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HL to begin ‘unlocking the power of people’
April 25, 2011

By Jennifer Kotila
Staff Writer

HOWARD LAKE, MN – The Howard Lake Business Association decided to move forward with applying for a grant through the Thriving Communities Partnership program, at Wednesday’s meeting.

Although the HLBA will provide leadership for the program, the City of Howard Lake will be the applicant for the grant funding that is available through the program.

The Thriving Communities Partnership program works with communities in central Minnesota to engage local leaders and citizens in planning for the future.

Dan Frank, the program manager for community development at the Initiative Foundation, which manages the program, presented information to the HLBA at Wednesday’s meeting.

The mission of the Initiative Foundation is to “unlock the power of central Minnesota people to build and sustain thriving communities.”

Founded in the 1980s, the Initiative Foundation was a “counterpunch” to the economic crisis of that time, and was funded by the McKnight Foundation and greater Minnesota leaders.

It provided seed money to organizations around the state of Minnesota for communities to start their own foundations, Frank said.

Since it began, the foundation has provided assistance to 80 communities in 14 counties throughout central Minnesota. It is what is considered a gap-financer, providing loans or grants to organizations or businesses that do not qualify for traditional bank financing.

Over the years, it has provided $20 million in grants to volunteer-driven non-profit organizations, and $36.9 million in loans to local businesses, secured 10,290 jobs, and trained 4,892 leaders, according to Frank.

What will the Initiative Foundation do for HL?

The goal of the Thriving Communities Partnership program is to advance community vitality through increased public-private partnerships.

The three main things the program hopes to achieve in a community are:

• an increase in business growth and sales tax revenue;

• an increase in workforce training services and caring adult connections for children and youth; and

• to raise the quality of life perceptions through access to natural resources and recreational amenities.

In order to do this, it follows a community building cycle, in which community leaders have a vision, plan how to make that vision a reality, take action on the plan, and then evaluate how everything went.

Although it used to take six to nine months to get a plan up-and-running, Frank said it now can be done in four to five months, depending on how quickly a core group of community leaders can make it through the three, 4-hour training sessions.

During the program, the foundation will provide:

• training, assessment of local community data and trends;

• technical assistance;

• a $2,500 grant for local costs during training;

• information on resources available to communities;

• priority consideration for grants and loans;

• assistance with public relations; and

• will follow-up with matching grants and workshops.

It is the community’s responsibility to:

• actively participate in the program;

• involve the community in the design of a community development plan;

• coordinate goals with other local plans;

• complete assignments and grant reports;

• help with media and public relations;

• share ideas, successes, and failures with one another; and

• hold an annual community event.

About the program

In order to apply for the program, Howard Lake needs a core group of 18 to 20 people from all areas of the community to complete an initial six-month training program.

The core group of people should not be made up of all business leaders, or all community leaders, but a wide variety of people with a broad spectrum of interests.

It should reflect the principles of the Thriving Communities program, which are leadership development, integration, inclusiveness, interconnection, asset development, and sustainable development, and it should be intergenerational.

“High school students are good to have as participants,” Frank said. “They have not learned there are things you just ‘can’t’ do.”

He explained that the high schoolers will bring up ideas older adults wouldn’t, and, if they are told it can’t be done, will expect an explanation as to why not.

This leads to broader, more diverse thinking within the group.

Once the core group of people is established and the application for the grant approved, dates can be set for the three, 4-hour training sessions.

During the training sessions, the core team will learn about leadership and future trends, review community data, select the goals for the team, draft a plan to accomplish those goals, and learn community dialog tools.

When the core team has completed a draft plan for the goals it has established, it will present the plan during a community meeting.

The community meeting is also a time to recruit community members to be part of the task force to complete the objectives of the plan.

After the community meeting, the core team will meet again to incorporate community input into the plan, add detail, and finalize the task force.

Once the task force is organized, members will attend a three-hour training in which resources are identified to accomplish its goals.

The task force is then able to begin implementing the plan to achieve the goals envisioned by the core team.

Each year, the community will meet to report the progress that has been made, and plan for the coming year.

Anyone who is interested in being part of the core team should contact Howard Lake City Administrator Kelly Hinnenkamp at (320) 543-3670.

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