West Central Initiative Adds Two Economic Development Planners

Planners will partner with towns to advance community development efforts, such as food and housing systems.

Alex Johnson of Moorhead and Emily Reno of Dent have joined West Central Initiative (WCI) as assistant planners.

WCI is the Region Four Economic Development District organization, which allowed access to additional funds from the Federal Economic Development Agency to add two planners.  Emily and Alex will give the organization additional capacity for more hands-on technical assistance to the region’s 82 communities.

“I’m grateful to the EDA for allowing us to increase our services to the region during this time of recovery and new possibilities,” says Jill Amundson, WCI Associate Planner.  “I’m even more grateful that two qualified, accomplished, passionate, and community-minded individuals are stepping into our organization and can start at full speed.”

Emily is a native of Kansas and attended the University of Kansas where she earned a bachelor’s degree in environmental studies. She continued her education at the University of Minnesota, earning a master’s degree in planning. She has participated in several college and independent research projects, is fluent in Spanish, and has a passion for sustainable food systems planning.

“My goal is to support agritourism in west central Minnesota,” Reno said. “I also love applied learning, so I want to accomplish our objectives through action.” Reno loves to cook and enjoys trying to replicate foods she’s eaten in restaurants.

Alex graduated with a bachelor’s degree from Minnesota State University-Moorhead, and earned a master’s degree in planning at the University of Minnesota.

After spending two years in Minneapolis, Alex is grateful to be back in west central Minnesota. “Being able to do planning within a region and being connected to philanthropy and economic development is really exciting. I can’t wait to dig into and help communities in the region.” Being a new dog owner means Alex may not get out hiking as much as he likes.

Alex and Emily will assist with WCI’s economic development planning work. They will be involved in several disciplines such as housing and food systems, as well as partnering with town stakeholders to advance community development efforts.

West Central Initiative is a regional community foundation serving the nine west central Minnesota counties of Becker, Clay, Douglas, Grant, Otter Tail, Pope, Stevens, Traverse, Wilkin and White Earth Nation in Becker County. WCI invests resources in our communities for regional success, using the tools of economic development and community development, and by promoting philanthropy.