Archives for March 2020

Houston County, MN Career Fair Fosters Workforce Opportunities

Article by: Allison Wagner

The Houston County Economic Development Authority (EDA) and Workforce Development Inc. (WDI) partnered to host a free career fair for businesses and job seekers on February 12 at the La Crescent Area Event Center. CEDA’s Small Cities Development Program Specialist and Houston County EDA Director Allison Wagner worked with WDI to plan and market the event, which featured nearly 30 Houston County businesses. 

“We believed that hosting a County-wide career fair would be an excellent way to showcase many of our local businesses and attract job seekers to the area,” said Wagner. 

Student and adult job seekers from the County and surrounding areas, including Winona and LaCrosse Counties, met one-on-one with businesses to explore opportunities in finance, education, accounting, healthcare, manufacturing, customer service, construction, childcare, and more. 

Career seekers expressed that they were excited to see such an array of career opportunities represented. Businesses owners and affiliates said they enjoyed speaking to potential employees while also getting to meet and visit with other employers. Some exchanged career marketing strategies at the fair.

CEDA Team Helps Business Start Up in Spring Grove, MN

Article by: Courtney Bergey Swanson and Rebecca Charles

The Spring Grove Economic Development Authority, led by CEDA team members Courtney Bergey Swanson and Rebecca Charles, recently provided business coaching and $15,000 in gap financing to help local entrepreneur Jenn Gulbranson start a new business on Main Street. Jenn had been operating her salon business just outside of town, but had always wanted to start a boutique as well. When the opportunity came for her to move her business to a space downtown, she and her husband jumped at the opportunity to make it their own, uncovering historic brick walls and investing in modern finishes to accommodate an expanded salon and new boutique. The project leveraged $120,000 in local investment.

They recently held the grand opening of West Main Boutique and Stratford Salon, partnering with local businesses RockFilter Distillery and Capra Nera Creamery to sample locally-made bourbon and artisan goat cheese at the event.

CEDA-Authored Grant Awards Nearly $582,000 to Rehab 23 Homes in Hayfield, MN

Article by: Allison Wagner and Ron Zeigler

The City of Hayfield has been awarded a $581,900 Small Cities Development Program (SCDP) Grant from the Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED). The grant was authored by CEDA’s Small Cities Development Program Specialist, Allison Wagner.

“The process of applying for DEED’s SCDP program can take nearly a year”, Wagner says. “It involves working with the City to identify a target area, surveying the area to determine the level of need, and submitting a preliminary application. Then, cities must be invited to submit a full application. Once a city is awarded, CEDA conducts an environmental review before grant money can be used.” 

Last month, CEDA began disbursing grant funds for the City of Hayfield. Abby Wright, CEDA Community Grants Specialist, and Wagner are working to disburse the funds to 23 households over the next two years. Disbursement includes meeting with homeowners to determine eligibility, walking though homes in order to determine needs, writing work write-ups for contractors, getting State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) approval, coordinating and attending pre-construction meetings, doing inspections, and reporting to DEED. 

CEDA has been applying for and disbursing SCDP grants for over 30 years. SCDP funds, which are 100% forgivable for homeowners who stay in their home for seven years from the project start date, are used by low-to-median income home owners to fix health and concerns inside the home, as well as major aesthetics on the exterior of their homes. Funds are commonly used to repair worn and leaking roofs, torn away siding, missing or dysfunctional gutters and railings, peeling paint, and to address lead hazards.

CEDA Completes commercial rent study in Itasca County, MN

Article by: Sarah Carling
CEDA team member, Sarah Carling, who serves the Itasca County Economic Development Corporation, recently produced and presented the results of the Itasca County Commercial Rent Study she conducted. Overall, 739 surveys were sent to commercial property owners with 196 survey responses received. This produced a 26.5% response rate.
Many of the outcomes showed that Itasca County is competitive in price per square foot with other neighboring counties. For example, St. Louis county is $12.07 avg price/sqft where Itasca County is $10.92 avg price/sqft.  Itasca County is focused on promoting the vacant commercial buildings and lots as they are cross promoted on both local and regional sites.

CEDA Helps Blue Earth REV Team Host Business Tour Day

CEDA representative, Mary Kennedy led efforts to organize a Business Tour Day for all 9th and 10th grade students at Blue Earth Area High School on February 4th. The event, which was the second of three scheduled events for the school year aimed to connect students with local professionals to showcase the job and career opportunities available in the Blue Earth area. 30 businesses from around the school district participated, offering 30-minute tours. The students, who were organized into 14 different groups each toured seven businesses and had lunch catered. “My favorite part of the day was talking to several students who had asked for job applications at tour stops,” Kennedy said. The events are being planned and organized by the Rural Entrepreneurial Venture (REV) group. The goal of the program, which includes one more career event this school year, more than 40 businesses, and all students in grades 9 and 10 is to show students that there are job opportunities in a variety of industries and that the community supports whatever path students choose after high school; whether that be entering the workforce, taking classes at a technical school, or pursuing a 4-year college degree. Whatever path they choose, REV hopes that the program this program provides a platform for relationship building, and offers information for the students to make educated decisions about their futures, and hopefully brings them back to work or open businesses someday. “I can’t say enough about the support the business community offered through this event. Operations were stopped for hours to provide students an inside glimpse at the behind the scenes work of career areas they have expressed interest in. When so many people come together to share the passion they have for their jobs and the community they work in, amazing things happen.” Kennedy shared.

CEDA Team Member Organizes Agriculture Summit in Fillmore County, MN

Article by: Chris Hahn

The Fillmore County Economic Development Authority (EDA) will host an Agriculture Summit at Eagle Bluff Environmental Learning Center on March 26th.  This year’s schedule includes presentations on Agricultural Entrepreneurship, Emotional Wellness for Agriculture Families, Succession Planning for Agriculture Business, Investment in Specialty Crops, and Value-Added Agriculture Processes, among others.

“We believe it is important to offer an event that engages ag-based businesses and families in Fillmore County and the neighboring communities, offers resources, and provides real-world examples of success in new and evolving business practices,” said Chris Hahn,CEDA representative and EDA Director for Fillmore County.

Agriculture remains the primary economic driver in Fillmore County. The 2017 Census of Agriculture counted over 1400 farms in the Fillmore County, contributing around $291 million in agricultural products sold. Approximately 32% of all farms represent operations less than 50 acres in size.  With more than 375,500 acres dedicated to agriculture in Fillmore County, innovation and process improvements remain a critical piece to the continued success of the agriculture industry, and offer new opportunities and challenges for agriculture-based businesses.

Karen Reisner, President of the Fillmore County EDA, states that “agriculture is one of the two greatest economic drivers in Fillmore County, and it influences almost every aspect of our daily lives. Farmers support many businesses in the county, state, and country. Today’s farming umbrella covers a diverse group of small and large farming operations.”

The Fillmore County Economic Development Authority is inviting agriculture families, businesses, and the general public to attend the Fillmore County Agriculture Summit at Eagle Bluff Environmental Learning Center located at 28097 Goodview Dr., Lanesboro, MN 55949 on March 26th at 8:30 AM to 1:30 PM.  A continental breakfast and snacks will be provided.  Sessions will run approximately 25 minutes, with additional contacts, information, and resources on topics to be provided by presenters to take home.

This is a free event; however, pre-registration is requested to estimate the number of attendees. To pre-register, please go to

For more information about the Fillmore County Agriculture Summit, please contact Chris Hahn, Fillmore County EDA Director at 612-327-9729, or via email at [email protected]