A commitment to rural Minnesota
Charles Blandin was twelve years old when he took his first part-time job, at a weekly newspaper. He went on to a career in publishing, including management of the St. Paul Pioneer Press/Dispatch Printing Company. In 1916, the Dispatch's owner bought the Itasca Printing Company in Grand Rapids, Minnesota. After his death, his widow offered Blandin half the company stock and a chance to manage both the printing company and the paper mill. Blandin took her up on her offer. But when newsprint production became unprofitable, he pioneered the manufacture of high-quality coated paper instead. In 1927, Blandin sold the Pioneer Press/Dispatch but kept the paper mill. Two years later, it became the Blandin Paper Company.
Over the years, Charles Blandin became increasingly attached to the Grand Rapids community. In 1941, he established the Blandin Foundation to aid in the economic development of his adopted hometown and the surrounding area. He stipulated that the foundation change with the times as it supported projects leading to the "betterment of mankind." When Blandin died in 1958, his foundation had assets of approximately $1 million.
The Blandin Paper Company was sold in 1977; as a result, the Blandin Foundation's assets increased and it became an entity separate from the paper company. By 1982, the foundation's assets had grown to $100 million; today, its trust is worth more than $300 million. The foundation's support of Minnesota's communities is wide-ranging: recent initiatives include Get Broadband, dedicated to increasing the use of broadband-based technologies; Vital Forests/Vital Communities, which promotes the connections among forest-based economies, forest ecosystems, and healthy communities; and Invest Early, which supplements early education programs for at-risk children in Itasca County. Through each of these projects and many more, Charles Blandin's dream of better lives for rural Minnesotans is being realized.
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