In 2021, the community of Spring Valley completed its final year as a member of the inaugural cohort of SMIF’s Rural Entrepreneurial Venture (REV) program, and some of its recent achievements are hard to miss.
“Spring Valley is a great community with tremendous entrepreneurial assets,” notes Jenn Slifka, owner of several downtown Spring Valley businesses. Slifka was involved with the REV program from the beginning adding that “as an entrepreneur, REV provides a strategic framework for us to connect with resources that support our ideas and projects.” Throughout the three-year REV program, community leaders and businesses met regularly with coaches from Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation (SMIF) and University of Minnesota Extension. They developed tools and resources to help support community businesses and organizations.
It’s impossible to list everything that has been accomplished, but here are some achievements that rise to the top. The Spring Valley EDA developed a new website offering links to news, contacts, resources and community events. Over $125,000 in revolving loans have been distributed to support local business growth. Microgrants for child care were created through a collaborative effort between the EDA and the Spring Valley Area Community Foundation* to assist local in-home providers. The EDA and Spring Valley Public Utilities partnered to expand a housing incentive program, providing $3,000 in assistance for the construction of new single-family homes. Community leaders also documented the impacts of the REV program over the three years using a Ripple Effect Mapping exercise facilitated by the University of Minnesota Extension.
The REV program’s “grow your own” approach aligned well with the existing attitudes and ideas of the Spring Valley business community. In 2021, during the COVID-19 pandemic, Spring Valley entrepreneurs added a new taphouse, brewery, bed & breakfast, co-working space and seamless gutter contractor. Many established Spring Valley businesses chose to renovate or expand during this time, including the local butchery, café and coffee shop, vet clinic, greenhouse and floral shop, financial services office, two auto body & repair shops and a local home builder.
Perhaps not surprisingly, this much activity in a rural community of just under 2,500 people doesn’t go unnoticed, and 2021 was no exception. A car dealership and auto parts store decided to join the Spring Valley community in the past three months. “The word is getting out about all of the things to do in Spring Valley,” says Chris Danielson, Spring Valley City Council and EDA board member, and the public appears to agree. In collaboration with its readers, the Fillmore County Journal newspaper created its Business Person of the Year award in 2020. Spring Valley entrepreneurs have received the award each of the first two years.
Spring Valley now serves as an alumni community and resource for the next cohort of REV communities. The lessons, resources, and bandwidth created through the program continue to evolve and foster future economic and community development in Spring Valley and southern Minnesota.
SMIF’s REV program helps rural southern Minnesota communities create more vibrant economies by finding and supporting local entrepreneurs – from business startups to existing businesses that want to grow.
*Spring Valley Area Community Foundation is one of SMIF’s 30 Community Foundations.