Friday, May 19, 2017

Enterprise Minnesota to present the State of Manufacturing at NMF on May 23rd

Enterprise Minnesota is an ISO Quality Management consulting organization based out of Minneapolis that works to increase efficiency and profitability for manufacturing companies across the state. They serve as the voice of Minnesota’s manufacturing industry.

One service they provide is an annual survey called The State of Manufacturing. Since its introduction in 2009, The State of Manufacturing is the most comprehensive survey of Minnesota's manufacturers. It reveals their perceptions and opinions on the economy and other major issues impacting business. The survey is accompanied by a series of focus groups, comprised of executives, managers, students, and thought leaders revealing their thoughts on the economy and other major issues impacting Minnesota's manufacturing industry.

The results of the 2017 survey will be presented around the state for local industry professionals to engage in the findings, and have an opportunity to discuss ideas with Enterprise Minnesota’s experts on how to use this information going forward.

Enterprise Minnesota will be in Bemidji on Tuesday, May 23rd to share The State of Manufacturing survey results with the northwest region at the Northwest Minnesota Foundation. The event runs from 9:00 AM – 12:00 PM and will feature:
  •          A briefing of the 2017 results
  •          A manufacturing panel discussion featuring regional business and community leaders
  •          Networking opportunities and refreshments

To register for this event and to preview the survey results, follow this link to Enterprise Minnesota’s website.

We hope to see you there!

Wednesday, April 26, 2017


The IDEA Competition announced the names of three 2017 winners on Tuesday, April 25th at the IDEA awards banquet held at the Beaux Arts Ballroom, Bemidji State University.  Each winner receives $10,000 in cash to advance their business idea, plus additional specialized technical assistance. 
               The 2017 Winners are:
  • Chiara and Travis Bolton, Hubbard County, for Bolton Bees – provides MN-hard bees to backyard beekeepers; creates local, distinct, raw, location-specific honey; forms partnerships with solar companies to create pollinator friendly habitats. Bolton Bees is invested in our community.
  • Todd Sandwick, Fosston, for DeanUltraThinRetainer – the Dean retainer solves several problems seen in standard acrylic Hawley retainers, and does so by making use of pre-existing, time-tested materials. The advantages of a Dean retainer are evident in less breakage and loss, comfort and compliance, hygiene, and cost.
  • Mychal Stittsworth, Bemidji, for Stittsworth Meats working to bring a means of USDA inspected slaughter to Northern Minnesota through the use of a USDA approved Mobile Slaughter Unit. This will enable any local farmer regardless of size to sell their meat in a retail setting. The advantage of the MSU is that it goes to where the livestock live reducing stress on the animal and increasing yield and quality of the meat.
The 2017 runners up are Keila McCracken, Bemidji, for Bare Cloth; Russ Karasch and Robert Monahan, Park Rapids, for Squarrel Cooperage, LLC; Jeremy Leffelman, Bemidji and Joel Anderson, Solway, for Raptor Rack.

The main goal of the IDEA competition is to assist promising local entrepreneurs in the commercialization of innovative products, processes and deliveries by connecting them to the best resources available, along with access to the capital it takes to launch a successful venture.

For the second year in a row, one IDEA participant will be automatically entered into MN Cup, a statewide business start-up competition. The judges selected DeanUltraThinRetainer as the participant that will advance to the semifinals of this premier resource for early stage entrepreneurs, supporting and accelerating the development of breakthrough business ideas across Minnesota. The IDEA Hall of Fame added Christian Brothers, Inc. – a former hockey stick manufacturing company. The three business principals; Roger Christian and Hal Bakke were inducted posthumously and Bill Christian, unable to attend had his daughter accept the award at the banquet. The IDEA Hall of Fame was established to recognize the accomplishments of the region’s legacy innovators—those within the region who have inspired others with their entrepreneurial vision, leadership and achievement.

Major sponsors of the IDEA Competition include: Northwest Minnesota Foundation, 360 Manufacturing and Applied Engineering Center of Excellence, Bremer Banks – Crookston and Warren, Border State Bank, First National Bank Mahnomen, Greater Bemidji Launch Pad, Headwaters Regional Development Commission, Landsverk and Associates, Inc., Minnkota Power Cooperative, Inc., Northwest Regional Development Commission, Northwest Small Business Development Center, Security Bank USA, and University of Minnesota Crookston.

2017 IDEA Competition Winners

Thank you to our sponsors!

2017 Runners Up and Winners, not pictured Bare Cloth.

Hall of Fame - Christian Brothers, Inc.
Roger Christian, Bill Christian and Hal Bakke Families

Monday, February 27, 2017

Senator Klobuchar Addresses Need for Better Broadband in Rural Manufacturing

Senator Amy Klobuchar's visit to Ada, MN on February 24 

The worlds of politics and manufacturing collided last week, when Senator Amy Klobuchar visited chainmaille company Weave Got Maille in Ada Minnesota. The visit, part of Klobuchar’s 10-County-Rural Economy Tour, focused on discussing the need for better broadband, access to health care, and support for rural companies.

“Broadband is definitely a huge need,” said Weave Got Maille founder Edie Ramstad. “We have international retail and wholesale orders being made on our website every day. As a rapidly growing company, we need better broadband to support our work.”

Klobuchar said she is pushing for change by working with the agriculture and commerce committees as two sources of funding. The upcoming reauthorization of The Farm Bill, for instance, is intended to help push broadband access in rural areas.

She also led 48 other Senators to join in a letter stating that broadband must be included in all new infrastructure packages.“We need to get her [Ramstad] the kind of internet she deserves,” Klobuchar said. “We want her to stay in Ada.”

Ramstad, a goldsmith by trade, founded Weave Got Maille in 2012. They specialize in producing chainmaille jump rings and findings, and currently ship to over 76 different countries. Since its first beginnings in Ramstad’s living room, the company has seen rapid growth; they will be featured on a national TV show this summer, and recently secured a spot in 44 JoAnn’s stores across the nation.

Weave Got Maille’s sister company, Premier Anodizing, is expanding as well. Premier Anodizing uses an environmentally friendly process with organic dyes to color and coat various metals. In her visit, Klobuchar agreed to work with Ramstad and Premier Anodizing on their efforts to form government contracts.

Throughout the tour, Klobuchar got a first hand look at the entire process; from cutting the jump rings to anodizing them to get the perfect hue. Ramstad demonstrated with precious metals such as niobium and titanium for the full effect.

“To think that they just started at at kitchen table, to now the incredible work that she [Ramstad] has done...It’s a great thing for Ada to have a manufacturing company like this.” Klobuchar said. Her visit had an encouraging impact on the Weage Got Maille team.

“We’re a very small company in a very small town,” Ramstad said. “For her [Klobuchar] to take the time to come all the way here, definitely shows she is concerned about the small businesses and dedicated to creating jobs in this area. She truly has a solid interest in broadband and manufacturing in rural America.”

Press Release submitted by Sen. Amy Klobuchar's staff. Photo Credit: Tonia McRunnel

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Flexible Learning

By: Ryan Bergeron
October 12, 2016 issue of The Tribune (Greenbush, Minn.)

Some lay back in a banana-shaped chair, others sit on square-shaped pillows, mats, or milk totes topped with cushions, in a corner with their backs against a pillow and their bottoms atop pink or blue tires topped by cushions, or in a large green bean bag chair called “Big Joe”. Some stand at desks heightened by black bed lifts. All the students are quiet, reading or working on different subjects without sitting at their chair and desk. This describes a scene in Greenbush-Middle River teacher Robin Waage’s fifth grade classroom in Greenbush.

Thanks to a Greenbush Area Community grant, Waage purchased furniture for a “Flexible Seating” environment, similar, she said, to Starbucks-style seating, but without the coffee.  She pursued this idea to allow students to not only move, but also choose a learning environment that fits their leaning style.

“I was excited about movement for kids because I’m not a traditional teacher. I think our kids have different learning styles now and so I think it was good to kind of foster to the change in learning styles, the generation of kids we have now,” Waage said. “I think active is good. I think having them moving, involved in stuff, making their own choices, (being) critical thinkers (is a positive).”

Excited when she heard the community fund was going to fund this proposal, she knew she had to now put the funds to work. She ordered different classroom furniture on While working on the grant proposal, she implemented the expertise of occupational therapist Erin Eeg, assisting her on the medical side of the classroom setup choices, including helping find high quality products that worked certain parts of students’ bodies and engaged certain parts of their brains. Eeg actually came up with the idea to put bed lifts on the bottom of the desk legs.

Specifically, the fund helped the class purchase pillows, rugs, crate cushions, wobble chairs, and the cycles. In the second quarter, students will get to “read and ride”, using these cycles, that Waage hopes improve engagement and alertness. Students would sit in a chair and scoot back to a comfortable distance from the cycle pedals, allowing one to sit back and read their book while pushing the pedals. The cycles have timers and allow one to set the tension.

“It’s kind of my way of encouraging movement and exercise just to help the whole cause of child obesity, all those issues that we have in today’s world,” Waage said. “I wanted to kind of try to engage them.”

Introduced to this classroom setup by former GMR High School and Greenbush site Principal Eldon Sparby, Waage pursued it to provide students the chance to do more than move, seeing it as an opportunity providing them with both physical and mental benefits. For example, when putting together the grant proposal, she found that research showed that having this type of environment improved circulation and, more specifically, the wobble chairs helped work the core muscles. The more circulation going to the brain means the more connections students are going to have in their learning. She also discovered through research that test scores are supposed to improve with more movement within the classroom.

Beyond physical and academic improvements, she also found out that having such an environment also has an effect on life long skills. Students experience some decision-making, having to find out what learning environment best fits them.

“Kids will say to me, they’ll panic (and say), ‘All the standing desks are taken and I only learn standing at a desk.’ And it’s kind of interesting,” Waage said. “I can tell that they really know that about themselves and I think that’s important. You see certain kids get up during the day and move themselves if they are distracted by commotion next to them.”

As for distraction, Waage said this environment so far has led to more productivity and less off-task behavior. When asked if the classroom options did distract, students replied no, instead all pointing to how the different setups help them learn.

“I don’t know why I like standing, but just I feel like I can write better and do stuff, move easier than sitting down in a regular desk,” fifth grader Sierra said.

Fifth grader Easton on the other hand has enjoyed the sitting down on the floor option, and said it also helps him learn.

“It’s really easy to learn because you can see wherever she (my teacher Mrs. Waage) is going and if she goes behind you, you turn around, and it’s fun to sit down sometimes,” Easton said.

Fifth grader Ava also echoed how much “fun” this environment has provided, more so than just sitting in a regular desk, something she called boring.  The students have noticed not only how much enjoyment these stations can provide, but also how many options. Fifth grader Vincent said that these stations have allowed him to stand if his legs get tired of hanging or to stretch more versus just sitting at a regular desk.

“It helps me because I can learn what I work the best at, which is the standing ones (desks),” Vincent said.

Speaking of other life skills, she also looks to foster collaboration though this setup, something she has already witnessed so far in the first month. Students share or give up spots, looking out for one another. They can work alone or in groups thanks to the table settings.
On the first day of school with this setup, she thought this, “I was wondering if I lost my marbles.”

This thought dissipated as things improved by the end of the first week, thanks to her and her students making improvements within this environment. She had to develop several routines and communication methods within an environment with much variety. She also had each student go to all the stations and model the proper behavior at each one. The students signed contracts that set the rules of this classroom setup and if they didn’t follow these rules, they could lose this privilege and go back to a regular desk setup.

Having this environment teaches responsibility, orderliness, self-control, and respectfulness to both the furniture and fellow classmates. The students know this classroom setup is a gift, Waage said, and due to that recognition, respect the different parts of that environment.

This environment has fostered activities she had already been doing in her classroom in the past, including “Daily Three”, a math rotation activity, and “Daily Five”, a reading and writing rotation, where students read to self, read with a partner, do “word work” or spelling, work on writing, or listen to reading.  While she’s working on or teaching a group activity at a table with a group of students, others students can work independently or in a group on another activity. 
So what impact has it made on learning? She said the last two reading tests have been “wonderful,” but added that it may take years to see how this classroom setup is improving student performance.  She hopes this leads to improved learning, and so far has heard positive feedback. At parent-teacher conferences, she looks forward to hearing both the positives and drawbacks, and hopes parents have witnessed a demeanor change in their son or daughter thanks to this classroom setup.

“I’m really looking for just growth in their not even just test scores. I mean of course that’s always a goal, but I’m hoping that I foster kids that love to learn, that love to read because it’s fun and they don’t think of it as work,” Waage said. “… I’m hoping they learn to love it because they’re kind of making a choice in how they’re doing it throughout the day.”

Whether it’s standing at a desk or nestling into the “Big Joe” beanbag chair, the point is they’re making a choice, making their learning experience a flexible one in more ways than one. 

Copyright of The Tribune (Greenbush, Minn.)

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Darla and Chris Twomey with Ole Tweet, TRFACF 

The Thief River Falls Area Community Fund (TRFACF) recently received $10,000 from Chris and Darla Twomey. “Thief River has always been a very important community for us and we are happy to be part of the birth of this new community fund,” said Chris Twomey.

The TRFACF has replaced the United Way, and will be providing grants to community organizations. The purpose of the fund is to support charitable, education and public purpose projects that will enhance or improve the quality of life for residents in the Thief River Falls area.

Please consider making a secure gift online or donations can also be mailed to: TRFACF, PO Box 43, Thief River Falls, MN 56701.

For a limited time, there is a dollar-for-dollar match in place. Your contribution will double and make a difference to the community of Thief River Falls.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Now in our 30th year, the Northwest Minnesota Foundation has been working alongside of YOU to help sustain our rural communities. We want our twelve county area to be the place you love to live and work.

By acting on our mission and vision we are determined to make a difference -- for our businesses and the economy, for our nonprofits and their leaders, for children and families, for our natural resources, and for people who want to donate to charitable causes.

Since inception in 1986, we have received generous support from The McKnight Foundation, other foundations, and many individuals, organizations, and businesses. Our legacy of projects and activities have helped move the region closer to that vision. Working with you and for you, we accomplished the following:

· Business loan programs have made 626 loans for a total of more than $26.4 million

· Creation or retention of almost 2,700 jobs

· Made over 9,300 grants totaling $44.1 million

· Adult and youth leadership programs have provided training for nearly 4,000 leaders

· Specially designed non-profit management and training programs have addressed the special needs of 359 organizations and 45 communities

· Local Early Childhood Coalitions in 11 communities that help assure our littlest citizens have the best start possible

· $65.5 million total assets

· 360 component and community funds with assets totaling more than $27.3 million

· Grants from community funds totaled $430,750 region-wide; $449,641 was distributed from their 31 sub-funds (FY16)

· Convening IMPACT 20/20: a framework and vision for economic stability in the region

· New economic opportunities including the IDEA Competition.

Programs delivered by NMF are made possible because of the generosity of many people. You are also a part of this community making process, and we hope you can feel good about your contributions helping to build and sustain our region.

On behalf of the Board of Directors, I ask you to consider a gift to our Critical Issues Endowment. You may also designate your gift to support current NMF program areas, either Training and Education or Natural Assets.

Please join us in our Circle of Giving with a gift of $500 or more to the NMF endowment. The gift will be used to strengthen the programs we offer throughout the region. Or you may choose to make a gift to any of our component funds using the enclosed envelope. Secure, online donating is also available for your convenience at

We can now accept gifts all year round from your Individual Retirement Account (IRA) that will be tax deductible. Get in touch with the NMF staff if you’d like to learn more.

Thank you. With each gift, we take another step toward our vision of an even better future.

Happy Holidays!

Pete Haddeland, Chairman NMF Board