• Engage Leaders: Board Feature: Matt Varilek – From Yankton to Scotland to Central Minnesota
  • Grow Business: ILT Academy Lean Startup Innovation Certificate
  • Expand Talent: Construction industry is booming in Central MN
  • Shape Tomorrow:
    • Enhancing our Regional Broadband Capacity – Virtual Event
    • DEED Mainstreet Grant Program
  • Insights and Inspirations: GREAT Theatre is back!

Engage Leaders: Board Feature: Matt Varilek – From Yankton to Scotland to Central MN

You think you know someone, then a guy like Matt Varilek surprises you.

Is he a small-town kid from South Dakota, someone who did his graduate studies in Scotland and England, or a former chief operating officer for the U.S. Small Business Administration in Washington, D.C.?

All of the above. And much more.

Matt, a member of the GSDC board and its Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Team, certainly brings a global perspective to the Initiative Foundation, for which he’s been president since December 2016.

“My two years of grad school took place in Scotland and England, thanks to generous support from the Rotary Foundation and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation,” says Matt, who grew up in Yankton and Tabor, S.D. “Besides providing me training in economics, these experiences opened my eyes to the ways philanthropy and education can open doors of opportunity for a kid like me from a lower-income background.”

Before joining the Initiative Foundation, Matt spent four years with the SBA, first as Regional Administrator based in Denver, and later as the agency’s chief operating officer in the nation’s capital.

“My wife and I wanted to raise our kids closer to home, so I targeted my job search to Minnesota,” says Matt. “Finding an organization like the Initiative Foundation – focused on rural economies, grantmaking, high-impact programs, plus offering small-business financing – was a happy surprise.”

Matt sees similarities with the GSDC.

“Every investor in the GSDC is impactful in their own individual way. But when you bring those organizations together in an organization with great staff and board leadership, the whole of our impact is greater than the sum of individual parts,” he says. “I find it exciting to be part of this force for prosperity and progress.”

Grow Business

ILT Academy Lean Startup Innovation Certificate 

Register now for the West Central Virtual Cohort 2021 program, running October 7, 2021 to December 16, 2021. This will be a 100% virtual program.

This 10-Week Lean Startup Program is designed to be FREE to all entrepreneurs and soon-to-be-entrepreneurs of West Central MN and North Dakota. This program coaches, supports, and boosts entrepreneurs and soon-to-be-entrepreneurs on their lean startup journeys. Click HERE to learn more and apply.


Expand Talent

Construction industry is booming in Central MN

The Construction industry is booming in Central Minnesota. In fact, in the past five years, Construction employers added more jobs than all other industries combined. The reason behind that impressive statistic is that construction companies maintained employment in 2020 while nearly every other industry shed jobs due to the pandemic recession.

JobSpot, our online talent portal, currently showcases over 400 construction careers right here in our region.

Check out the blog and video update from Luke Greiner, our DEED Labor Market Analyst, to learn more about why this industry is outperforming others in our region.

Click for the Central Minnesota Monthly BlogVideo Update.



Shape Tomorrow

Enhancing our Regional Broadband Capacity – Virtual Event

Join the Initiative Foundation on September 23 from 10:30 AM to 12 PM to discuss future broadband investments for region 7W. This event is open to anyone with an interest in exploring broadband capacity and expansion. Register here for the virtual event.

DEED Mainstreet Grant Program

The MN Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) is opening applications for the Mainstreet COVID-19 Relief Grants Program on September 20. Information sessions will be held on September 14, 15, and 20 via the links below. Click here for more information on the grant program.


Insights & Inspirations

GREAT Theatre is back!

After 18 months, GREAT is finally returning to the stage for Little Shop of Horrors, September 10-19! Click here to buy tickets via livestream or in-person for the final weekend of Little Shop of Horrors September 17-19.





Contact Our Staff Team

Patti Gartland, President
pgartland@greaterstcloud.com | 320-260-2442

Leslie Dingmann, Business Development Director
ldingmann@greaterstcloud.com | 320-493-9003

Gail Cruikshank, Talent Director 
gcruikshank@greaterstcloud.com | 320-260-6775

Amelia Barkley, Communications & Program Specialist 
abarkley@greaterstcloud.com | 320-292-9296