Have you had an entrepreneurial idea spinning around in your head just itching to be developed? Or maybe you would prefer to help brainstorm and develop an idea into a more complete plan. If so, this is the perfect opportunity.

A collaborative proposal was recently written by four groups in the Spring Grove community - the City of Spring Grove, Spring Grove Communications, the Spring Grove EDA and the Friends of the Library.

The proposal was for a Community Growth Initiative Grant (CGI) through the Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation (SMIF).

What the grant's focus is

According to the SMIF website, "the Community Growth Initiative program supports asset-based community development efforts that lead to economic growth and prosperity.

"The process uses asset mapping as a tool for understanding community resources and engaging residents in developing a shared vision."

"After much discussion and looking at our community's assets, our group [the collaborating local entities] determined that our town's and area's greatest growth-needs could fit into the area of entrepreneur development," explained Rachel Storlie, member of the core leadership team.

"Because the Spring Grove city and EDA have been ramping up efforts to carry out their goals to 'Build a Better Future,' this grant proposal opportunity seemed like a good fit. Because of Spring Grove's branding initiative, the SWIM Center, a fantastic library, our cultural heritage and arts emphasis and our technology-embracing school curriculum and fiber-optic supplied residents and businesses.

"We [Spring Grove] have a lot to offer entrepreneurs and future business owners and families. That says a lot about our viability in the process of successfully implementing these specific grant moneys."

A standard part of the grant process as specified by SMIF is to have a community workshop to develop a shared community vision.

This is the Big Ideas Workshop that will be Saturday, Jan. 26 at the Spring Grove Fest Building from 9 a.m. - 1 p.m.

The core leadership team has developed a vision statement and are hoping that ideas brought to the workshop will embody this vision, "To enhance economic vitality in our area by promoting greater pride in our community, inspiring entrepreneurship and business investment, nurturing existing and new leaders, and encouraging tourism."

Big Ideas Workshop scheduled

Community involvement is the key to the success of this grant, and everyone is invited to attend and participate. The workshop begins at 9 a.m. with breakfast refreshments available.

Pam Bishop, the grant trainer from SMIF, will give a PowerPoint presentation that will outline how the grant works and the parameters that need to be met for being awarded the money.

Attendees will then break off into small groups to brainstorm ideas on how to grow the community from within using the Asset Based Community Development approach.

"This is really an amazing, creative and fully engaging process to be a part of. The process will be most exciting and fruitful if our workshop is filled with people from all walks of life who are willing to work together and bring some project proposals to the table," commented Storlie.

"It will take the ideas people, the dreamers, the practical types, the financially minded, the farmer, the lawyer, the mother, the pastor, the senior who is ready to attend college, and the senior who has lived on the block for 70 years. It is a collaborative effort!"

Lunch will also be served and by the end of the workshop (about 1 p.m.) the building should be buzzing with many creative ideas.

All attendees will vote on their favorite ideas, and the ones that receive the most votes will move into the development phase to compete for the grant money.

The grant money awarded could be up to $20,000.

"SMIF and other grantees know that the matching funds system creates a deeper commitment and follow through for systemic change and growth in communities; therefore, there are certain commitments the community faces in this process," explained Storlie.

"If your team's quick-start project moves on to the development/funding phase, you will be expected to work with organizations, industries, merchants, and other private or public entities in our community/ area to find some matching funds and in-kind donations to get your project off the ground. SMIF will match those funds, as determined by your expenditures forecast."

The core leadership team said the grant money is for the purpose of "building a bridge between an entrepreneurial idea and the community" and not for support of capital improvements of existing businesses or for infrastructure.

Examples of how SMIF CGI money has been used in other area communities includes a Local Foods/Entrepreneurs set-up website in Lanesboro, an app for tourism and a non-profit organization to promote bluff-related tourism in Red Wing, and a city-owned RV park was built whose income is given directly back to the community in Zumbro Valley.

"Bring your ideas, your enthusiasm, your friends and relatives, and your commitment to digging in to make our area a better place for entrepreneurs, tourists, families, and businesses," encouraged Storlie.

For any additional questions, contact Storlie at (507) 498-3574 or email rachel@storlie.org. For updates on the Big Ideas Workshop, check out its Facebook page at www.facebook.com/brightideasworkshopsg.