Jumping up and down with squeals of delight, a group of small children watched wide-eyed as a fire engine pulled up in front of their child care provider’s home. Fortunately, the responders were not there for an emergency but for a special outreach to meet providers in Grant County in west central Minnesota and distribute disaster preparedness “go kits.” Grant County Hero Day was one of several emergency preparedness projects spearheaded by Early Childhood Initiative coalitions throughout west central Minnesota — groups that West Central Initiative (WCI) helped establish and continues to support in each county it serves: Becker, Clay, Douglas, Grant, Otter Tail, Pope, Stevens, Traverse and Wilkin.
This is just one example of how WCI acts as a conduit between leveraged resources and the people, communities and counties of the region. A charitable organization and regional community foundation, WCI is one of six Minnesota Initiative Foundations established by McKnight in 1986 to serve Greater Minnesota. WCI’s number one goal is to strengthen the economy of west central Minnesota so that its families, communities and businesses thrive now and for generations to come. WCI places its funding, programs and expertise where they do the most good for the long run — like investing in new businesses through a loan program and in workforce development training, making sure our young children have a strong safety net in which to prosper, and helping communities gather the resources they need to become vibrant, healthy places in which to live and work.
As one of few nonprofit organizations to serve the nine counties of Minnesota Economic Development Region IV (EDR4), WCI has stepped into roles not normally filled by a non-governmental entity. It is contracted by the Federal Economic Development Administration to serve as EDR4’s Economic Development District Designee. It is also contracted by the Minnesota Department of Transportation to provide regional transportation planning coordination.
WCI’s latest region-wide initiative is the Live Wide Open marketing campaign that encourages people to make west central Minnesota their home.