Our History: 30 Years Strong

Looking back almost thirty years in Minnesota’s past, it’s hard to recall that we came dangerously close to losing part of our state’s heritage. Not since the Great Depression had rural communities seen an economic crisis like what happened in the 1980s.

The Northwest Minnesota Foundation is one of six Minnesota Initiative Foundations (MIFs), established in 1986 through The McKnight Foundation’s leadership and a visionary experiment in rural philanthropy. The MIFs delivered a counterpunch in a difficult economy that resounded across America. Each MIF is managed by local people making decisions about how to improve the quality of life in the region.

Northwest Minnesota Foundation has provided assistance and delivered services resulting in millions of dollars in local philanthropy being funneled back to local organizations that help us achieve our mission.

In our evolving role, NMF has studied the region’s economic status extensively. We believe that knowledge and talent will be the drivers of economic prosperity in the 21st Century. Attracting talent will be key to the economic future of our region. In today’s highly mobile world, the location decisions of talented workers are based on the quality of life afforded by particular places and communities. Our foundation’s mission, therefore, is to make the region a better place to live and work.

Quality of place can mean many things to different people, but our research has shown that what attracts talented people to Northwest Minnesota are four kinds of amenities: natural assets (like parks, trails, wildlife), structural assets (good schools, hospitals, housing, telecommunications), social assets (friends, family, peace and quiet, safety, effective human services), and economic assets (good jobs and wages, a skilled workforce, access to capital).

We seek to strengthen these assets by investing our own resources in their development, working with partners in the public and private sectors to align resources around common priorities, and promoting the transfer of personal wealth to make additional resources available.

The health of our 12-County region has greatly improved. Given the character of you, our partners and residents – with resilience, enterprise, ingenuity and love of community — we can expect great things. Together with economic conditions that are flourishing, our region’s future looks bright.