GRAND RAPIDS, Minn. — Blandin Foundation trustees approved $2 million in grants at their September meeting, including several that continue the Foundation’s emergency and ongoing support of area entrepreneurs and employers.
A $50,000 program-related investment approved to the Cohasset Economic Development Authority supports small businesses within the City of Cohasset. Similar investments made in Itasca Economic Development Corporation, Grand Rapids Economic Development Authority and Bigfork Valley Foundation earlier this year yielded urgently needed funding for more than 75 local businesses.
Minnesota Diversified Industries, a key employer of persons with disabilities, received $675,000 to support the diversification of its business opportunities and growth in local job creation through purchase of a specialized piece of extruding equipment.
A long-term loan guarantee was approved in favor of the Northeast Entrepreneur Fund that will permit them to access $10 million in federal loan capital for small businesses in Northeast Minnesota.
Other grants and donations ratified and awarded by trustees in September included those to Calumet Public Library, City of Warba, Depot Commons Association, Grand Itasca Foundation, Grand Rapids Area Community Foundation for the Ball Club accessible park and Itasca County Trails Task Force, Independent School District 2, Independent School District 316, Independent School District 317, Independent School District 318, Itasca County, Itasca County Family YMCA, North Central MN Farm & Antique Association and Reif Arts Council.
Trustees also ratified education awards for 354 area students pursuing education beyond high school in 2020-21, totaling $1.1 million.
Since March 2020, Blandin Foundation has awarded $2,997,464 through 50 emergency COVID grants, details of which may be found at its website.
Blandin Foundation also has shifted programmatic resources to respond to critical needs, such as convening partners to meet technology needs of students. As a founding member of the Partnership for ConnectedMN, Blandin Foundation has joined Best Buy, Comcast and St. Paul and Minnesota Community Foundation to raise and distribute more than $2 million in grant funds for schools and student-serving organizations across Minnesota, including Itasca Area Schools Collaborative and Leech Lake Boys and Girls Club.
Blandin Foundation also has helped to create the Transforming Rural Understanding of Equity (TRUE) project, which is hosting a series of interactive explorations online to identify, nurture, model and advance actions that support a rural Minnesota that is safe, inclusive and prosperous for all.
Blandin’s signature community leadership training has shifted to an online format due to the pandemic, with a new suite of offerings beginning this fall for program alumni and rural community leaders everywhere. New workshops and online tools offer strategies for leading through change, inclusive online engagement, and working across differences. Meanwhile, in-person trainings are poised to emerge stronger as safety allows.
With disruption in rural operations of the U.S. Census Bureau due to COVID, Blandin Foundation stepped in to support Itasca area and tribal leaders in ensuring a full and fair 2020 Census, including access to information and technology needed for every resident to be counted.
“As communities work through the historic stresses and disruptions of our time, Blandin Foundation is adapting, too,” said Tuleah Palmer, Blandin Foundation president and CEO. “Given our deep connections with the people and organizations of Itasca County and communities throughout rural Minnesota, our role has been clear: to come along aside partners, support our neighbors (especially those most vulnerable) and prepare for recovery.
“We, too, are forever changed. Our staff has moved at lightning speed to process grants. We are embedded deeper than ever in communities and in their work. And we are not wasting the opportunity to learn as the harsh light of COVID exposes disparities in our communities.”
“There is no doubt that this region’s economy was left fragile by recession. Blandin Foundation trustees and staff recognize that there are miles to go to realize the full promise of our people, to build a robust and sustainable economy that retains its wealth, and to achieve the harmony that Charles Blandin so desired for the families here.”