Foundation helps small businesses and early childhood programs

By Emily Bialkowski
Caledonia Argus


Houston County has been the beneficiary of a not-so-well known foundation called the Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation (SMIF). Their work focuses on two distinct issues: kindergarten readiness and entrepreneurial support.

In its 25 years of existence, SMIF has allocated $584,100 in loans and $314,508 in grants to programs and businesses in the county.

Tim Penny, foundation president and CEO, told the Houston County Board, “We would like to do more work in Houston County.”

Last year the organization only helped one small business start-up, Spring Grove Battery.

“When he came to us with his business idea I thought how many batteries need to be rebuilt? But, it’s amazing with farm batteries and ATV batteries how busy he is,” Penny said.

“Keep us in mind for lending and grant making for entrepreneurs and small business start-ups, as well as early childhood programs,” Penny said. “We are a tool in the tool box for economic development and early childhood education.”

The foundation continues to demonstrate strong support toward kindergarten readiness programs in the county.

Four school districts have received assistance in some form, and Ridgeway Community School received two IBM Young Explorer computers. Additionally, four AmeriCorps members (valued at $18,000 per member) supported early childhood efforts in the county.

“Most of our work in the county has been in the early childhood area,” Penny admitted.

Houston County supported the foundation’s effort to the tune of $2,700 in 2012. They are asking for a matching contribution in 2013 or more if possible.

The foundation supports 20 counties total. For more information visit