For Love and Money

December 13, 2010

Readers may remember my previous post on Hudson photographer Carl Corey’s “Wisconsin Tavern League” series. This month Corey sent an update about his latest artistic effort, a portfolio in progress he’s calling “For Love and Money.”

Mary P. McCarrier with Grandfather's picture - Globe House Furnishings, Marinette - est. 1888. Photo: Carl Corey. All rights reserved by the artist.

Here’s how Corey describes the project:

“Becoming intrigued with the familial lineage involved in many of the Tavern League subjects I decided to start to investigate the well established family business in Wisconsin. My criteria were simple: The enterprise must be located in Wisconsin and currently owned and operated by the family for a minimum of fifty years. There is much that can be said pertaining to the history of such an enterprise. There is also the contemporary entrepreneurial commitment to the continued success of the business, most especially with the current economic climate and ever expanding competitive global marketplace.”

Corey’s got impressive technical skill and an artful eye, yes, but he also knows how to tell a story. Good storytellers have to decide what to divulge and what to leave to the imagination, a flair Corey demonstrates again in “For Love and Money.” The photos are revealing but respectful–and in the case of the three Globe House Furnishings photos (one of which is shown above), sad but unsentimental. After 122 years in business, Globe House owners Mary McCarrier and her family decided to close their furniture store. Corey caught them on film just days after the store shut its doors. Other photos in the series document other establishments–a tavern, a music store, a logging outfit and more–all still in business.

These new photos feature people I’d want to meet, histories I want to hear, places I’d like to go.

–Tammy Kempfert

New Tool

August 31, 2009

I’ve written before about economic development strategies aimed at small business.  Micro-enterprises are the backbone of many economies, especially in neighborhoods and rural areas.  The arts, local foods and other emerging “industry clusters” are starting to be recognized as viable economic engines, as well they should.

Recently, a new tool has emerged that may prove a useful addition to the community developer’s tool belt.  Consider a marriage between a Community Foundation and economic development organization.

Wisconsin has many excellent Community Foundations, and they come in various shapes and sizes.  In a nutshell, these organizations help invest local donations to earn the best possible return.  Communities can then grant proceeds while never touching the principal.  For years, much good charitable work has been funded through Community Foundations, but bolstering business development is not all that common in Wisconsin.

Wisconsin’s “Strengthening Rural Families” policy team saw an opportunity there and identified community philanthropy as a growing opportunity for rural areas to maintain and grow local wealth and to put that wealth to use in enhancing the local economy.

Recently leaders of two areas in Wisconsin met to study how Community Foundations and local funds can target resources to spur local economic development.   Wisconsin Rural Partners, a statewide non-profit organization that works to build networks, leadership and voice for rural areas of our state, brought Don Macke of the Rural Policy Research Institute (RURPI) to Wisconsin to work with these groups.

Don is an old hand at many things that fall under the “community development” umbrella and is fluent in both the Community Foundation and economic development aspects of the equation.  The organizations he works with are worth some study.  The RUPRI Center for Rural Entrepreneurship is a focal point for efforts to stimulate and support private and public entrepreneurship development in communities throughout rural America.

Hometown Competitiveness is a partnership between the Nebraska Community Foundation, RUPRI and the Heartland center for Leadership Development.  The program provides a long-term approach to community sustainability through four interrelated strategies: Developing Leadership; Energizing Entrepreneurs, Engaging Youth and Charitable Giving.

Urban as well as rural leaders can benefit from some of the strategies and models these organizations offer.

Back in Wisconsin, the “Northwoods” region team includes a diverse group of University of Wisconsin Extension agents, business leaders, and the Northwoods NiiJii Enterprise Community, a unique and highly effective community development corporation.  (NiiJii is a partnership between the Lac du Flambeau Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, the Menominee Indian Tribe of Wisconsin and the Sokaogon Chippewa Community of Mole Lake, together with eight municipal partners in northern Wisconsin.)

The team from Crawford County got an early start and is off and running.  Less than a year old they have aligned with the Community Foundation of Southern Wisconsin to start a county-wide fund.  A board of the county’s shakers and movers was formed, and, in short order, met a challenge grant from an anonymous donor.  Recently they gave $5,000 in grants for very nifty purposes, and these give a good indication of what this “marriage” is all about:

  • A feasibility study for a community commercial grade kitchen to be used by local food producers to help get their products to market;
  • Coupons for food pantry clients in Gays Mills, Ferryville and Prairie du Chien to be used for locally grown fresh produce sold at Farmers Markets ;
  • Kickapoo River log jam clean-up project to help promote tourism.

There are a number of advantages to adding this new tool to a community’s resource chest.  Oftentimes the endowment is invested through local institutions, which helps strengthen the entire community and endowments are ideal for situations where you’re in it for the long haul.  From the donor standpoint, a gift to an endowment is forever.

When a Community Fund works with economic development leaders, it helps to build a better entrepreneurial climate.  Creative people often look for communities – urban and rural – that have outstanding quality of life factors, other innovative folks and an acceptance of things that are new and different.

Many of the more successful communities doing these things have strong local control, but still view themselves as part of a greater region.  Thinking and acting like a region is getting popular because many communities are finding that it can be a win/win situation.  Both teams I mentioned above are taking a regional, multi-community approach.

If you’re interested in any of this, a great example from Wisconsin is the Community Progress Initiative, a partnership of the Community Foundation of Greater South Wood County and the Heart of Wisconsin Business and Economic Alliance.  Check out all they do – it’s impressive.

You can also visit the Donors Forum of Wisconsin for information on Community Foundations or look-up info on Hometown Competitiveness or the RUPRI Center for Rural Entrepreneurship.

We’d especially like to hear from you if you know of some successful marriages between Community Foundations and economic development.

Ricky Rolfsmeyer, Wisconsin Rural Partners, Hollandale, WI (Pop. 283)