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Group brings micro loan strategy to Wadena area

Local nonprofit group Stimulating Economic Progress (STEP) has been chosen for a first-of-its-kind pilot project to provide micro loans to start-up businesses in hopes of spurring economic development.

The new business development project, Minnesota BRIGHT, was launched April 16 when 24 people representing a regional cross-section met to discuss innovative options, establish goals and set priorities.

The next meeting is scheduled for 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday, May 16, in the Wadena Masonic Lodge. Interested parties from a 50-mile radius are invited to attend and learn how they can participate in this collaborative project.

The national pilot project intends to invent and demonstrate new methods of job creation across America. The Minnesota BRIGHT project was initiated and facilitated by The Institute of Cultural Affairs (ICA) in Chicago.

Nino Tillman, executive director, said ICA is excited by the level of energy, commitment and pre-existing collaboration of the Minnesota BRIGHT group.

"These were the key factors in ICA's decision to select the group as the first pilot site," Tillman said.

According to David Evert, spokesperson for the Minnesota BRIGHT group, "this effort will open the doors and provide start-up access to funds and other support for persons now shutout by traditional lending limitations. Existing lenders will soon successfully serve startup and expansion companies in new ways."

He added that the goal is to involve leadership from all communities and foster an understanding that "success in any community is success for all the area communities."

The regional initiative includes part or all of the counties or Becker, Cass, Crow Wing, Todd, Wadena, Otter Tail, Hubbard, Morrison and Douglas.

The goal of Minnesota BRIGHT is to invent new methods of providing social, cultural, political and financial capital and organizational support to help struggling companies succeed, succeeding ones expand and new ventures to be launched. The focus is on all areas from agriculture to main street storefronts to energy and technology industries. That will involve tapping into existing community resources, University of Minnesota expertise, international micro-finance strategies and other innovative methods.

The goal is to develop a new model for business growth in rural America that can be easily adapted in any other region. To attend the May 16 meeting, or to obtain more information call Del Moen at (218) 639-0305 or David Evert (612) 282-9301 or e-mail