CEDA Staff Presents Project Updates to High School Students in Blue Earth, MN

Article by: Mary Kennedy

Ninth grade Human Geography students at Blue Earth Area Schools (BEAS) had a chance last month to learn about some of the exciting projects going on in their community when CEDA team member, Mary Kennedy was invited into their classroom to speak about local economic development.

Mary, who serves as both the City of Blue Earth, MN and Faribault County, MN EDA Specialist, was able to provide unique insight into local economic development efforts including a new housing development, two new business parks, and an exciting downtown redevelopment project. Mary was provided with the unit’s four (4) learning outcomes and was able to use those to guide her presentation to the students. Topics included: 1) acquiring, processing, and reporting information within a spatial context, 2) Geographic Inquiry, 3) distinguishing between physical and human characteristics that identify places, 4) identify, organize, and analyze areas of the earth’s surface.

The students were engaged, interested, and had thoughtful questions, while also providing useful feedback about what they feel is needed in the community and what they would like to see and do in the future.

Mary was able to walk the students through an activity using a Geographic Information System (GIS) tool. A favorite moment for both Mary and the students was when the class was able to see how GIS is often used to identify places, acquire information, process data, and create maps.

It was a great experience and great information was shared by both the presenter and the students!

Dodge County EDA to Launch a Business Resource Blog!

Article by: Stephanie Lawson

Every year the Dodge County, MN Economic Development Authority has hosted a summit on a topic that aligns with the priorities set forth by the board.  This year, due to a rapidly changing business environment, the board felt that it was imperative to address the challenges County businesses are faced with, providing the tools, strategies and best practices needed to be successful.  To ensure that the potential summit’s format was the most effective, CEDA team member Stephanie Lawson, who serves Dodge County, put together a survey to gauge interest of those in the business community.

Though survey responses were limited, they revealed that businesses had interest in the education opportunity that the County was looking to offer, however a summit setting was not one that they were seeking.  With this information the board went back to work looking for an alternative, one that would eliminate barriers, allowing entrepreneurs and business owners access to these tools without the need of being present.  Their solution, a blog!  Offering high-quality monthly content postings on various business related topics, the blog will allow viewers access to additional resources and implementation ideas from the luxury of their home or business office.

The blog, managed by Lawson, is anticipated to go live after the first of the year!


CEDA Team Member Helping to Incubate Childcare Business in Mabel, MN

Article by: Bryce Lange

In the City of Mabel, MN, there is a new building standing tall near the steam engine grounds. In early 2018, the Mabel EDA and the City of Mabel awarded a bid to Tollefson Construction, a local contractor, to construct the city’s first business incubator building. The purpose of the incubator building will be to help Mabel’s startup businesses test the market by leasing the building, before committing to buying or building their own building in the City. The incubator will also assist businesses that have good ideas, but a lack of financial backing.

The City of Mabel recognized the opportunities that exist within their City, and decided to play a proactive role in business development. Projects like these are very capital intensive, however, Bryce Lange, the CEDA team member in Mabel, was able to facilitate discussions and partnerships with both the Mabel Telephone Cooperative and MiEnergy Cooperative for bond financing that offered lower interest rates than the private market could, which ultimately helped the project cashflow.

The building was finished and ready for use on September 17th, 2018. The first tenant is Nisse Treehouse, a current childcare provider in Spring Grove, MN. Darcy Thorson, the owner, has stated that she has had numerous families interested in sending their kids to the facility in Mabel, long before the building was even completed. The incubator building, for childcare purposes, will be able to accommodate approximately 60 children.

Many Mabel residents believe that the incubator’s first tenant couldn’t have been a better fit for the community. Lange stated, “in most greater Minnesota cities, finding daycare providers is one of the largest challenges. Having a daycare facility or not, could mean the difference between a young family moving to one city or another.” Recognizing this challenge, the City of Mabel hopes to keep the ball rolling in terms of development and hopes to ramp up interest in housing developments and other business development in the area.

CEDA and Partners Share Progress on Southeastern Minnesota Economic Study

Article by: Chris Giesen

It hasn’t been any secret that there has been a lot of development excitement in southeast Minnesota the past few years. In 2017, the State of Minnesota appropriated $275,000 to CEDA to study the effects of the growth potential that is projected throughout the region.

This project was spurred by the Southeastern Minnesota League of Municipalities (SEMLM) member cities who were wondering what the anticipated growth meant for them. Rather than each city paying for its own economic forecast or simply going without the proper planning tools, the cities tasked SEMLM with pursuing a state funded study that would fully examine economies from a local and regional perspective across eight counties in southeastern Minnesota.

More specifically the study would analyze the: (1) current and projected economic, fiscal, and demographic effects and issues; (2) direct and indirect costs and benefits; (3) positive and negative effects, including effects upon workforce, taxation, and transportation; and (4) economic challenges and opportunities for economic growth or diversification.  Because SEMLM, administratively, is a small organization with limited resources to dedicate to such a project, they brought on CEDA to help manage the project and act as the fiscal agent.  CEO/President Ron Zeigler and Vice President Chris Giesen have been assisting SEMLM Executive Director Brenda Johnson with this unique and important project.


After a search that drew interest from local, national, and international firms, CEDA and SEMLM hired the consulting group HR&A Advisors, Inc. to be the lead consultants on the project in December 2017.  Officially, the project kicked-off in January 2018 and is projected to conclude in the fall of 2018.  A final report is due to the Minnesota Legislature in February 2019.


On August 15, 2018 about 75 representatives from cities, counties, regional and community-focused organizations gathered at the Chatfield Center for the Arts Historic Potter Auditorium in Chatfield, Minnesota to listen and provide input on the draft report.  Attendees reviewed high level findings of existing economic forecasts which are thought to be too conservative and do not include new project initiatives in the region such as Destination Medical Center (DMC) or the sharp growth in our region’s tourism industry and the study’s preliminary, updated economic forecasts.


Ultimately the project is creating an updated forecast model focused specifically on the eight county region by utilizing existing data and conservative forecasts as well as information gathered from 26 participating cities and all eight of the region’s counties during a series of focus groups, phone, and email interviews.  Additional focus groups and interviews were held with representatives from regional organizations such as CEDA, Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation, Southeast Minnesota Together, Journey to Growth, Rochester Area Economic Development, Inc., and development organizations from the La Crosse, Wisconsin area.  This updated model will generate detailed economic data at a county level which can then be translated to the local municipal level to estimate growth, population, jobs, housing, and much more.


In addition, participants reviewed the results of several specific initiatives that were tested using this new forecast model which looked at “what-if” scenarios.  The specific initiatives included housing, migration/immigration, child care, transportation, tourism, manufacturing, and agriculture.  Participants reviewed what could be possible “if” different goals were set or unmet and “what” the opportunities or consequences might be.


In the afternoon a smaller group of participants listened to representatives from the software company that is providing the forecasting model for this project and discussed potential uses of this software and model moving into the future locally, after the study is complete.   There are some 6,000 potential variables that can be tapped to study our region and how it works together or how different initiatives can multiply and have a ripple effect across southeastern Minnesota.


The final report and data sets will be available free of charge to all cities to utilize once the final project is complete.

CEDA Team Member in Cold Spring, MN is Collaborating to Create Resume and Interview Skills Course

Article by: Reva Mische

The City of Cold Spring’s Economic Development Authority (CSEDA), in partnership with the ROCORI School District’s Community Education Department and the Cold Spring Chamber of Commerce, put together a Resume and Interview Skills Course to be offered on October 9th.  CEDA team member Reva Mische who serves the City of Cold Spring proposed and helped design this course which will discuss what to include in a resume and cover letter, how to prepare for an interview, and what to do once the interview is over. In an effort to strengthen the area workforce, this event will reach a demographic that may not otherwise have access to these offerings. There will be childcare available and the School District’s Cultural Liaisons will be available to offer assistance to Spanish-speaking attendees. Chamber President Kathy Faust, Branch Manager of the Central Minnesota Credit Union, has volunteered to lead the presentation/discussion, and Chamber volunteers will be available to help with resume help/questions after the course.

Strengthening collaboration and partnerships with are organizations has been a priority of the CSEDA’s since bringing CEDA and Mische onboard. Mische hopes this will be just the beginning of an offering like this, and is impressed with the momentum she has gained through partnering with the Cold Spring Chamber of Commerce and ROCORI School District.

CEDA Helps Fillmore County, MN EDA Organize New Business After Hours Series

Article by: Marty Walsh

The Fillmore County Economic Development Authority (EDA) held their first Business After Hours event at the new Beaver Bottom Saloon in Fountain, MN on July 24th. The event was an opportunity for businesses and community developers from communities across the County to network and engage with others, with the ultimate goal of deepening the connection of the EDA to a broad base of businesses.

CEDA team member Marty Walsh, who serves the Fillmore County EDA, worked to identify a central location in the county in a community without an existing business networking organization, which would also be likely to attract a wide range of people for a first time event. The ability to support a brand new business in the county, Beaver Bottom Saloon was an added benefit and attraction. The initial invite list was primarily derived from existing partners and contacts in the community, with the intent to provide a good base for a regular, quarterly program to grow from.
In the long term, the objective of the Business After Hours event will be to highlight businesses in the smaller communities of the county, build networks between businesses that may otherwise be separated by geography, and create a pipeline for EDA projects, both those that emerge from the community and need help, or those that come in the form of state or regional programs seeking participants. Anyone interested in joining the next Fillmore County After Hours event should e-mail Marty Walsh at [email protected] and ask to be placed on the Business After Hours mailing list.

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.”