CEDA Hosts Another Successful Regional Development Tour

Article by: Cris Gastner
On Thursday, August 2, CEDA hosted its 3rd annual Regional Development Tour (RDT) in partnership with Journey to Growth (J2G).
Each year, the RDT brings together a cross section of development stakeholders from around the region for an informational tour of a number of CEDA communities. This year’s tour stops included Minnesota communities of Elgin, Kasson and Hayfield with a pass through stop in Eyota. Over 50 participants packed the bus for this year’s tour!
On the tour, CEDA staff members and community representatives provided informational presentations on each of the communities. In addition, a boxed lunch was served by Tracie Schaber Catering in St. Charles along with beverages provided by Journey to Growth. New to the tour this year was a photo contest that gave participants the opportunity to win an exciting gift basket of items produced in CEDA communities for the best photo taken during the event and posted with the hashtag “#RDT2018.”
“We feel the RDT continues to be a great opportunity to provide first-hand information about our communities in a fun environment that promotes networking and relationship building.” Said CEDA President/CEO Ron Zeigler “When you combine learning and fun into an event like this, it makes it both memorable and effective.”

Coffee and Community: Frazee, MN EDA hosts Business Community Event

Article by: Reva Mische

Through their work with CEDA, the Frazee, MN Economic Development Authority (EDA) has had great success in connecting with their business community through Social Media that they wanted to take it one step further with the launch of Business Community Events. The EDA hosted a Coffee and Community event held on July 10th at The Palace Café in Frazee. This was a casual event, welcoming business members as they shared ideas for supporting and strengthening the business community. Topics for discussion ranged from providing a welcoming environment for new and existing businesses to visualizing ideas for the vacant lot downtown. Attendees included area business members, community organization leaders, City and EDA representatives, and the director of the Detroit Lakes Regional Chamber of Commerce. The power of collaborating was evident at this meeting, as attendees brainstormed, shared thoughts and concerns, and generated energy around area business and community initiatives.  One of these initiatives is a quarterly After Hours event, titled Community Unwind After 5. The idea for this event was inspired by discussions about how to continue fostering connections and collaborations among business community members. The kick-off event will be held on August 23rd, from 5-7PM, at the Harvest Fellowship Church and will feature a meet and greet with the new owners of the Frazee-Vergas Forum.


City of Lewiston, MN Hosts Land Owners Forum along with Completion of Housing Study

Article by: Rebecca Charles

The City of Lewiston, MN has been working with Widseth Smith & Nolting of Rochester on a Comprehensive Housing Study for the City.  The final study was delivered to Lewiston on May 31st, 2018.

CEDA team member Rebecca Charles worked with the Economic Development Authority (EDA)to host a Land Owner Forum in Lewiston on June 18th, 2018.  Landowners with property directly abutting current City boundaries were invited to attend the meeting to hear the results of the Comprehensive Housing Study, and discuss how the City and its landowners could work together to solve the housing crisis that the City is currently facing.  

“There was a lot of really interesting conversation that came out of this forum” Said Ms. Charles.  “We received some great leads for exciting new projects that we will be exploring closely.”

Ms. Charles and the City’s EDA applied for and were awarded a $2,500 grant from Compeer Financial that made the study possible.

Harmony Receives ~$1.75 Million to Extend Bike Trail

Article by: Chris Giesen

On May 30th, 2018 Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton signed into law a $1.5-billion-dollar public improvement bill which included two different provisions to extend the Harmony-Preston Valley trail about 6 miles from Harmony to Niagara Cave and the Iowa border.  This new trail segment, dubbed the Harmony Stateline Trail, received $1.5 million in traditional state “bonding” dollars and $235,000 from the Legislative-Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources (LCCMR) in the bill signed by Governor Dayton.

“$1.5 million will go to the DNR for general project expenses and the LCCMR money will come directly to the City of Harmony for land acquisition.” explained CEDA Vice President and Harmony EDA Coordinator Chris Giesen.  Giesen also authored and was awarded a grant from the Harmony Area Community Foundation of $15,000 to help as a match for the LCCMR funding. The City contributed $25,000 as well to fund the purchase of option contracts and some land to secure the trail corridor. The project will total $1.75 million for completion.

Volunteers serving on the City’s trail committee had been working on securing a route for this trail segment since 1989.   In 2014, the committee finally received the last landowner handshake agreement.  The EDA then funded the purchase of option contracts to hold the City’s right to buy the land needed for the route for a period of 4 years.  Giesen and City officials worked with the legislature and Governor to change the law to designate this route as a state trail.

Giesen assisted the City in applying for the LCCMR grant to fund property acquisition.  The LCCMR grant on its own would have allowed the City to at least secure and preserve the trail corridor in the event the main funding package from the state didn’t come through before the option contracts expired.

Giesen and the trail committee are already working with the DNR to move forward with planning and construction, although no firm timelines are in place yet.  When the trail is complete, it will serve as the connection between the Root River/Blufflands trail system in southeast Minnesota with the Northeast Iowa trail system creating a 115-mile network serving multiple cities.  CEDA team members Jason Passmore and Spiff Slifka who serve Howard County Business and Tourism are also working with the Harmony team while leading the effort to connect the Iowa portion of the network to Minnesota. The trail will also connect to Niagara Cave, Fillmore County’s busiest tourist attraction and the #2 cave in the nation as ranked by USA Today.

“We appreciate all of the support we got for this great project locally and across the region and state.” Giesen explained “It’s really because of the willingness of the land owners to help and the dedication of the volunteers throughout the years that we were in position to apply for funding to complete this exciting project.”

CEDA Communities Utilize Conceptual Renderings to Help with Business Attraction

Conceptual renderings are realistic simulations that can help demonstrate ideas or concepts. These renderings can aid communities in their advertisement and communication of development opportunities.  While the drawings are typically not business specific, the visual representation of the opportunity can be more impactful to some developers when evaluating how their structure might suit a business park or individual lot.  In addition, the renderings often display existing and planned infrastructure and neighboring businesses which are valuable considerations for developers and companies.

Some CEDA communities are utilizing this tool to strategically attract businesses.  The City of Stewartville, MN’s Economic Development Authority (EDA) recently worked with architecture and engineering firm Widseth Smith Nolting (WSN) to produce conceptual renderings that would depict a strip mall including a drive through entity in the City’s Schumann Business Park highway adjacent lots. CEDA team member Joya Stetson and City Finance Director Barb Neubauer met with WSN staff to discuss potential options for the business park’s future as it relates to amenities, features and priorities. Ultimately, the final design layout was based upon lot structures, traffic counts and community feedback. The EDA plans to share the drawings with potential businesses and developers to incite interest and showcase advantageous commercial development opportunities in the Park.

Kasson, MN also worked with WSN in the production of conceptual renderings that highlight the Kasson Commercial Park.  CEDA team member Rebecca Charles aided Kasson in formulating the image for the future of the Park. These drawings are a useful tool that the City expects to distribute and promote as a part of their business development efforts.

View the Stewartville Renderings HERE.

View the Kasson Renderings HERE.  

Stewartville, MN Completes Analysis of Community Engagement Research

In the establishment of their CEDA produced 2018 work plan, the Stewartville, MN Economic Development Authority (EDA) prioritized community engagement efforts.

CEDA team member Joya Stetson who serves the City drafted and distributed an electronic community survey which received an impressive 373 responses.  This survey was supplemented with an engagement event with middle school students, a project with the high school senior economics class, and direct outreach to the Center for Active Adults, a local social activity organization for senior citizens.

The EDA also held a community-wide round table input session which was organized by CEDA team member Stephanie Lawson to accumulate even more data on citizen thoughts and aspirations for the future.

Stetson collected and evaluated all survey and focus group responses to generate a comprehensive report which will be utilized by the EDA to ensure that programs and projects are consistent with community priorities.

“This report offers a thorough analysis of resident and business opinions about the community” Stetson noted. “The statistically significant data illustrates marketable assets as well as areas for improvement; ultimately, the results will allow our EDA to continue to make the City of Stewartville an even better place to live, work and do business.”

The final report expresses constructive documentation including but not limited to:

– Quality of life ratings

– Reasons for residing in the community

– Evaluation of individual amenities

– Citizen priorities for development

– Satisfaction with public communication efforts

Stetson will report quarterly on progress related to the aggregated data in order to ensure and communicate progress.

You can view the final report HERE!

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:  http://www.halconfurniture.com/ and http://www.geotekinc.com/careers.html

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 ottobremer.org.