Non-profit organization provided over $1 million in loans in Otter Tail County last year

By Tom Hintgen

Otter Tail County Correspondent

Representatives of the West Central Initiative (WCI), on July 27, thanked the county board of commissioners, and county residents, for contributions that were used to respond to citizen needs during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“In the past year alone, we provided Otter Tail County more than $1 million in loans and more than $2.2 million in grants such as emergency child care grants, small business relief grants and grants for nonprofit pandemic response through our resiliency fund,” said WCI’s Jill Amundson. “These investments ensured that Otter Tail County citizens had and will continue to have jobs, childcare and access to essential services.”

She said that, going forward, Fergus Falls-based WCI will focus on goals established by the people of the region and outlined in the Minnesota Region IV Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy. 

WCI serves the counties of Otter Tail, Becker, Clay, Douglas, Grant, Pope, Stevens, Traverse and Wilkin and a portion of White Earth Nation in Becker County. The mission is, “serving to improve west central Minnesota through funding, programs and technical assistance.”

Adds Amundson, “Our planning team has partnered with Otter Tail County HRA to complete a housing study in Battle Lake, plans for a new housing development in Dalton and we are starting work on a pre-design plan for a housing development in Pelican Rapids.”

WCI also added a staff member to its business and economic development team, and is working on distributing funds through WCI’s economic development administration pandemic loan fund. 

“As we emerge from this pandemic, we are reviving our Live Wide Open workforce development campaign,” said WCI’s Rebecca Petersen.

  WCI is the federally designated planning organization serving Otter Tail County.

“We work closely with federal and state governments to manage the distribution of funds in our region,” Petersen said. “Unlike the other regional development organizations in the state of Minnesota, WCI does not levy dollars from our municipalities, which all other RDOs have the capability to do based on population.”

The five-person county board was asked to increased its funding to WCI by 20 percent. This year the county contribution is $22,500. The board will likely increase its support for WCI to $27,000 in 2022.