Archives for April 2018

CEDA Communities Partner with Educators to Promote Career Readiness to Students

Article by: Marty Walsh

March 9th was the culmination of a month-long project by the Houston County, MN Economic Development Authority in partnership with important entities such as: Perkins Consortium; Caledonia, MN; La Crescent, MN; Lewiston-Altura schools, Rushford-Peterson schools, Fillmore County, MN Economic Development and Workforce Development, Inc. These organizations, including the CEDA team members serving the affected areas, worked together to bring  career readiness information to senior students. Also importantly, the event helped local businesses get exposure among the students for job opportunities as well as giving the businesses a better understanding of what the emerging workforce looks like.

CEDA team member Courtney Bergey Swanson aided Perkins Consortium Director Brian Cashman in coordinating the initial group of schools after coming to understand that there was a disconnect between school and employers that could be remedied with increased communication. Area schools then dedicated themselves to developing curriculum that better connected the two critical components of the community and additional partnerships, including CEDA, brought in Fillmore County Economic Development and Workforce Development, Inc. The working group determined a senior career day to be a worthwhile goal that could be accomplished within the school year, and something that can grow into job shadowing, apprenticeships, and general career awareness for local students. Connecting students early to the wide variety of workforce opportunities in the community increases the probability that they will seek and find fulfilling employment in the region, something that was attractive to the nearly two dozen businesses who participated in the career day by sending volunteers from their Human Resource and Business Development departments to conduct mock interviews and answer questions about their communities. Businesses attended from 5 counties representing fields from logistics to banking to advanced manufacturing.

“Many of our business participants felt they gained great insight getting to talk to students one on one,” said Marty Walsh, the CEDA team member serving the Fillmore County EDA, “And many realized even if there wasn’t a student who lived in the same town as their business, they may have relatives seeking career opportunities for whom it’s a better fit. Many also recognize anyone from the region is more likely to move back here after seeking a degree or certificate program if they know there are opportunities, and they are more likely to do it than someone with no roots here. These are the perfect long-term candidates for our employers.”

With the excitement generated in the schools as well as among employers, CEDA staff hope that they will be able to replicate the program with more school districts over the next several years and continue to provide this unique connection between education, workforce and community.

CEDA Communities Getting Proactive About Housing Needs

Today, many communities across Greater Minnesota and Iowa are challenged with fulfilling their housing needs.  In an effort to remain proactive and strategic, many CEDA communities are taking steps to conduct comprehensive housing studies.  The primary objective of these studies is to assist in determining each community’s housing deficits.  They will provide a detailed analysis that will identify current and future housing needs in the community and help decision makers develop a greater understanding of the housing market.

Communities are often provided with recommendations and action plans for housing development (both short and long-term), as well as, tools and policies that will assist in implementation based on an examination of the demographics, economic characteristics and trends, and current housing market conditions.  The studies will deliver valuable information that community leaders, stakeholders, and decision-makers can use to promote development activity and investment as it shows those potential developers and investors the needs and viability of targeted projects within their communities.

Some CEDA communities are currently undergoing this process with the assistance of their CEDA representatives.  Dodge County, MN has commissioned a study which will be completed by Maxfield Research and Consulting. The County is hoping that the study will analyze and ascertain the housing needs county-wide as well as the specific needs of each of the six individual communities within the county.  CEDA team member Stephanie Lawson who serves the Dodge County EDA is excited to begin the process and is looking forward to the results of the study. “This housing study is the first step in securing the necessary residential options for those individuals living, working or considering relocation to Dodge County.” Lawson said, “Once complete, the study’s results will provide County officials with data that can effectively market the community to appropriate developers as well as aid the County in its planning process.” Dodge County’s housing study is being primarily funded by donations from community stakeholders.  CEDA staff also authored and received a $5,000 Feasibility Study grant from Compeer Financial.  The study is expected to be complete by the end of 2018.

Lewiston, MN is also working on a study which is being conducted by Widseth Smith Nolting. CEDA team member Rebecca Charles works with the City’s EDA and has guided the community’s project efforts. Charles wrote and was approved for a $2,500 grant from Compeer Financial to complete the study. “The Lewiston EDA Board is anticipating our results within the next month.” Charles shared, “The City plans to utilize the information on current inventory, market trends and predicted growth to thoughtfully plan for the future by attracting relevant developers and employers.”

Other CEDA counties currently looking into housing study research include Fillmore County, MN and Howard County, IA.