Tonight I have the honor of speaking at the Ridgewater College Commencement ceremony in Willmar. I consider it an honor and a great blessing to share my experience with this year’s graduates.
For those of you familiar with StrengthsFinder, one of my top five strengths is futuristic thinking, so it’s especially exciting to think about the great futures ahead of these graduates.
There are two things I’ll share with tonight’s graduates. One is the value of learning and how important it is to become a “lifelong learner”–to keep learning even beyond their learning at Ridgewater. My grandpa, a farmer who himself when to college, told me that in your lifetime you can lose everything—your job, home, investments—but you will not lose your education. I hope we all continue to make learning a priority no matter where our lives and careers take us.
The other is the importance of a positive attitude. We choose our attitudes, and they make such an impact on the people we meet and experiences we have. We consider Southwest Initiative Foundation to be a cheerleader for our southwest Minnesota regional community and our attitudes as staff, board, donors, partners makes this possible.
We’re proud of all of our regional graduates and their accomplishments. They are our future entrepreneurs, community leaders, business leaders, colleagues, family, friends…our region has so much to offer them, and they have so much to offer our region.
I hope you join me in congratulating all those who make a commitment to their educations!
If you’re a golfer, we would love to have you join us for our very first Scramble for Southwest on Monday, June 24. We’re hosting it at Dacotah Ridge Golf Club in Morton and think it will be a great way to bring friends and partners together from throughout southwest Minnesota. Plus, this is a fun way to impact our work throughout the region because proceeds will benefit the Southwest Initiative Foundation General Endowment.
Get a group of friends or colleagues together to register as a foursome or register individually. And for those with a competitive edge, we have a number of contests where you can play to win—from a $5,000 putting contest to a $1 million shot!
Check out complete details and SIGN UP NOW! Space is limited, so you’ll want to be sure to get a spot. I look forward to seeing you on the green!
Recently Bill Blazer, Minnesota Chamber of Commerce Senior Vice President of Public Affairs and Business Development, presented about business change and growth in southwest Minnesota to our Board of Directors. He focused on information the Chamber receives visiting with businesses through its Grow Minnesota program.
The statistics gave our board a great chance to think about our work and our region from a 50,000 foot level. One of the biggest take-aways is that the market really is the world—not just the community, region, state or even country anymore.
Another big take-away was how our southwest Minnesota region compares to the state. According to business owners’ perceptions, we outrank the state in K-12 education, sewage treatment, labor costs, business assistance, availability of land, electric rates and local taxes.
We outperform other regions in:
- Business expansions
- Innovation/new products
- Job growth
BUT, we underperform in:
- Recruiting qualified workers
- International trade
According to the same group of businesses asked, other regions outrank us in recreational opportunities, housing supply for workforce, cultural opportunities, highway infrastructure, availability of buildings, proximity to suppliers, unemployment insurance, worker’s compensation and state taxes.
During our same meeting, Business Finance Director Amy Woitalewicz provided an in-depth overview of SWIF’s Business Finance Program, so the day-to-day of our loan clients and lending partners was also fresh in our minds. It left us thinking about what we need to do to address both the opportunities and challenges facing our businesses today and well into the future.
What do you see as the biggest opportunities or issues for your business?
One of the highlights for our Board of Directors meetings is touring local businesses and organizations. Last week in Glencoe, we saw a Minnesota company doing incredible things in our own regional community.
Earlier this year, SWIF made an investment to help with the expansion of a manufacturing facility for Miromatrix, which is in the field of regenerative medicine. Regenerative medicine is the process of creating living, functional tissues to repair or replace tissue or organ function lost due to damage or birth defects. This company has partnered with Midwest Porcine Recovery and is using pig livers for perfusion decellularization, or a cleansing process, which would then make them usable as a natural alternative to synthetic bio-mesh products.
President/CEO Rob Cohen described it in simpler terms by comparing it to buying a house. You find the right location and like the structure of the home but the inside just doesn’t work for you, so you strip it down to the studs and rebuild and remodel to fit your needs.
A few of us were able to gown up and enter a protective area to see the process up close and see what they are doing with live livers. It is mind-boggling to think of what this means for the future of not only technology, but also the future impact of improving health and lives. This is a true example of southwest Minnesota taking a leading edge with the convergence of biology and agriculture!
Everything fell into place yesterday to create an outstanding visit to Glencoe for our Southwest Initiative Foundation Board of Directors meeting. We knew it would be a full day—a business tour, guest speakers, community lunch, program spotlight, board agenda—but it was a truly great day of connecting.
The community lunch was a special highlight for the day thanks to the fabulous people who joined us. We heard from a number of innovative businesses located right in Glencoe.
- Miller Manufacturing makes and distributes farm, ranch and pet products internationally
- Twin Cities & Western Railroad creates a direct line of transportation from Milbank, S.D. to the Twin Cities, and beyond
- Glencoe Regional Health Services, which includes a critical care hospital, clinics, nursing home and senior apartments, is updating its electronic medical record systems
- Starkey Hearing Technologies manufactures hearing aids and also has a very active philanthropic side to get hearing aids to children and people who need them throughout the world
We also heard about the Glencoe-Silver Lake High School’s super mileage vehicle team—they’re part of our Youth Energy Summit (YES!) program which gives our young people a chance to discover their potential in engineering and other potential careers, and for this group of students, it’s as they build a car that will get up to 700 miles per gallon.
And, we were able to look around the beautiful Community Center where we hosted our meeting and lunch. The former high school has been renovated to house the Glencoe Public Library, city, chamber and other offices, as well as meeting and event space.
Glencoe is a great example of how southwest Minnesota communities and businesses can work together to strengthen each other through innovation.