WCI serves nine counties in west central Minnesota

By Tom Hintgen

Otter Tail County Correspondent

From 1972 until 1982, the nine-county region of west central Minnesota, including Otter Tail County, was served by a Regional Development Commission (RDC). The RDC was dissolved in 1982.  

The absence of an RDC meant the region was not eligible to apply for federal grant funding related to economic development.

West Central Initiative (WCI), formed in 1986 as one of the six Minnesota initiative foundations, was asked by local units of government in 1991 to assume some of the roles and services previously facilitated by the RDC. This was an unprecedented public-private partnership in its time.

  In 1995 WCI, based in Fergus Falls, was given the designation as the Minnesota Region 4 Economic Development District (EDD) by the federal government. This designation required the activities of the district to be overseen by a representative board of directors. 

In the spirit of the public-private partnership, WCI felt the best model for the board makeup was to be a combination of the private citizens that serve on WCI’s corporate board of directors and a majority membership of the region’s elected officials.

The elected officials consist of members of township boards, city councils and county commissioners. 

  Otter Tail County has actively participated in the Economic Development District Board since its inception. The current Otter Tail County representative is District 3’s Kurt Mortenson of rural Underwood.

Commissioner Mortenson has served on the EDD since 2021 and is currently serving as vice chair.  

The EDD Board oversees the activities and deliverables of WCI in its role as the economic development district designee and makes recommendations to the WCI Board of Directors in these matters. 

The EDD board’s work makes it possible for communities in west central Minnesota to qualify for federal assistance to help fund infrastructure and other economic development projects.  

“Commissioner Mortenson is a highly engaged and active member of the EDD board. This is evident not only at the EDD board meetings and he oftentimes can be found in attendance during WCI’s community visits throughout the county,” says WCI’s Greg Wagner. 

About West Central Initiative

  West Central Initiative (WCI) is a regional community foundation and an economic development organization serving the nine west central Minnesota counties of Otter Tail, Becker, Clay, Douglas, Grant, Pope, Stevens, Traverse, and Wilkin and a portion of White Earth Nation. 

Through philanthropy and planning, WCI fuels insight and action for the benefit of our region and our world. Since 1986, WCI has provided more than $55 million in loans and $65 million in grants to businesses and organizations. Learn more at wcif.org.