For five months in late 1984 and early 1985 the McKnight Foundation initiated a series of meetings in five regions of the state (Northwest, Northeast, Central, Southwest, and Southeast) to discuss priority needs and ways in which a private foundation might help address the needs in the non-metropolitan regions of the state of Minnesota. The issues that came out of those meetings varied from region to region, and therefore a more in-depth approach was needed to correctly assess the specific needs of the different regions. The McKnight Foundation decided to form six regional teams in the state to prioritize and address solution strategies in each of the respective areas.
The West Central Development Task Force was the last to be established, and it met for the first time on June 25, 1985 in Morris. The West Central Development Task Force, through a process of needs assessment, information gathering, and public contact, identified six specific goals that it believed will address the present problems and future concerns of the region in four broad-based categories: economic development, human services, education and the environment.
Original six goals:
- Create a regional organization to coordinate and marshal the existing resources in the region.
- Address the current agricultural crisis.
- Initiate a long-term economic development effort aimed at assisting small business creation and diversification
- Institute an on-going leadership development program.
- Develop an incentive to address gaps in education & human service programs.
- Make available incentive funds to address environmental issues.
- Incorporated the West Central Minnesota Initiative Fund, headquartered in Fergus Falls, Norwest Bank building.
- Received two year start-up funds from The McKnight Foundation
- Established four (4) broad areas of funding
- Economic development & employment
- Education & Training
- Human Services
- Leadership Development
- Projects included: business incubators, joint regional leadership program with Concordia College & Humphrey Institute
- $698,000 in revenues $423,000 expenses
- Four (4) staff, located in Norwest Bank, ff.
- Awarded $7.6 million from McKnight,
- Supported WC Leadership program, 450 people impacted
- Supported SBDC
- Supported the Farm Business Management (Grant Co.)
- Funding in economic development, Human services/Education, and Leadership
- First component fund established – Miltona Magnet Fund, Miltona
- $1,490,000 revenue, $1,113,000 expenses
- Officially started to solicit development of community funds
- Began childcare initiative (to expand child care centers capacity)
- Began hunger/emergency assistance program
- funded food shelf/pantries, assisted with equipment purchases
- Began WCIF Endowment
- $2,908,000 in revenue, $1,350,000 in expenses
- Began environmental initiative
- Revenue $4,300,000 Expenses $2,830,000
- Received five year commitment from McKnight $9.0 million
- Changed (narrowed down) program focus to:
- Revolving Loan FundProgram, Grant program, Leadership development, & development of community funds.
- Departure of three founding board members – Roger, Laurel, & Elaine
- Established the Rural Initiative Coalition (Statewide effort)
- Funded the FFCC Upward Mobility Nursing Program (LPN to RN). Only associate program in the region.
- Revenue $3,230,000 Expenses $1,518,000
- WCIF Endowment exceeds $5 million
- Added Housing grants
- Assisted the WC MN Housing Partnership received 501(c)(3) status and provided operational support.
- Continued to support leadership center
- Supported mergers and consolidation grants
- Last year of operational support to TSMA
- Revenue $2,540,000 Expenses $1,480,000
- Lowell Larson took over as Executive Director
- Shortened name to "West Central Initiative Fund”
- Began Workforce 2001 grant program
- Continued support of mergers and consolidation grants
- Continued basic human needs program
- Revenue $2,780,000 Expenses $1,780,000
- Adopted WCI Core Beliefs
- Received IRP Loan
- Received Flood Loan Dollars – to administer for region
- Fiscal agent for the WC Child Care Directors Assn
- Assisted Parkers Prairie with disaster recovery efforts
- Coordinated First Time Home Buyers Program, MCPP
- Revenue $4,560,000 Expenses $1,049,000
- Celebrated 10 years of opportunity
- Began name change to "West Central Initiative"
- New five-year commitment from McKnight $6.75 million
- Began two (2) new initiatives: Family Initiatives (Rec'd additional award from McKnight Foundation for this); and the Community Initiative
- Continued with job focus, addressing labor force needs, and responding to a critical need for housing in the region.
- Began new Product Development fund (WingIt Bobber)
- Continued with Basic human needs grants
- Provided housing study grants
- Continued support of mergers and consolidations
- Revenue $3,950,000 Expenses $1,820,000
- Increased to 11 staff
- Devastating spring floods – supported the Flood Project and the Village Mobile Unit, set aside $100,000 for flood related support, provided funds to hire flood consultant to help people complete the necessary forms, etc.
- Rec'd EDD Designation and received EDA Planning Grant, hired Mike Schreiner
- Adopted Principles For MN Grantmakers
- Began relationship with MTI
- Supported NxLevel Training for State of Minnesota
- General endowment exceeds $10 million
- Revenue $5,910,000 Expenses $2,000,000
- Elbow Lake received EDA funding for 300,000 gallon water tower; DL, Becker County received funding for 32 lot industrial park; Perham received funding for 60 acre expansion of industrial park = all as part of WCI's EDD efforts.
- Began Transportation Planning activities, partnership with MnDot
- Began planning for Y2K and provided training grants to MTI
- Revenue $5,350,000 Expenses $1,790,000
- New Leadership, Nancy Straw succeeded Lowell Larson
- Continued focus on quality employment, workforce, housing, flood-related grants, rural crisis initiatives.
- Revenue $4,780,000 Expenses $2,490,000
- Increased emphasis on children & families – received additional funding from McKnight to strengthen our youth.
- Supported the Rural Help Network
- First Workforce Conference held
- Revenue $4,600,000 Expenses $2,830,000
- Purchased land to house new WCI offices
- Received $7.1 million from McKnight Foundation for additional five years of support
- Received funding from the MN Depart of Children & Families in support of youth entrepreneur projects.
- Revenue $4,200,000 Expenses $2,700,000
- Supported the September 11 Fund
- Started Career Advancement Program – special project funded by McKnight
- Received Promise Fellow Award – Supported America's Promise
- Moved into offices at 1000 Western Avenue, FergusFalls
- Revenue $3,450,000 Expenses $2,350,000
- Completed the Infrastructure Study
- Added Early Childhood Initiative – special award from McKnight & others
- Youth Summit held, FF
- Revenue $760,000 Expenses $2,100,000 (Change in accounting method)
- Supported coalition building in four community demonstration sites for Early Childhood Initiative
- Supported cultural diversity projects in Pelican Rapids;
- Began Good Neighbor grants – small grant program that staff can use to lift up projects in Fergus falls.
- Revenues $3,600,000 Expenses $2,500,000
- Family Economic Success model implemented
- Provided matching funds to Tsunami Relief & Fishing Boat Project
- Revenue $4,450,000 Expenses $2,860,000
- Incorporated & Spun off "Northern Connections"
- The Early Childhood Dental Network formed
- Revenue $3,814,000 Expenses $3,338,000
- Regional transit study conducted
- The Minnesota THRIVE Initiative is launched to promote healthy social-emotional development of young children
- WCI provides funds to Browns Valley to assist with flood recovery efforts
- WCI receives National Standards Seal from the Council on Foundations for attaining the highest standards for grantmaking integrity and accountability
- First School Readiness Forum held
- Revenue:$5,908,000 Expenses: $3,200,000
- Infrastructure pilot project
- WCI launches ECI mental health component coalitions in Douglas, Grant, Stevens and Traverse counties
- LPN Leadership Training courses as part of WCI's Building the Healthcare Workforce program
- New Solutions collaboration to help businesses with high potential for growth
- Revenue: $5,324,000 Expenses: $3,462,000
- New website launched
- Labor Force Development Council develops Experienced Worker Toolkit for employers
- Compiled regional data on business broadband use
- Developed an energy assessment template for counties to determine current energy usage and renewable energy potential
- The FES Council developed three white papers outlining issues and actions to help eliminate barriers that keep families with lower incomes from prospering
- WCI receives a Partners Investing in Nursing's Future grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to help build faculty capacity in geriatric nursing for central and west central Minnesota
- Revenues: $1,158,000 Expenses: $3,804,000
- WCI awards planning grants to eight regional lake associations to participate in Healthy Lakes & Rivers Partnership program
- WCI helps develop regional board leadership academy
- Labor Force Development Council compiles "55+ and Looking for Work" brochure for older workers navigating the job market.
- FES Child Care and Early Childhood workgroup develops an Employers and Child Care toolkit.
- WCI hosts West Central Leadership Academy
- Revenues: $9,106,000 Expenses: $4,418,000