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Blandin Foundation meets in Worthington

WORTHINGTON -- Blandin Foundation, which helps provide small Minnesotan communities with the tools they need to stay economically viable, recently sent its board of trustees to an exotic locale for a three-day retreat.

WORTHINGTON -- Blandin Foundation, which helps provide small Minnesotan communities with the tools they need to stay economically viable, recently sent its board of trustees to an exotic locale for a three-day retreat.

They went to Worthington.

"We are learning about Worthington, about the opportunities and challenges, and specifically, we're learning about the new Minnesotans," said Jim Hoolihan, president of the foundation.

Worthington was chosen for the retreat partly because of its large number of immigrants and the diversity of cultures they represent.

"We are in the process of articulating a revised strategic plan, and some of the areas of focus in the plan are diversity, disparity and community capacity," Hoolihan said.

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The city has a long-standing relationship with Blandin, with about 235 of its residents having participated in Blandin leadership programs.

Blandin has given grants of about $134,000 to Minnesota West Community and Technical College for an animal-based bioscience project and $5,000 to Worthington Regional Hospital for technical assistance.

While the foundation's trustees were in Worthington, they attended a Spanish-language mass at St. Mary's Catholic Church and toured the Swift and Co. plant.

"The mission of the Blandin Foundation is to strengthen communities in rural Minnesota," Hoolihan said. "We're really glad we came to Worthington because of what we've learned and the hospitality you've shown us."

Blandin is a private foundation, and as such does not need to raise money to support its programs. Instead, it gets its funding through investment returns.

Blandin fulfills its mission in three areas: grant-making, public policy creation and leadership training.

"Its leadership training is some of the best in the world," said James Hamilton, Human Resources Director of Swift and Co.

Blandin's leadership model revolves around framing understanding of an issue, bringing the right people together to discuss and address the issue and taking action.

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Former Worthington Mayor Robert J. Demuth, current Mayor Alan Oberloh and Hamilton all participated in the training.

"Its leadership program focused on the community's economic advantage and leveraging that as a community," Hamilton said. "Economic development is a rising tide that lifts all boats."

In public policy, Blandin tries to prevent or minimize problems in two major areas: broadband internet and forestry. It helps local governments find out how to get broadband to their towns and increases public awareness of the issue on a policy-creating level. Its forestry program in northern Minnesota helps preserve easements for public use on private forested land.

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