Initiative looks to capitalize on recent trend of rural Minnesota growth inspired by ‘Brain Gain’ phenomenon

    The Northwest Minnesota Foundation (NMF) announces a new program, Communities Thrive, as a new strategy to take a deeper dive into community investment.

    Rural Minnesota is enjoying a relatively new phenomena, the “Brain Gain,” a trend of population increases in ages 30-49 into rural areas across Minnesota. This trend, highlighted in the 2012 report by Benjamin Winchester, Continuing the Trend: The Brain Gain of the Newcomers A GENERATIONAL ANALYSIS OF RURAL MINNESOTA MIGRATION, 1990-2010, is bringing a resurgence to rural Minnesota as many of these newcomers are highly educated with families, which ultimately impacts the community in a positive way.       

   The report states “The leaders found that the top reasons cited for migration to rural Minnesota include: 1) a desire for a simpler life, 2) safety and security, 3) affordable housing, 4) outdoor recreation, and 5) for those with children, locating a quality school. Surprisingly, jobs were not found in the top 10 reasons. In short, the decision to move was based on concerns about quality of life.”

    This report lends credibility to the position taken by NMF in 2003—that talent has become the main driver of regional economic development and that Quality of Place is the essential ingredient in attracting and retaining a talented workforce.

    This “Brain Gain” provides northwest Minnesota with an opportunity to boost a trend already moving in a positive direction.

    The Communities Thrive Program is a “deep dive” in a small number of communities to help them capitalize on the current “Brain Gain” trend in the ways that best fit their unique community, ultimately building on the strengths and diversity within our region.  This program uses place making and planning approaches to support community vitality.

    Initially NMF will work with one (1) to two (2) targeted communities to help identify the communities’ needs and provide a mix of tools and resources, including flexible lending and grant products, to help the communities meet those needs. Whether it is downtown revitalization, an industrial park with tenants, a new senior living facility, a community wellness center, or improved parks and recreation (as examples), NMF helps with capital needs to make the community’s vision a reality.
    Better lives are built because of our investments into our region’s communities. We know each community is unique—tourism might provide rich cultural experiences in one place, while other communities rely on business and industry—and the Communities Thrive program is designed to be flexible to capitalize on your community’s unique assets.

    “We believe this new program will be a more meaningful way for us to support communities in our region,” says Nate Dorr, NMF Senior Program Officer, “Communities Thrive is meant to make a lasting impact for generations, and equip our communities to create a sustainable quality of life for every resident.”    

    For more information, scope of work, and details on how to apply for funding, visit

    The Northwest Minnesota Foundation is a public charitable nonprofit community foundation serving 12 northwestern Minnesota counties with a mission to invest resources, facilitate collaboration, and promote philanthropy to make the region a better place to live and work. Learn more at