutions to develop and implement plans to increase campus-community partnerships as a workforce development and student success strategy, as appropriate to their institutional goals and community contexts. The MNCC staff will reach out soon to presidents and key contacts at eligible institutions; meanwhile, to learn more or to express interest in participating in this initiative, please email john@mncampuscompact.org.

–Creating a Technical Assistance Directory for Rural MN. As part of the MN Intelligent Rural Communities program, the Blandin Foundation is creating a directory of Technical Assistance Providers. (An important indicator of a community’s technology vitality is healthy tech support – computer sales and service, training, web development and data base administration.) Currently we are gathering information on businesses and organizations who provide such services in rural Minnesota. We have created a quick form for anyone who would like to be included: http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/tadirectory

–Enter the Strong Communities Competition! –CommunityMatters™, in partnership with Ashoka’s Changemakers, has launched Strong Communities: Engaging Citizens, Strengthening Place, Inspiring Change, an innovative competition to find the best ways for citizens to connect and work to build vibrant, enduring places. The vitality and quality of life in many small towns and urban neighborhoods is threatened by rampant, unsustainable growth. Other communities struggle economically and face challenges like unemployment, homelessness and substandard education. http://www.communitymatters.org/strong-communities-competition

When citizens rise to meet these challenges with creative solutions, leadership and collaboration, their communities thrive. Ashoka’s Changemakers and CommunityMatters, a project of the Orton Family Foundation, invite solutions that apply interdisciplinary approaches in which different people, organizations and fields join together and learn from each other to collectively solve problems. Submissions will be accepted from June 16 to August 11, 2010 at: www.changemakers.com/strongcommunities. The top three entries will win $5,000 each. The best entry submitted by 5PM EDT on July 14, 2010 will be eligible to win a $500 Early Entry Prize! Eight Strong Communities competition finalists will be invited to attend the CommunityMatters’10 Conference http://www.communitymatters.org/conference in Denver, October 5-8, 2010 to showcase their work and collaborate with other leaders in the field.

–Artists… for your information! The Giese Memorial Library, located in Wyoming, MN is looking for local artists that would like an opportunity to showcase their artwork and/or photography. This is for a 9 week period in which you are able to hang your work at the library in either the lobby or meeting room. The Giese Library does have the Walker Art display system for the display of your artwork. If you are interested in finding out more information about this opportunity, please call Sheree Vincent at 651-462-2132

–Pollution Prevention and Energy Efficiency Opportunities. The Minnesota Technical Assistance Program (MnTAP) at the University of Minnesota has received a grant from the United States Environmental Protection Agency Region 5 to work with Minnesota’s lodging industry to help facilities identify and implement source reduction and energy efficiency opportunities that will reduce waste and save money. As part of this grant they are interested in identifying and prioritizing pollution prevention and energy efficiency opportunities for hotels, motels, and resorts in Minnesota including technology needs, best practices, and cost cutting measures. Please determine what opportunities exist in your hotel, motel, or resort by completing a short survey at http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/lodging_survey. Please contact Sarah Haas at 612-624-5119 with any questions.


–The Federal Housing Finance Agency is seeking comments on a proposed rule that would establish a method for evaluating and rating the performance of the Federal National Mortgage Association (Fannie Mae) and the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation (Freddie Mac) in three underserved markets—manufactured housing, affordable housing preservation, and rural markets. Comments are due by July 22. For more information, see the Federal Register at: http://edocket.access.gpo.gov/2010/pdf/2010-13411.pdf.

–HUD is seeking comments on a proposed rule that would establish a procedure to allow construction of new manufactured housing at the installation site, rather than in the factory. Under current HUD regulations, a manufacturer must obtain HUD approval for on-site completion of each of its designs. This rule would simplify the process, by establishing uniform procedures by which manufacturers could complete construction of their homes at the installation site without obtaining advance approval from HUD. This rule would apply only to the completion of homes subject to the Manufactured Home Construction and Safety Standards. Comments are due August 23. To read the notice, please see: http://edocket.access.gpo.gov/2010/pdf/2010-15088.pdf.

–The Community Development Financial Institutions Agency is seeking comments on the collection of information on the CDFI Fund. Comments are invited on: (a) whether the collection of information is necessary for the proper performance of the functions of the CDFI Fund, including whether the information has practical utility; (b) the accuracy of the CDFI Fund’s estimate of the burden of the collection of information; (c) ways to enhance the quality, utility, and clarity of the information to be collected; (d) ways to minimize the burden of the collection of information on respondents, including through the use of technology; and (e) estimates of capital or start-up costs and costs of operation, maintenance, and purchase of services to provide information. Comments are due by August 30. For additional information go to: http://edocket.access.gpo.gov/2010/pdf/2010-15897.pdf.

–The Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University has released The State of the Nation’s Housing 2010, available at: http://www.jchs.harvard.edu/publications/markets/son2010/son2010.pdf. The report provides a periodic assessment of the nation’s housing outlook and summarizes important trends in the economics and demographics of housing.

–The Wealth Creation Working Group of Yellow Wood Associates, with the support of the Ford Foundation, is continuing its exploration of a “wealth-creation” approach to rural economic development with a series of eight papers on rural-urban linkages, regionalism and wealth creation in Appalachia. You can find all of the papers at: http://www.yellowwood.org/wealthcreation.aspx.

–A White House Task Force on Childhood Obesity has completed a Report to the President, “Solving the Problem of Childhood Obesity Within a Generation”. The report talks about children’s health and the epidemic of childhood obesity and mentions challenges facing children in underserved rural communities across the country. To get a copy, go to: http://www.letsmove.gov/tfco_fullreport_may2010.pdf.

–“Connecting Rural America” is the title of a report from USDA on its Rural Broadband Initiatives Program. The document includes Round One grant awardees and project highlights and summaries. To download the report, go to: http://www.usda.gov/documents/RBB_report_v16.pdf.

–If you missed USDA’s “The National Summit of Rural America: A Dialogue for Renewing Promise” on June 3, you can watch it in a series of videos at: http://www.usda.gov/wps/portal/usda/ruraltour?navtype=TOUR&contentid=ruralsummitfull.html.

–A Stock and Land article tells of the Obama Administration’s vision for rebuilding the country’s rural economy. This vision includes creating a parallel universe of local and regional markets and “food hub” distribution centers that will help small – maybe even all – farmers market their production closer to home. To read the article, please visit: http://sl.farmonline.com.au/news/nationalrural/agribusiness-and-general/general/us-reenvisions-its-rural-economy/1844377.aspx?storypage=0.

–Fiscal challenges at state and local governments are a potential threat to the economic recovery in rural America. While many solutions to fiscal challenges can be painful, economist Alison Felix and Omaha Branch Executive Jason Henderson explain in the latest issue of “The Main Street Economist” that rural America has the opportunity to foster a new round of innovation in service delivery through consolidation, cooperation and privatization of services. You can find the article at: http://www.kansascityfed.org/regionalaffairs/mainstreet/mainstmain.htm?ealert=MSE0614