LANESBORO MN, October 11, 2022 – The Chill-Inn Lanesboro project will use a $50,000 Blandin Foundation Leadership Boost Grant to explore the feasibility and ideas surrounding winter tourism.
Leadership Boost Grants were launched to encourage Minnesotans living in rural and Tribal communities to be visionary and creative as they move their communities forward after two years of snowballing challenges.
“The last two years of complex crises have taken a toll on leaders across rural Minnesota,” said Sonja Merrild, director of rural grantmaking at Blandin Foundation. “In times like this, of great challenge and opportunity, the resilience and fortitude of rural people and places shines through. Yet, we recognize the critical need for more resources to move small communities from where they are to where they want to go.”
More than 300 Letters of Interest were submitted for funding, far more than anticipated. Based on the type of requests received, Blandin Foundation opened three grant rounds for Community Planning, Capital Projects in small towns under 3,000 people, and Creative Placemaking. To better support the many strong requests, the total amount of funding available increased from $1 million to $5.5 million after Blandin Foundation’s board approved an additional $3 million in June and a $1.5 million grant was secured from Margaret A. Cargill Philanthropies.
“Rural and Tribal places simply don’t get their fair share of funding and resources,” said Merrild. “When we see stats like only 5% of philanthropic dollars and 10% of federal small business loan funds go to rural, this creates resource roadblocks to future opportunity. While the leaky pipes intended to bring resources into rural communities need a complete overhaul, Leadership Boost Grants are one way we can spark energy and action toward sustainable rural futures.”
The Chill-Inn Lanesboro project was invited to submit a full application for a Community Planning grant. This is a collaborative project between the City of Lanesboro, the Lanesboro Economic Development Authority, the Lanesboro Area Chamber of Commerce, and the Lanesboro Businesses Promotion Group.
These groups noticed a need to set winter expectations for visitors and residents of Lanesboro, and first applied for a Lanesboro Community Foundation Grant (LACF). The LACF grant will allow for the creation of winter website content and video marketing material for the upcoming 2022-2023 winter season. The Blandin grant funds will allow Chill-Inn Lanesboro to conduct a feasibility study, gather community data, create a winter tourism model and evaluation tool, and investigate the opportunity to create a local investment cooperative for potential capital investments into winter tourism. The Rural Leadership Boost Grant will enable Lanesboro to thoroughly investigate and make plans for potential winter tourism, for visitors and residents alike.
“This Chill-Inn Lanesboro group started in early 2022, after local businesses noticed a need from visitors and residents to better communicate what we had to offer in the winter, even if it is limited as compared to our warmer months. This need evolved into thinking about investigating more opportunities for winter tourism, and we are thrilled the Blandin Foundation’s Rural Leadership Boost Grant will allow us to work together to thoroughly explore the feasibility and ideas around winter tourism in Lanesboro,” said Alison Leathers, chair of the Lanesboro Businesses Promotion Group and local innkeeper.
Lanesboro residents, employees, business owners, and organizations can expect to be a part of this initiative as the Chill-Inn Lanesboro group makes plans to gather input and hear ideas from the community.
For more on Blandin Foundation’s Rural Leadership Boost Grants, and to see other grantee projects, visit https://bit.ly/RuralBoostGrants.