Or read the report below
Or read the report below
By Joshua Schuetz
The City of Harmony’s tax initiative program for new housing has proven a smashing success over the past eight years, adding 19 units and more than $3 million to the local tax base. It’s a
success that has gotten the city attention from the Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg and other national and international news outlets.
CEDA team member Chris Giesen said the program started in 2014 to tackle a big problem:
“We did studies and they showed that we were on the wrong side of some trends,” Giesen said. “We were the oldest city in our part of southeast Minnesota and had the lowest income, too.” Giesen and the Harmony EDA got to work on the problem and developed a program to offer cash rebates of up to $12,000 on new construction requiring that each project create at least $125,000 in taxable value. Starting in 2023, the maximum rebate increased to $20,000.
So far, the program has proven wildly successful, attracting new residents and helping current residents living in starter homes move up into higher-level housing, which made the market more affordable for entry-level homebuyers. Most importantly, the program played a part in reversing Harmony’s demographic decline.
“The program has attracted new people to town and I would say half of rebate recipients we can trace back to people who weren’t living in town before,” Giesen said. “When we did the census, it showed two and a quarter percent growth, and we were one of only three cities in Fillmore County to grow, which was great.” Giesen said programs like Harmony’s show how CEDA’s collaborative approach can help communities tackle their biggest challenges.“It’s an example of being creative with what CEDA does, when we’re meeting the city where it’s at, we were able to help them figure out what made sense for them,” he said.
By Joshua Schuetz
Attracting new residents and creating more options for current residents is a cornerstone of housing policy in communities throughout Minnesota. In 2021, the City of Benson started conversations with developers about potential development in town. CEDA team member Hillary Tweed began talking with Cody and Sarah Nelson, co- owners of CS Nelson Properties, based in Sauk Center.
This January, five townhomes have opened up for new residents and more are on the way.”The site that this project went on was a site that was all but abandoned by a previous developer, so it sat with infrastructure in but with no progression for more than a decade,” Tweed said. “The city purchased that property, created a tax increment financing district and got the project going.”
A total of 13 townhomes containing 26 units will be built in Benson, all rented out at market rates. Construction on the first phase started last June and Nelson said while the doors have
just opened up on the first five townhomes, folks are already taking advantage of the opportunity.
“We’ve completed the builds and are moving people in, and I have no vacancies, they’re filling up as fast as I can get them done,” Nelson said.
Tweed said the demand for housing in Benson remains high and part of the project’s goal is to create much-needed flexibility in the city’s housing market.
“One of the main things we wanted to do was open up other housing options in Benson, so there may be people moving out of their homes who are looking for rental options like these townhomes,” she said.
Nelson praised CEDA and the City of Benson for their work in making the city a great place to live and work, saying that their advocacy and proactivity in developing the city made him and his
wife excited to invest and build in Benson.
“What Hillary and the leaders of Benson have done over the last three years is bringing in the important factors of a town: vitalization, housing and business,” Nelson said.
By Joshua Schuetz
From June to October 2022, the city of Spring Valley held a monthly block party event called “Wednesdays on Broadway.” The idea, born from a group of about 18 local business owners and community members, several of whom participated in Spring Valley’s Rural entrepreneurial Venture (REV) program, aimed to bring the people together, celebrate community, and have fun.
The “Wednesdays on Broadway” group formalized into the Spring Valley Business Alliance, a registered 501c6, and CEDA team member Chris Hahn and the Spring Valley EDA played a crucial role in helping the group establish a nonprofit status, and coordinating logistics and marketing for the event.
“My role as EDA director is really about community building by connecting people,” Hahn explained. “We have so many assets in this community, so it’s a focus on connecting people with different strengths.”
The first “Wednesdays on Broadway” event was held in June, with three more following in July, August and September. Hahn said local community groups were able to sign up for free, which helped churches and local nonprofits get the word out to potential members and donors. Local businesses benefited from a crowded Broadway Avenue, with food, vendors, live music, vendors and fun activities for families.
“It was important to make sure our local restaurants had the chance to participate, before we looked to bring in food trucks.” stated Hahn. “Some of our local café’s were hesitant at first, but ultimately, they sold out of food, and offered food specials for the remaining events. The only outside food vendor we had was the ice cream truck!.”
The response from the community was so positive that the Spring Valley Business Alliance gave “Wednesdays on Broadway” an encore in the fall. “In September, which was our biggest event, we had more than 70 vendors and we ran out of places to put them,” Hahn said. “People didn’t want it to stop, so the group added an extra event in October complete with fire pits and smores!.”
Registration for this year’s events plans to open in March, and will be on the Spring Valley EDA website. Those interested in registering can do so at the www.springvalleyeda.org.
By Joshua Schuetz
Small communities thrive on relationships-the close ties between people, often built over generations, that help move projects forward. Unfortunately, those relationships can be a snare when disagreements arise and a neutral third party is needed to help business owners, community members and municipal leaders find a path forward.
CEDA stepped up to the plate to address that challenge through its offering of civil mediation services. Regional Director Bryan Stading, who has provided civil mediation services to communities throughout Minnesota since 2008, now provides those services under the CEDA umbrella. Stading previously worked for The Regional Center for Entrepreneurial Facilitation before he joined the CEDA team.
Stading said civil mediation is a process whereby the mediator works with parties involved in a particular issue to set ground rules for discussion, identify opportunities for compromise and, crucially, give everyone at the table an equal voice in the discussion. While mediation services are typically sought due to conflict between parties, Stading said mediators assist with issues like succession planning, which is a major area of concern for small communities in Minnesota and elsewhere.
“Often, lenders, business partners and communities will seek it out when they feel there are financial risks involved,” Stading said. “In essence, the right time to bring in someone like me is when there’s a difference of opinion, because what we try to do is give everyone at the table a voice.”
Rural communities sometimes need mediators to assist with situations where different people or entities have differing or conflicting opinions on what their next steps should be. By offering civil mediation services, CEDA is continuing to help small communities access services that are difficult to source locally and promote economic development in rural Minnesota.
CEDA’s civil mediation services can be provided on a project or retainer basis, as well as within a package of other CEDA services. Clients may include banks, initiative foundations, business partnerships, community organizations and businesses looking at succession planning, among others.