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Southwest Initiative Foundation Board of Directors connects with Marshall community leaders

December 26, 2011
Marshall Independent

The Southwest Initiative Foundation (SWIF) Board of Directors visited Southwest Minnesota State University Wednesday for its December meeting. Along with holding its regular business meeting, SWIF board members connected with local leaders to learn more about the community and area businesses.

The meeting started with an overview from three leaders representing the local retail, healthcare and agri-business industries. Guest presenters included Steve Klein, owner of Klein Foods; Mary Maertens, CEO of Avera Marshall Regional Medical Center; and Jon Knochenmus, President/CEO of Ralco Nutrition.

Leaders from Marshall were also invited to join the SWIF board and staff for a community luncheon. Board Chair Bill McCormack of Marshall and President/CEO Sherry Ristau facilitated a group discussion about local assets and future opportunities for the community.

Some highlights shared by guests included SMSU's new nursing program and School of Agriculture; My Marshall, a grassroots initiative of people passionate about aligning the area for future growth; new partnership among Lyon County, City of Marshall and the Marshall Chamber of Commerce for aligned and strengthened economic development initiatives; newly designated Regional Amateur Sports Commission, benefiting a large area of southwest Minnesota; Coalition of the Arts, which is a model for vibrant, collaborative arts communities; welcoming, safe, attractive community atmosphere; newly-constructed Marshall-Lyon County Public Library; and the Early Childhood Initiative and Marshall Community Foundation, both created through partnerships with SWIF.

As a rural, regional community foundation, SWIF is a permanent resource for the 18 counties of southwest Minnesota and focuses resources around philanthropic services; community and leadership development; entrepreneurship, microlending and business finance; regional economic development and advocacy; youth engagement; and the Early Childhood Initiative. Since inception, SWIF has awarded grants and loans totaling more than $54 million in the region.

The volunteer members of SWIF's Board of Directors, including Board Chair William McCormack of Marshall, represents leaders from a variety of industries and backgrounds from throughout southwest Minnesota. The board travels to different communities throughout the region for its six annual meetings as a way to stay connected and better serve southwest Minnesota. For a current list of board members, visit

The Southwest Initiative Foundation is a regional community foundation dedicated to advancing southwest Minnesota through leadership, relationship building, program development and philanthropy. The Foundation has contributed more than $54 million through its grant and loan programs in southwest Minnesota. It has also helped more than 525 businesses start or expand through its business finance programs, which have created or retained more than 8,000 jobs.

The Southwest Initiative Foundation is an equal opportunity provider. To learn more, visit



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