Entrepreneur Fund, Great River Energy combine resources

Celebrating the infusion of $1 million into an economic development loan fund are, from left, Mike Lattery and Shawn Wellnitz of the Entrepreneur Fund and Bob Bruckbauer and Tom Lambrecht of Great River Energy.

The Entrepreneur Fund and Great River Energy (GRE) are partnering to distribute $1 million of loan financing in rural areas. The money is being provided through Great River’s revolving loan fund and will be available for projects that are served by one of GRE’s electric cooperatives. They include Arrowhead Electric, Cooperative Light & Power, East Central Energy, Lake Country Power, Mille Lacs Energy and North Itasca Electric Cooperative. 

The Entrepreneur Fund – which offers consulting, programming, training and small business financing up to $750,000 – will work with borrowers and guide them through the application process, then service the loans.

Entrepreneur Fund CEO Shawn Wellntiz said the new capital that GRE is providing will bring more development to companies in their overlapping service areas, which include Aitkin, Carlton, Cass, Cook, Crow Wing, Itasca, Koochiching, Lake, Pine and St. Louis counties in Minnesota and Douglas County in Wisconsin. 

“It will bring a sense of vibrancy and renewal to these communities,” he said. “We couldn’t be more excited.”

Prior to the new partnership, the Entrepreneur Fund and GRE’s member-owner cooperatives had worked together to support economic development and entrepreneurship with companies including a manufacturer in Grand Rapids and an assisted living residence with multiple locations in North Central Minnesota. The partnership will enable them to serve even more, said Tom Lambrecht, GRE’s manager of economic development services. A group like the Entrepreneur Fund can help to bundle a variety of loans together to better serve clients, he explained.

“We want to make sure our communities are thriving, have good job opportunities and offer a good quality of life,” Lambrecht said. “We’re very excited to work with the Entrepreneur Fund. We want to use our resources in partnership with other groups that are doing other good work in our region.” 

The Entrepreneur Fund has assisted more than 14,000 businesses with support and funded over $41 million in loans since 1989.

Great River Energy provides electricity to 28 distribution cooperatives, with service areas in Minnesota extending from the Twin Cities suburbs and agricultural regions in the south, to the resource-rich areas of the north. Great River Energy’s headquarters is in Maple Grove.