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Blandin Foundation repurposes $1 million in investments to build new loan funds for Itasca area small businesses

GRAND RAPIDS, Minn. (March 27, 2020) – At a special meeting of Blandin Foundation’s board executive committee, trustees voted to quickly establish two $500,000 funds to support Itasca County area small businesses, one for working capital and one a relief fund.

“Small businesses are at the cornerstone of vibrant communities,” said Dr. Kathleen Annette, Blandin Foundation president and CEO. “Our Itasca business leaders are strong and resilient and we’re here to stand with them as they navigate the COVID-19 situation.”

Resources for the two new funds are possible by repurposing existing Blandin-funded loan funds housed at Itasca Economic Development Corporation (IEDC) and the Grand Rapids Economic Development Authority (GREDA).  Known as “program-related investments,” Blandin had previously made these philanthropic investments to provide loan funds to organizations that further the Foundation’s mission of strengthening rural Minnesota communities, especially the Grand Rapids area. This repurposing frees the funds to be used for more emergent needs.

  • The Grand Rapids Economic Development Authority will manage a new $500,000 loan fund named the “Emergency Working Capital Loan Fund,” which will make quick-turnaround loans to Grand Rapids-based businesses impacted by COVID-19. Contact: Rob Mattei, Director of Community Development/GREDA Executive Director, phone: 218-326-7622, email:
  • Itasca Economic Development Corporation will also manage a $500,000 PRI loan fund that boosts the lending capacity of the new “Itasca Small Business Relief Fund,” which provides County-wide relief to small businesses impacted by COVID-19. Contact: Tamara Lowney, IEDC President, phone: 218-242-0572, email:

In addition to its $3 million in regular grantmaking approved by trustees at their quarterly meeting last week and a similar repurposing of $500,000 in loan funds through the Northeast Entrepreneur Fund, the Foundation has approved three new grants to Itasca County area nonprofits working on the frontlines of COVID-19:

  • Second Harvest North Central Food Bank: Project support for emergency food packaging and distribution. $10,000
  • First Call for Help Itasca County: Project support for COVID-19 emergency assistance for supplies and equipment. $10,000
  • KOOTASCA Community Action, Inc: Project support for computers and Internet service for families in need to ensure immediate access to new, state-mandated online K-12 education. $25,000

“To all those on the front lines of our region’s COVID-19 response, the staff and trustees of the foundation want you to know that we see you,” said Kathleen Annette. “Your leadership matters.  And we will continue to take action in support of your hard work that keeps us healthy, resilient and safe.”

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