Archives for February 2020

CEDA-authored grant helps AcenTek bring high-speed internet to thousands of people in Southeast MN 

Article by: Abby Wright

On Tuesday, January 21, Minnesota Governor Tim Walz announced that the MN Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED), in its fifth year of the Border-to-Border Broadband Grant Program, shall award 30 of 80 broadband project requests submitted last September from around the State, totaling $23,270,933 in funded projects. The largest awarded request at $2,895,318—with a total project cost of $9,651,059—was authored by CEDA Community Grant Specialist, Abby Wright, on behalf of one of CEDA’s longstanding partners, AcenTek, a communications company that provides internet, voice, and video services to 33 communities throughout MN, IA, and MI. Located in the City of Houston, MN, AcenTek sought to expand its fiber-to-the-home infrastructure to make high-speed broadband accessible beyond the City limits, where, for the people who live and work there, lack of dependable, affordable, remote communications often necessitates long commutes in addition to other major inconveniences.

“The project clearly aligns with the ‘B2B’ program,” Wright says, “It’s going to make so many people’s lives better.” Over 200 residents, farmers, and business owners in the project area expressed in letters of support that high-speed internet will allow them and their family members to bank and manage their healthcare online, telework, stream videos, and conduct faster research for homework, jobs, or to self-educate. As a result of AcenTek’s construction of infrastructure for fiber optic internet in the project area, about 485 unserved and 424 underserved locations in Houston and Winona Counties will see improved broadband service levels that exceed the 2022 and 2026 State speed goals. 

Chief Financial Officer of AcenTek, Darren Moser, who led the project, says, “These residences, businesses, and farms will get state-of-the-art facilities and services for years to come.” 

Cris Gastner, CEDA’s Senior Vice President, oversaw the project on CEDA’s end. The photo below depicts Gastner representing CEDA and introducing AcenTek at a public hearing, which over 35 people attended, including Wright and Allison Wagner, EDA Director of Houston County and the Small Cities Development Program Specialist at CEDA. The Houston County EDA Board had just voted to support the project with a three-year, interest-free loan to AcenTek. The loan combined with AcenTek’s own investment equated to a 70% match of the total eligible project cost, though AcenTek will not see a financial return on investment for at least 13-15 years.

Moser says, “Without the public-private partnership with the State of MN and the Office of Broadband Development, this project could not happen, and we could not have been successful without CEDA and our other partners in the application, Houston County and the engineering firm, Cooperative Network Services. We are grateful for CEDA’s professionalism and attention to detail in putting this application together.”

Photo courtesy of John Tabbert, AcenTek

NW Illinois Economic Development Launches Its Largest-Ever Small Business Course 

Article by: Emily Legel

NW Illinois Economic Development (NWILED) launched its largest-ever Build It Grow It class in January.  The CEDA team member serving the NWILED contract, Emily Legel, organized the event from finding locations, registering attendees, doing publicity, speaking about the event at area business meetings and door to door discussions.  Over thirty-two individuals from twenty-five businesses attended sessions in Galena and Fulton, Illinois, learning about the Growth Wheel and different types of financing for their business. With participating industries ranging from retail and hospitality to fitness and non-profit, attendees range from a newly created start-up to more established companies from Galena and every life cycle stage in between.  

Thanks to generous donations from NW Illinois businesses and communities, area businesses are able to learn about topics from organization and employee issues to networking and sales to differentiating themselves in their market. A weekly marketing email and private Facebook community are also included with the course. Attendees also get the option of free one-on-one counseling sessions with Brian McIntyre, a certified business appraiser and licensed business counselor, a value of over $900 per session, and the course will end with a pitch competition where participants can win $1000 for an expansion effort.

“NWILED exists to help businesses in NW Illinois grow. When we had to move the Galena location due to an outpouring of interest, I knew we were getting somewhere. In the past 6 months alone, I’ve seen the program grow and develop, and based on the turnout we saw in January, I have no doubt we’re on the right track,” stated Legel.

This is the sixth time this program has been offered, with several alumni crediting the course with their success. One returning business owner mentioned a dramatic increase in sales in the year following the program, with another returning business owner mentioning how the private counseling sessions pushed her to expand from a home-based business to a storefront. For more information on the course or to sign up for future sessions, please visit or contact the office at [email protected]

Industrial Growth and Grants Received in Harmony, MN with CEDA Assistance!

article by: Chris Giesen

In the final weeks of 2019, the Harmony EDA purchased approximately 8.2 acres of land to expand their existing industrial park to accommodate a prospective expansion of an operations and warehousing facility owned by Dairyland Power Cooperative of La Crosse Wisconsin.  “We’ve been working with Dairyland for some time now to build a facility in Harmony and the EDA felt this was the right time to proactively step forward and purchase additional land.” Said Chris Giesen, Harmony’s CEDA representative and CEDA Vice President.  “The growth of our industrial park will not only assist with the prospective Dairyland project, but it will also create up to 6 additional 1 plus acre lots for additional business growth.  We are still working through the final details of the project with Dairyland but this is a big project for Harmony.”   Dairyland’s proposed project would build a 23,000 square foot building, is estimated to create $2.3 million in new tax base, and bring 4 new FTE jobs into Harmony. 


In conjunction with this proposed project, Giesen applied for and secured a $74,537 Greater Minnesota Business Development Public Infrastructure (BDPI) grant from the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) and a 0% interest, $84,082.50 loan from MiEnergy Cooperative.  Both the grant and loan will fund the necessary public infrastructure improvements to serve the proposed Dairyland project in the Harmony Industrial Park.  Over the 10 year term of the loan from MiEnergy, the 0% interest rate is estimated to save Harmony taxpayers about $13,000.