SMIF Does Dundas

TimPennyCCB.jpgMy old friend Glenn Switzer invited me to attend the Dundas Quarterly Business Forum this morning, produced by the Dundas Business and Professional Group. The event was held at the fabulous facilities of College City Beverage, in the impressive hospitality room, with it’s spectacular view of the scenic Cannon River valley.

The speaker was Tim Penny, former United States Representative and current President and CEO of the Southern Minnesota Initiative Fund (SMIF). The foundation was one of the six regional initiative funds set up by the McKnight Foundation back during the farm crisis of the 1980s. The goal was to help shift rural economies to more diverse mixes of businesses. Over the past 20 years, McKnight has spent over $210 million on these efforts.

SMIF has invested $36 million in the southeast region over the same period. Its goals are vibrant communities, innovative and successful businesses, and a skilled and valued workforce. Their financial support includes grants, loans, and equity capital.

The foundation’s current areas of focus are emerging businesses and workforces, particularly in the medical, agricultural, and renewable energy sectors. Recent examples of these efforts are the Rochester BioBusiness Center and the Community-Based Energy Development Forum.

Penny believes that our region has unique strengths in higher education, is fortunate to have multiple vital economic centers such as Rochester, Owatonna and Mankato, and enjoys greater business diversity than other regions. In a response to a question from local businessperson Jerry Anderson, Penny offered SMIF’s resources to work with our community and the two colleges in finding ways of achieving greater economic leverage from these key higher education assets.

It could be a very worthwhile collaboration.


  1. Jane McWilliams said:

    Thanks, Ross. I hope someone will tell us what relationship the city of Northfield has with SMIF. I seem to recall we’ve been funded by that organization.

    Anyone know?

    It is a great place for Penny to apply his invaluable experience and smarts!

    February 14, 2008
  2. Stephanie Henriksen said:

    Tim Penny is also lead person in Food and Farm Coalition, agri-business group bent on educating the public to accept large feedlots in SE Minnesota. They ran anti-local control ads on WCCO news slots (narrated by radio personality Roger Strom), blasting anyone standing in the way of hardworking farmers expanding their livestock operations “to make a living.” There was finally an expose and the ads went off the air.

    In other company, Penny speaks quite differently. As featured speaker at a LWVMN Convention a few years ago, he answered an audience question as to what problems he saw in his hometown of Waseca (?). He said problems with youth and drugs and large feedlots threatening the environment.

    February 14, 2008
  3. Ross Currier said:


    I believe that the EDA gives some annual financial support to SMIF. I also understand that SMIF has invested in some local businesses over the years.


    February 15, 2008
  4. Rick Estenson said:

    The EDA has given as much as $5000 each year for the period I have been on the EDA which this is my fourth year. I believe we voted to contribute $4000 to this organization to assist in economic development for 2008. Ross is correct that several local companies have received assistance from SMIF over the past years — AllFlex being one of the shining examples of success in the program.

    February 16, 2008

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