The Free Press, Mankato, MN

April 5, 2013

Gunther bill would help racial minorities become entrepreneurs

By Dan Linehan
Free Press Staff Writer

— Rep. Bob Gunther says the best way for minorities — for anyone, really — to meet their potential as leaders is to start a business.

“How do we get these people to maximize their potentials and leaders in their community?” Gunther said.

Help them start a business.

“They have the most to gain and the most to lose,” he said.

To that end, the Fairmont Republican authored a bill that would devote $320,000 a year to help members of a racial minority in southern Minnesota become entrepreneurs. The assistance would take the form of counseling and professional expertise.

For example, it could assist the Main Street Project, a nonprofit, continue to help start up minority-run, small-scale chicken companies.

The bill passed through the state House jobs committee this week, and Gunther said the body’s chair said he’s likely to include it in the committee’s final bill. That means it has a good chance of passing through the House, he said. Its Senate counterpart also got its first hearing this week.

The money would be administered by the Initiative Foundations in southern and southwest Minnesota.

Pam Bishop, the entrepreneur senior program officer for the Owatonna-based Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation, said the group will work with groups that are already working on entrepreneur development.

“We’ve targeted partners we’ve seen greatest success in terms of support that population,” she said.

Other partners include Winona County, the United Way of Freeborn County and the Minnesota Council of Churches, which has a Mankato office.

Gunther said the counseling also will help people avoid dead-end business plans.

“One of the best things a person can hear is to have somebody prove it to you that it won’t work so you don’t waste time and money with it.”