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.

CEDA Continues to Adapt to Provide Virtual Assistance

Article by: Zach Bubany

CEDA is very involved with its communities and business owners, especially during this COVID-19 crisis. Here are just a couple of recent examples to illustrate ways that our team is working hard to serve small communities and businesses virtually:

Emily Legel, a Community and Business Development Specialist at CEDA, is just one of many examples of how CEDA and its members are doing everything possible to assist communities and businesses during this challenging time. Legel serves Northwest Illinois Economic Development. She is helping communities and businesses through a virtual outreach initiative that includes virtual “coffee breaks” and webinars. These resources allow business owners to receive the latest updates and information on various subjects, some of which include but are not limited to: financial assistance programs, local funding tools, and changing guidelines on the COVID-19 crisis. Legel’s work is ensuring that communities and businesses have tools to plan and implement necessary actions to keep business operations running as smoothly as possible during this pandemic.

Mary Kennedy, CEDA’s Director of Training and Professional Development, is also a prime example of CEDA’s commitment to its businesses. Kennedy sent out a survey to as many businesses as she could in Blue Earth, MN to better understand the economic impacts of COVID-19 and how her community could best take effective action. “We just wanted to get a feeling for how they were doing and if they needed assistance” Kennedy said. Some questions on the survey included, but were not limited to: [What are] the top factors that have impacted your operations?, and do you feel that you have access to information you need regarding programs from the federal and state government? From the responses, Kennedy learned that she should focus on helping businesses combat the effects of COVID-19 through grant writing, loan applications, strategic planning, and more.

Many other CEDA members took Kennedy’s survey and used it in their own communities to get a feel of their businesses’ status and needs.

SCSC & CEDA Work Together to Connect Businesses and Schools

Article by: Emily Davis

CEDA and the South Central Service Coop have teamed up to bring a Community Workforce Coordinator to serve the Blue Earth Area and United South Central school districts.

Emily Davis has joined the CEDA team at the end of April to fill the role. Her task will be to establish and grow relationships between the school districts and area businesses to provide students unique learning opportunities and more hands-on experiences. Davis will be working with the CTE (Career and Technical Education) teachers at each school to establish the best practices to utilize relationships for career exploration for the students. “I am excited to be in this new role and help students discover careers that they are passionate about,” Davis said. “I am also excited to see all of the creative ideas that will come out of the partnerships that already are established or that will be established.”

Career exploration has been a top priority for both districts, and by partnering with CEDA, the districts have committed to giving students more opportunities for not only career exploration but also different learning experiences that may not have otherwise been provided.

CEDA Helps Preston, MN Launch New Assistance Program in Collaboration with Community Businesses and Organizations

Article by: Cathy Enerson

In response to the shut down and slow down of local businesses, on April 6, 2020, the Preston Economic Development Authority (EDA) announced their COVID-19 Emergency Economic Development Loan Program.  According to CEDA team member Cathy Enerson, serving as the Preston EDA Director, “the loans will be used to provide assistance directly to small local businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic event. The up to $3,000 loan is intended to be interim financial aid to help keep businesses operating and a part of the tax base once the pandemic is over”.  The loan terms provide for 0% interest and repayment over five years. Loan payments are paid by the lender directly to the tax assessor or utility providers.  These payments sunset December of 2020. Applicant loan repayments begin January 2021.   In an effort to enhance the program and to help businesses located within the City of Preston, the Preston Area Community Foundation (PACF) and F & M Community Bank (F & M) together added $10,000 to the $30,000 loan program fund for a total loan fund of $40,000.  Those dollars are to be used by the EDA to forgive 25% of the loan which a business takes out through the loan program.  For example, if a business borrows the maximum $3,000, they will only need to pay back $2,250 of that.

Funding for the loan program was supported by a grant to the Preston Area Community Foundation in the amount of $5,000 from the Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation (SMIF).  Mary Schwarz, the current chair of the PACF board, said, “We saw the need in the community as well as the opportunity to support the community by partnering with SMIF to provide some funds for the EDA loan program.  It’s times like this when a local foundation like PACF can make a meaningful impact.”

When Dan Christianson, CEO of F & M learned about the loan program and the grant through PACF’s, he decided F&M could help as well.  “Supporting the Preston business community and PACF is something we’ve made a priority for many years”, stated Christianson.  “So we decided we would contribute $3,300 to the EDA fund to help with the forgiveness portion of the loan program.  In addition, we will make a donation to PACF in the amount of $1,700 to cover their portion of the program.  This will allow the PACF to maintain their fund balances for future opportunities like this.”

The EDA has received seven applications for the Local Emergency Loan.  Additional loan funds are still available on a first come, first served basis.

CEDA Helps Secure Grant Funding for Emergency Costs Related COVID-19 in Harmony, MN

Article by: Chris Giesen

The Harmony Ambulance Service was able to secure $22,594 from the Minnesota Department of Health through its COVID-19 Health Care Response Grant program with the help of CEDA vice president Chris Giesen, who is the CEDA team member assigned to Harmony.  This program was 100% grant, without a match requirement, and will provide the Harmony Ambulance Service with the ability to purchase additional personal protection equipment (PPE) and provide hazard pay to volunteer crew members to help compensate for the additional work, training, and risk associated with responding to emergencies during the COVID-19 pandemic. Giesen assisted ambulance director Eileen Schansberg with completing the application. With detailed information on department needs from the ambulance director, we were able to put this application together pretty quickly.  Harmony also received their award notice pretty quickly, too. Volunteer emergency response crews are doing more now than ever so being able to help them get additional compensation and making sure they are well equipped with PPE- well, it was a good feeling to be able to help Harmony’s first responders.

Mantorville, MN Receives Festival Support for Stagecoach Days From CEDA-Authored SEMAC Grant

Article by: Abby Wright

Every year, the community of Historic Mantorville, MN celebrates its heritage as a Western, Victorian frontier town and Minnesota’s history as the 32nd state in the United States and the first to volunteer troops for the Union cause in the Civil War. Stagecoach Days, a two-day event, offers interactive games and activities for residents and visitors of all ages, in addition to contests, an array of vendors and refreshments, and free, live performances by Minnesota-grown artists, musicians, actors/re-enactors, and story-tellers.

In April, CEDA Community Grant Specialist, Abby Wright, authored a successful Southeastern Minnesota Arts Council (SEMAC) Small Towns/Rural Areas grant to help fund Stagecoach Days 2020, which was to debut a fiddle contest, rides in an authentic stagecoach, and Teddy Roosevelt actors and props.

Stagecoach Days is one of Mantorville’s largest annual events and community efforts. The festival is well-attended at an estimated 1,200 people over the two days, and the new additions will keep Stagecoach Days fun and fresh.

The $1,380 SEMAC award follows a $470 micro-grant award from the Minnesota State Fiddlers Association (MSFA), which Wright authored in February on behalf of the Mantorville Stagecoach Days Committee. The MSFA grant will fund about half of the total cost of the fiddle contest.

Stagecoach Days 2020 has been cancelled, but both SEMAC and the MSFA are retaining the grant awards for the next Stagecoach Days, which will take place the last weekend in June 2021.

CEDA Team in Cresco, IA Assists in Delivering Over 800 masks to Employees in the Community

Article by: Howard County Business and Tourism

While states and counties continue to prepare to reopen or start the reopening process, we understand businesses and customers want to take small steps to ensure everyone’s safety.  That’s why CEDA’s team at Howard County Business & Tourism teamed up with the City of Cresco, IA to do just that!  In an effort to outfit the Cresco businesses, namely retail and restaurants, uniform looking masks were created using two local businesses and a multitude of sewing volunteers with the words “Cresco Cares” printed on top.

“We wanted to be pro-active as we encourage customers and visitors to come to Howard County”, noted CEDA team member, Jason Passmore. “Partnering with the City of Cresco, we’ve handed out over 800 Cresco Cares masks to employees.” Cresco businesses want you to feel safe while shopping, and that’s what the Cresco Cares effort is all about.

A second opportunity presented itself during the mask making process, and that was when Fareway stepped to the plate, and through a simple grant application, donated $3,000 in gift cards to Cresco Chamber businesses.  CEDA staff at HCBT and the Cresco Chamber then had the honor to deliver both masks and $50 gift cards to local businesses, assisting in a small way to the COVID-19 recovery.