Archives for July 2018

CEDA Community Partners with Veterans for Dedication at Howard County Freedom Rock Memorial Park

Article by: Spiff Slifka

Howard County Business & Tourism (HCBT), which is served by CEDA, partnered with county veterans to bring the Freedom Rock and Memorial Park to Howard County, IA. HCBT took the lead with the Freedom Rock committee and held over 50 meetings to organize and administer this $150,000 endeavor. Four grants totaling $6,250 were written by CEDA team member Spiff Slifka, who serves the HCBT, to kick-start this project.

Little did Howard County Veterans know that just over three years ago and 600 volunteer hours later, they would be dedicating the 68th Freedom Rock and the Howard County Memorial Park. Over 500 people gathered June 23, 2018 to witness a spectacular program organized by veterans from around the county with special guests, the Oak Ridge Boys singing the National Anthem.

Ray “Bubba” Sorensen II, Freedom Rock Tour artist, told the crowd he was inspired after watching the movie “Saving Private Ryan,” in 1999. He painted his first rock the next Memorial Day near his hometown of Fontanelle, Iowa. From there, he has painted over 70 rocks drawing on each county’s history and we are just one of his 99-piece Freedom Rock puzzle.

During the dedication, Jim Perry, Commander of the American Legion Post 135 and Freedom Rock Chair reminisced about the history of the park. “For over a year, veterans searched for the perfect rock and the perfect site. Every town was considered and after drawing on DOT traffic data, the Freedom Rock committee approached the Cresco City Council for a site along Highway 9. From there a great partnership was formed and it wasn’t long after that the perfect rock was found.”

“Visiting the Memorial Park is a visual treat for everyone and offers a bit of education”, offers Rick Slifka, Commander of VFW Post 4561. “We have nine granite tablets telling the story of every war and conflict starting with the War of 1812. Included in these stories are inventions that took place during the war and on the home front.”

What more could the veterans bring to this dedication? Why not ask the Oak Ridge Boys, long time American Legion spokesmen, to sing at this prominent event? The Country Music Hall of Fame group didn’t hesitate to accept and the crowd was ‘wowed’ by their personal touch to an already impressive day.

Howard County veterans invite you to the Freedom Rock Memorial Park in Cresco, Iowa and be prepared to be ‘wowed’ as you cross this off your bucket list.

Stewartville, MN Provides $10,000 Incentive to Promote Sale of Vacant Buildings with CEDA Created Program

Article by: Joya Stetson

Vacant structures can present challenges for cities and economic development professionals. Tools to incent the purchase of these buildings are limited because the projects often do not necessarily increase taxable valuation. However, promoting the sale of these vacant buildings is an necessary consideration for cities as they continuously work to manage the positive perception of their community as a desirable location for companies to build, operate or expand their business.

In response to this challenge, CEDA team member Joya Stetson, who serves the City of Stewartville, MN, drafted the Existing Building Purchase Incentive Program which was approved by the Stewartville Economic Development Authority (EDA) in 2017.  This program’s guidelines focus on filling vacant buildings with productive industry and attractive career opportunities by offering $1,000 per eligible FTE job created (up to $10,000).

HALCON, a recognized leader in design, quality and innovation within the contract office furniture industry, is a current employer in the City of Stewartville that was able to access the program for their planned expansion.  HALCON has purchased a vacant 57,500 square-foot building and 10.5 acres of property adjacent to their current campus and plans to create at least 50 new full-time jobs.  At its June 19, 2018 meeting, the Stewartville EDA approved HALCON’s application for the Existing Building Purchase Incentive Program in the amount of $10,000.  Funds will be released to the company as soon as proof of purchase and job creation are provided to the City.

GEOTEK, another Stewartville employer, was also able to access the program earlier this year through its purchase of an available, vacant building in the community that will support the company’s planned expansion and job creation.

“We are extremely fortunate to have so many examples of successful and community-minded businesses in the City of Stewartville” said CEDA team member Stetson. “These companies are not only creating new career opportunities within our City, but they are also continuing to innovate and transform their industries. This program is just one way that the City is able to demonstrate its support of and commitment to these important businesses.”

With their impending growth and expansion, HALCON and GEOTEK are both hiring now.  Check out their websites for job postings at: and

CEDA Grant Department Authored and Approved for $1,415,798 in Small Cities Development Program Grants from MN DEED

Article by: Ron Zeigler

Under the direction of CEDA Director of Grants Michelle Vrieze, the CEDA Grant Department worked in conjunction with the cities of Eyota, Caledonia and Elgin to author applications for the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development’s Small Cities Development Program Grant Funds.  Again this year, all applications authored by Michelle and CEDA were fully funded.

“Michelle has been authoring and administering small cities applications for well over 20 years”, states Ron Zeigler, CEDA CEO/President.  “Michelle has such a great reputation and is very highly respected in the Small Cities Program throughout DEED and the rest of the State.  I can’t even begin to count the number of people that Michelle has helped over these years in the numerous grant award projects.  It is a very astounding number to say the least.  She has moved the needle for these communities, their businesses and residents.”

-The City of Elgin application/award was for $303,600 to complete 12 single family home renovation projects.

-The City of Eyota application/award is for $287,500 to complete 20 multi-family rental projects.

-The City of Caledonia application/award is for $824,698 to complete 10 commercial projects for $276,000; 10  rental mixed use for $143,750; four multi-family rental projects for $28,748 and 15 single family home projects for $376.200.  The single family home projects will be administered by SEMCAC in partnership with CEDA.

Congratulations to the cities of Elgin, Eyota and Caledonia, the partnership with SEMCAC and to the CEDA grants department on a job well done!

CEDA Receives $75,000 Grant From the Otto Bremer Trust

Article by: Ron Zeigler

Community and Economic Development Associates (CEDA) authored and was approved for a grant in the amount of $75,000 from the Otto Bremer Trust (OBT) for general operating support to provide economic and community development services for rural communities in Southeastern Minnesota.

“This is great news!  The confidence the Otto Bremer Trustees have in CEDA is greatly appreciated” states CEDA CEO/President Ron Zeigler.  “I believe the CEDA mission closely aligns with the OBT mission for the betterment of the rural areas of Southeastern Minnesota.  These dollars will allow us to continue and expand the great work that our team is providing for the sustainability of the region.”

The Otto Bremer Trust, based in St. Paul, MN, is a private charitable trust established in 1944 by founder Otto Bremer, a successful banker and community business leader.  OBT owns 92 percent of Bremer Bank and also manages a diversified investment portfolio.  The mission of OBT is to invest in people, places and opportunities in the Upper Midwest.  Since its inception, OBT has invested more than $600 million in organizations throughout Minnesota, North Dakota and west Wisconsin.  Visit

CEDA Team Member Helps the Blue Earth, MN EDA Appreciate Local Businesses

Article by: Mary Kennedy

This summer, the Blue Earth Economic Development Authority is up to something new! The new program, Business Spotlight, was inspired by CEDA representative Mary Kennedy’s suggestion to the board to add a business appreciation item to the regular meeting agenda. Kennedy took note of other CEDA communities’ successes in highlighting their local businesses and providing a platform to thank various business owners for their support and participation in the community.

Kennedy explained the various ways this program could potentially be developed and shared as an example, the Stewartville EDA Business Appreciation Program. The Blue Earth EDA agreed to the idea and developed its own version of the appreciation program, which invites a new business to the board meeting each month. The businesses’ brief “Spotlight” moment provides an opportunity for the business to share any concerns or suggestions they may have for the local business climate. This also gives the board a time to learn about the challenges and excitements the business may currently be facing, ask questions, and importantly, thank the business owner for their involvement in the local economy.

Blue Earth Drug was the EDA’s first Business Spotlight! Pictured below are Gina Zierke, RPh, Co-owner of Blue Earth Drug and Bill Rosenau, EDA President.

Spring Grove REVs up!

Article by: Courtney Bergey

As a participant in the Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation’s (SMIF) inaugural Rural Entrepreneurial Ventures (REV) program, Spring Grove is gaining critical momentum for the future of local entrepreneurship. As part of a comprehensive asset mapping process, a series of meetings, community events, and business surveys have been completed. The REV team is using this information to identify challenges and opportunities, with certain threads already appearing:

  • Succession planning and business growth planning
  • Networking and sharing resources
  • Access to capital for small business start-up

The REV Spring Grove team will host an Entrepreneur Happy Hour on Tuesday, July 10 from 4:30-6:30pm at Norski’s Saloon in downtown Spring Grove. This event aims to continue the asset mapping process while creating space for local entrepreneurs to connect with one another.

“Entrepreneurs are an essential part of our community and our economy,” said CEDA team member Courtney Bergey who serves as the Spring Grove EDA co-director. “They are innovative, creative, and incredibly hard-working, and we want to create more opportunities for them to come together, make connections and share resources.”

About REV: In late 2017 Spring Grove was selected as one of six communities in the region to participate in the Rural Entrepreneurial Ventures program, which is administered and funded by the Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation with support from the Blandin Foundation. The program will help identify and develop sustainable systems for growing the entrepreneurial culture of Spring Grove. The community will work to implement lasting changes and develop new resources to help existing, budding, and future entrepreneurs.