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Businesses receive funding assistance for retention, creation of jobs: Awards

WILLMAR -- Nearly 70 small businesses in Minnesota have received more than $4.3 million in grants and loans from the Minnesota Chamber Foundation to assist in weathering the economic downturn.

Money for the assistance was provided by the Pohlad Family Foundation and administered through Grow Minnesota!, the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce's private-sector initiative focusing on job retention and creation.

The Willmar Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce is a local partner in the Grow Minnesota! program.

Businesses that received assistance are located in 50 cities and employ more than a thousand Minnesotans. Jim Pohlad, foundation director, said the foundation welcomes the opportunity to be a partner with the Minnesota Chamber to help businesses "survive the storm'' and prepare for economic recovery.

"This money will help strengthen these companies and preserve essential jobs,'' said Pohlad.

The recipients were selected from among 765 businesses that requested $75.3 million in assistance. Most businesses sought grants to retain important employees. Local chamber of commerce partners and other private-sector economic development organizations participated in receiving and reviewing applications.

Businesses that were unsuccessful in the first round of funding may reapply for a second round, said Bill Blazar, Minnesota Chamber senior vice president of public affairs and development who directs Grow Minnesota! The application deadline is Sept. 8.

He said almost $1 million in low-interest loans will be available through a combination of money from the Pohlad Family Foundation and other sources including the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development. Loans may be used for working capital or to acquire new assets or improve existing assets.

Applications are available at

Tom Koralesky of Litchfield has been honored for outstanding service to local older workers by Experience Works, the nation's largest nonprofit training and employment organization for older workers. Koralesky recently received a Making a Difference Award at the company's national conference in Washington, D.C. The award honors his efforts to help low-income, older workers obtain training needed for good jobs. Experience Works offers job training services in Minnesota through the Senior Community Service Employment Program, which assists mature individuals in entering the workforce, secure more challenging positions, move into new careers or supplement their income.