In 2010, the Central Minnesota Community Foundation made a small grant to send a group of community leaders to Dubuque to see what had made that small city in Iowa so successful.
What we discovered was that central Minnesota already had many great assets similar to Dubuque, but our collective actions in making things happen were not always in sync with one another.
So in 2011, the Community Foundation in partnership with the Initiative Foundation and the St. Cloud Times launched a community visioning process designed to identify key ways to improve the region's vitality. From that process came the Top 10 Community Priorities.
The partners have hosted annual meetings on the progress. The most recent meeting in March 2013 community members identified and voted on some new priorities to add to list.
The Current St. Cloud Area Community Priorities:
1. Retain, expand and attract businesses
- Advance a regional branding effort.
- Maximize the impact of educational institutions on regional economic development via commercialization of intellectual property and university-business partnerships.
- Nurture culturally diverse entrepreneurs.
2. Support student success through a cradle to career approach for education and workforce development
- Launch a web-based talent portal to link workers, employers, educators and resource partners.
- Establish the Executive Leadership Group to guide Partner for Student Success transition and engage community.
- Provide workplace and business experiences for youth and adult learners.
- Increase access to quality and affordable early childhood education, child care and training.
- Expand strategies for addressing the educational achievement gap for people of color or poverty.
3. Expand inclusive participation and engagement of people of color in community leadership
- Facilitate connections for immigrants and refugees with the broader community.
- Address language barriers that prevent access to health, education, housing and other critical services.
4. Enhance recreational amenities and natural resources
- Provide expanded access to, activities on, and stewardship of the Mississippi River.
- Develop regional community and/or aquatic center.
5. Invest in regional transportation and infrastructure
- Support regional air service, including Chicago connection.
- Facilitate extension of Northstar rail to St. Cloud.
- Extend Wobegon and other trail systems to urban core areas and river corridor for recreation and non-motorized transportation.
- Support expansion of I-94 from Rogers to St. Cloud.
6. Elevate culture, arts and “sense of place”
- Connect and enhance downtowns, river and neighborhoods with place-making and public arts.
- Create a sustainable source of funding for the arts.
7. Assist those facing poverty
- Implement strategies to expand the pool of and access to affordable housing, mental health, transportation, and other critical services.
- Develop options for housing, assistance to homeless people and/or those in crisis.
- Expand access to essential services (like mental health) by addressing language, transportation, out of school activities, and other barriers.
8. Empower youth in the community
- Identify and reduce barriers to recreation, learning, service, and leadership roles for youth.
9. Support aging in place
- Develop strategies to assess and address opportunities and needs for seniors and the aging population.