- Besides preserving existing jobs and businesses, the Initiative Foundation's rural economic
development strategy also includes creating opportunities for businesses on the move.
early 2009, Mike Bullinger, owner of Homecrest Outdoor Living (Wadena, MN), a manufacturer of
outdoor patio furniture, saw a unique opportunity. Innovative Surfaces, one of their primary
vendors of tabletops for their furniture, was preparing to close its operations in Phoenix,
- Bullinger jumped at the chance to purchase the business in order to create more
efficient operations for both companies and move 22 quality jobs to Wadena. Wadena certainly fits
into the Foundation's rural economic development strategy. With a population of 4,300 and median
income of less than $30,000, adding and retaining those "living wage" jobs has been essential to
the health of their local economy.
- The community's vitality was threatened once before when
Homecrest closed in 2008, taking 140 jobs with it. A partnership and loan package between the
Wadena Development Authority, Region Five Development Commission and the Initiative Foundation
ensured Homecrest's reopening.
- The Wadena Development Authority teamed up with the
Foundation once again to support the purchase of Innovative Surfaces. And this time the North
Central Economic Development Authority and Minnesota's Department of Employment and Economic
Development joined the effort.
- Under Bullinger's leadership and interest in the Wadena
community, Homecrest and Innovative Surfaces are continuing to make a positive impact on the
economic life of west central Minnesota.