Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation (SMIF) recently approved 22 grants totaling $190,215 to support small towns of 10,000 or less in SMIF’s 20-county region.


The Small Town Grant program was launched in 2017 to support smaller communities which can benefit from additional financial resources to help them grow and address challenges. Since then, SMIF has supported 91 projects through the Small Town Grant program.


The Small Town Grant program is supported, in part, by a generous donation in memory of Paul Johnson who wanted southern Minnesota’s smallest communities to thrive.


The 2022 Small Town Grant award recipients include:



  • $10,000 to Blue Earth EDA for the “BE Welcoming Project” which will focus on community education and outreach for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion projects, plan a Day of the Dead Festival, bring language classes and resources to Blue Earth and create a bilingual community calendar to foster a welcoming community.
  • $10,000 to the City of Fairmont to update and rebrand the Fairmont Area Life campaign to focus on promoting all things positive in Fairmont to residents and visitors. The project will promote activities, events and businesses to help improve the culture, economy and social aspects of the community.
  • $10,000 to the City of Lafayette to build a safety ramp to the new platform of the bandstand in collaboration with volunteers to bring a sense of connection and pride to the community.
  • $5,000 to the City of Lake Crystal to do an analysis to determine if a hotel would be feasible in the community.
  • $10,000 to the City of Sleepy Eye EDA to develop a walking tour brochure and signage for historic buildings in town, enabling residents and visitors to learn more about the history of the buildings, the businesses that housed them and community history.
  • $10,000 to the City of Springfield for a veteran’s memorial park to enhance the social, cultural, educational, spiritual, economic and physical quality of life in the great Springfield community and the historic downtown.
  • $2,940 to the City of Winnebago to create a promotional video describing why people should move to Winnebago which will be added to a livability section of the City website to highlight amenities, events, businesses and more.
  • $10,000 to Fairmont Opera House to add community and cultural events in conjunction with their shows to make a more welcoming experience for everyone in the community.
  • $10,000 to Mapleton Area Foundation to enhance entrepreneurial outreach efforts through business education events and the creation of an online toolbox for supporting business development.
  • $10,000 to St. Clair Public Schools to collaborate with volunteers to develop a community youth baseball and softball field to provide more practice and game opportunities for the youth of the community and school district.


“The interest in this program has greatly expanded since its start in 2017,” said Tim Penny, president and CEO of SMIF. “There are so many people who want to make a difference in the place they call home, and this grant can help them achieve that. We are grateful to Paul Johnson’s family for continuing his legacy and giving SMIF an opportunity to leverage additional funding for small town support.”