Archives for July 2020

Winnebago, MN Works With CEDA Team Member on Prioritizing Downtown

Article by: Annie Leibel

The Winnebago, MN Economic Development Authority (EDA) recently adopted a focus to restore and revitalize the City’s Main Street. CEDA team member Annie Leibel presented an initiative called Bring Back Downtown Winnebago. A couple ideas Leibel had for the initiative included a Commercial Exterior Grant and plans to expand the Power of Produce Program for the Farmer’s Market.

In light of Leibel’s proposal, the Winnebago EDA adopted a dollar for dollar match commercial exterior grant that provides a $6,000 award to businesses. The new program will be advertised on the City’s Facebook Page, and Leibel plans to call local businesses to let them know about this program. City Administrator Jake Skluzacek noted “The City of Winnebago and the Winnebago EDA realize that action must be taken to help improve downtown Winnebago and assist business owners in the area. The commercial exterior grant will be able to give the assistance businesses need to  make a noticeable change with their places of business and how they are viewed. This will be a big first step in Bringing Back Downtown Winnebago.” Skluzacek continued, “The City appreciates the EDA’s willingness to provide the funding necessary to make the program a success.”

The City also has a Power of Produce Program, which provides $2 tokens to children purchasing produce at the Farmer’s Market. This year, the EDA is going to focus on expanding the program and adding additional vendors to the market. Leibel commented “The Power of Produce Program promotes healthy eating in our community, and also encourages families to come downtown on the weekends. By expanding this program we hope to promote local shopping and foster pride on Winnebago’s Main Street to help Bring Back Downtown Winnebago.”

Over the next few months, the Winnebago EDA will be talking about additional steps to revitalize downtown Winnebago. Future potential projects include a community mural, and a holiday lights display.

CEDA Team Member Collaborates to Create Collectively Cannon Falls Project

Article by: Laura Qualey

It’s no secret that local small business owners are twitching to reopen. The uncertainty of reopening was looming and for those living in small, rural communities, many have been wondering ‘when’ and ‘if’ they will be able to reopen and more importantly, ‘if’ they will be able to survive the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Cannon Falls, MN City Council Member Matt Montgomery and CEDA team member Laura Qualey both wanted to do ‘something’ to give their local business owners a platform to talk. They wanted to offer them the opportunity to talk about how things have been going, responses they’ve seen/heard from customers, how they’ve modified their service and product offerings, etc. So, they literally took to the streets of Cannon Falls and conducted socially distant interviews with the local merchants. Qualey initially contacted the Chamber to get the word out and then started making calls and emailing a variety of organizations and businesses that she felt would give a well-rounded view of their community. Overall, the team interviewed 24 people from 14 businesses in a 3-day time frame and with the help of the local community television media director, Mike Gesme, the video “Collectively Cannon Falls” was created and streaming within one week’s time!

When Montgomery and Qualey asked business owners how the pandemic had impacted them, all were very willing to share. Many of the businesses expressed optimistic comments about a ‘silver lining’ during their closure–indicating that it gave them an opportunity to tell the community about any exciting changes that they have made to their business. Some businesses remodeled, touched up their building, deep cleaned and one business took the opportunity to dive into their new Point-of-Sale system to do some training. It has also given them the time to find new ways to connect with their customers and reevaluate how they do business and what they need to do to update their business model.  Some of the services they have begun offering may even become a new way of doing business because of their success.

Television media director Gesme  was able to edit the video down to about 10 impactful minutes, and it has received rave reviews. The video was shared on social media over 40 times and had an audience reach of 5,000 people in under 48 hours! Gesme is currently working on a full version to air on the Community Television channel as well as on YouTube.  The businesses that participated appreciated the platform to get in front of their customers; it was an valuable way for them to talk about what their customers can expect upon re-opening and most importantly, it gave everyone a sense that we are all in this together and collectively, Cannon Falls will survive this!

A link to the video can be seen here:

CEDA awarded $50,000 from the MN Disaster Recovery Fund for Coronavirus

Article by: Courtney Bergey Swanson

The MN Council on Foundations recently awarded CEDA a $50,000 grant to provide free technical assistance to nonprofit organizations in rural MN. While CEDA staff are continuing to work hard for businesses, there are also mounting needs from nonprofits in our communities, such as Chambers of Commerce, museums, arts centers, food shelves, community festivals, churches, human service organizations, American Legions, golf courses, and many more.

“Nonprofit organizations are vital to the economic health and cultural identity of our rural communities,” said Courtney Bergey Swanson, CEDA Vice President of Development and Collaborative Services. “Our goal is to leverage these resources to provide rural nonprofits with technical assistance that will guide them towards innovative new ways to nimbly adapt, build capacity, and get creative with their assets.”

With this grant support, CEDA staff can provide technical assistance to nonprofits seeking support for financial management, navigating public programs, fundraising, business planning, and more. If your nonprofit organization is in need of assistance, please contact Courtney Bergey Swanson at [email protected].

Stewartville, MN Economic Development Authority Creates Cleaning and Safety Supply Program to Assist Businesses Amid COVID-19

The Stewartville, MN Economic Development (EDA) recently approved a new program to assist local businesses with necessary purchases of cleaning and safety supplies. The new and exciting program, which was drafted by CEDA team member Joya Stetson who serves as Stewartville’s Economic Development Director,  will provide up to $200 per business for items, materials and equipment needed to successfully and safely resume operations in a variety of industries. Eligible products must be purchased from businesses located in the City of Stewartville if possible and can include items purchased on or after May 18, 2020.

Stetson said that the idea for the creative form of assistance came from a local business owner—Chris Kujath of Old River Valley Antique Mall. “When Chris called me and shared this idea, I knew it was something we had to look into further,” said Stetson. “Stewartville’s EDA Board is working hard to find ways to assist businesses through these unprecedented times. Most of our business owners will be required to make changes based upon the current circumstances; this program can help with some of those unexpected expenses.” Additionally, the EDA had conducted an economic impact survey in May in which other businesses also identified the need for assistance with the purchase of cleaning supplies.

“The City is pleased to offer this program as a part of our economic development efforts,” said Mayor Jimmie-John King. “Our staff and boards consistently try to respond to challenges quickly and provide assistance where we are able.”

$10,000 was allocated for the initiation of this program, including a $500 donation from People’s Energy Cooperative, which will allow the EDA to assist at least 50 businesses. The program will open immediately and run through September 1, 2020 or until funds are depleted (whichever occurs first). To facilitate the process, Stewartville businesses are able to conveniently submit applications online through a short Google Form.