Stewartville, MN High School Seniors Learn About Business Planning with CEDA/EDA Guidance

The Stewartville, MN EDA regularly works with the local high school economics classes, and this semester they are providing a whole new project for the students. CEDA team member Joya Stetson worked with Stewartville High School economics instructor Sue Grant in designing an assignment that would teach the students about the time and considerations that go into a business plan for a new start up.  In addition, students were taught about the Journey to Growth (J2G) Venture SE MN Diversification Loan Fund which was proposed in the Minnesota legislature to create a $25 Million revolving loan fund to assist eligible businesses with low interest loans.

Stetson produced an outline that asked the students to come up with a business plan for a company that could potentially utilize the Venture SE MN Diversification Loan Fund dollars to create new industry in a currently vacant building or on vacant land in the City of Stewartville. In order to complete the assignment effectively, CEDA Senior Vice President Cris Gastner first shared his business planning knowledge with the students. Gastner spoke to the classes about important components of business plans such as product/service description, market research, advertising, financial projections, future plans and more. “It was very encouraging to see the level of interest from the students” Gastner said. “They were highly engaged and had thoughtful questions. Their final projects will certainly be impressive!”

Stetson and City Administrator Schimmel spent another day with the students to act as consultants, providing them with advice and insight that will help their projects be even more successful. “I believe this project offers students the opportunity to get a feel for what starting a business looks like. The information that they were given is based on actual discussions with new business owners” Stetson shared. “Furthermore, the assignment is teaching students about how legislation can affect you and your community on the local level.”

Students will present their final projects in-class on April 15, and some students may choose to present their business plans to the EDA at its regular meeting on April 16!

CEDA Team Members Author New Housing Program in Northeast Iowa

Article by: Spiff Slifka

CEDA team members serving Howard County Business and Tourism in Cresco, IA recently authored a new program to promote access to well-maintained, safe and affordable housing. The Residential Home Removal Program allows cities, counties, and housing non-profit organizations within the Northeast Iowa Housing Trust Fund area to apply for grants up to $5,000 per home to assist with nuisance housing issues. The CEDA team members developed the program based upon feedback from local communities and recent housing studies.

Since 2010, the five-county partnership that makes up the Northeast Iowa Housing Trust Fund has contributed over $3.2M to improving the housing stock in that region and promoting regional cooperation in providing assistance for individual housing needs. With this new program in place, cities will have grant funds as they continue to find ways to remove nuisance homes and utilize these in-fill lots towards building new housing opportunities.

CEDA is Helping to Promote Outdoor Recreation in Fillmore County

Article by: Marty Walsh
CEDA team member Marty Walsh helped the Fillmore County EDA to host their annual Economic Development Summit at Eagle Bluff Leaning Center on March 29th. The event included seven speakers detailing the impacts of Outdoor Recreation on the tourism economy and quality of life in the county. Over 75 attendees from all corners of the county and beyond saw presentations from a wide variety of partners including the County Attorney presenting on the legal challenges of Outdoor Recreation, a local non-profit which built a private trail that brings regional tourists, the National Trout Center, Explore Minnesota, and Go Advntr (a start-up based in the region bringing a new customer engagement model to adventure based businesses).
The Event also was the launch of the new Comprehensive Recreation Map Web App which combines the recreational assets of the county with State, Local and Non-profit recreation assets in a  groundbreaking tool for planning and business development. The Map concept, which was proposed by Walsh, was developed over a year of partnership between the Fillmore County EDA and Saint Mary’s University GeoSpatial Services utilizing data from the Department of Natural Resources, County GIS Program, the National Trout Center, Local Cities and other organizations. It will be used as a promotional tool for local tourism businesses as well as a planning tool for tourism and residents alike seeking to access Fillmore Counties great outdoors. To check out the newly launched Recreation Map, CLICK HERE!

Congratulations to CEDA Director of Grants, Michelle Vrieze, As She Retires After 25 Years!

A Note From Our President/CEO, Ron Zeigler:

Oh behalf of the CEDA Board of Directors and team members, I want to extend a very deep, heartfelt thank you to Michelle Vrieze.  Michelle will be retiring from full-time CEDA work at the end of February.  Michelle will stay on with CEDA into the early Fall for one day per week to finish a project – that speaks volumes to who Michelle is.

Michelle started with CEDA on February 14, 1994.  In our profession, three years in a position seems to be the going average of tenure nowadays.  25 years is a rarity!  Over these years, Michelle has authored numerous grant applications which have resulted in many individual projects in many of the communities in Southeast Minnesota.  As an example, just over the past handful of years, Michelle has authored grant applications that have been approved that have provided for renovation/improvements for 77 commercial projects, 170 housing projects and two waste water treatment plants.  The impact that she has had on Rural America is phenomenal and we thank her for that.

Through these projects, Michelle has created a very impressive reputation across the state as an expert in the field.  The relationship that she has created with the DEED staff is very good.  We will miss this base of knowledge.

For the past six months, Michelle has been working with Allison Wagner to become the Small Cities Development Block Grant expert for CEDA and it is a definite help that Michelle will be with us in a limited capacity for a few more months.

We are so thankful for Michelle Vrieze for a job well done.  She has made a huge difference in so many lives in our Region!  We wish you the best in your well-deserved retirement!

To honor Michelle, we would like you to join us for a reception in her honor on Friday, April 12, 2019 from 1 to 4 p.m. at II Luigi Restaurant at 100 West Jessie Street, Rushford, Minnesota.

CEDA-Authored Articles Help Share Stories of Local Businesses in Stewartville, MN

In 2018, CEDA team member Joya Stetson conducted research on community opinions which she compiled into a comprehensive document that summarized the findings of a survey instrument and various focus groups in the City. While the Economic Development Authority (EDA) has begun several projects identified from the research, one project has become incredibly popular.

Some of the feedback from students at the Stewartville Middle School and Stewartville High School indicated that residents were very interested in knowing more about the local businesses that exist in their community. Not only were they excited to learn about some of the fascinating industries that are present in their home town, but they were also hoping to understand more about the businesses’ histories, owners, etc. Because the EDA already delivers a business appreciation award to a different business each month, Stetson decided that the award could be expanded upon to offer some of this valuable information. 

CEDA Community Grant Specialist Abby Wright, who has a background in journalism, has begun writing short pieces about the selected business appreciation award recipients each month.

“Abby meets with the businesses and ensures that the articles, while brief, offer a profound look at some the extraordinary people that make our community successful,” Stetson noted. “Even after working in the community for over four years, I have been enlightened and inspired by the information in these well-crafted stories!”  

The stories are published on the City’s social media outlets and in its monthly newsletter distribution.  They have received unprecedented engagement with hundreds of likes, comments and shares. 

You can check out Wright’s most recent articles on A+ Nails and Alterations, Steve’s Auto and Truck Repair and Root River Dental now!

CEDA Team Member is Helping to Attract Businesses to Blue Earth, MN with Billboards on I-90

Article by: Mary Kennedy

CEDA representative Mary Kennedy has been working with Fairway Outdoor Advertising to bring a billboard marketing campaign proposal to the Blue Earth, MN Economic Development Authority (EDA). This marketing campaign is geared towards selling the two remaining lots in the City’s Golden Spike Business Park.

The Business Park is currently home to BENCO Electric Cooperative and Kibble Equipment, but Kennedy and the Blue Earth EDA are working hard to bring them a couple of new neighbors. The Golden Spike Business Park is located at the intersection of Interstate 90 and State Highway 169, meaning that it is a highly visible and well-traveled location, thus sparking the interest in billboard advertising to promote lot sales.

Kennedy’s proposal was approved at the Board’s February meeting, and the EDA is anxious to see the billboards standing on Interstate 90 THIS spring.

“Not only will these advertisements promote our business park, but they will bring about exposure to the entire community,” said Kennedy.

Frazee, MN promotes city & local businesses through community brochure

Article by: Reva Van Vleet

In 2018, the Frazee, MN EDA worked diligently to promote and support local businesses through events, business input surveys, and social media campaigns. As a continuation of these efforts, this year CEDA team member Reva Van Vleet proposed a project that would include collaboration with the Frazee-Vergas Forum to put together a brochure highlighting the Frazee community and local businesses. Van Vleet and the EDA leveraged social media, direct business outreach activities, and the partnership with the Frazee-Vergas Forum to reach out to interested businesses.

At $35 per business or organization, the Frazee community brochure is a cost-effective, collaborative way to promote the city and local businesses. Each business has a spot to feature a photo or logo, contact information, and a short description of their business. From a boutique to a grocery store, the brochure includes a wide range of Frazee’s community and business offerings. Included in the brochure is a map with each business plotted on the map to serve as another dynamic way to highlight the community. This 11 x 17 tri-fold brochure will also highlight community amenities and events and will be used as an area tourism map featured at local travel stops and online.

CEDA Team Members Use Small Cities Development Program Grant to Inject $933,835.75 into Commercial and Rental Properties in Preston, MN

Article by: Cathy Enerson

CEDA Director of Grants, Michelle Vrieze, has wrapped up the Small Cities Development Program Block Grant (SCBG/SCDP) two year grant period in Preston, MN. Vrieze worked closely with CEDA team member Cathy Enerson who serves the Preston EDA.  Vrieze and Enerson helped the community to inject nearly a million dollars into the existing commercial and rental housing stock in eight blocks of Preston, a city with 1,350 residents. CEDA’s grant team reported that Preston closed out the SCBG/SCDP grant in December 2018; the grant funds were used to rehab fifteen (15) commercial projects using $288,000 in grant money, along with the use of EDA loan funds and private dollars. In addition to the fifteen (15) commercial buildings, thirty-three  (33) rental units were rehabbed using $252,000 in grant money, along with Greater MN Housing funds and private dollars. The total investment of all funds was $933,835.75.  

The Greater MN Housing loan funds played a significant role in improving a fourteen (14) unit apartment building that changed ownership due to the purchaser’s ability to qualify for grant funds for a significant rehabilitation project.  The Preston EDA will continue to administer its EDA companion loans.

Jon B. DeVries , AICP, who serves on the Preston EDA stated“As a citizen and new member of the EDA Board, I can attest to the significant impact the SCBG/SCDP Grant and Greater MN Housing funds have had on the eight downtown commercial blocks surrounding the courthouse square.  New businesses are in place, multiple existing buildings are under renovation, and the downtown is being animated by residents moving into renovated apartments.

De Vries, along with other EDA board members toured the rehabbed eight blocks a few months ago. The success of the grant/loans along with a 2018 housing needs update which was updated by Enerson and a University of Minnesota Morris student has encouraged the EDA to form a Preston Housing Committee.  The committee is using EDA, Preston Community Foundation, and SMIF grant funds to stimulate new housing construction by creating content for a livability website tab to promote Preston. The initiative hopes to attract developers and development to accommodate anticipated employment growth. Anticipated growth will come in part from the proposed Veterans home, the DMC ripple effect and the need to make up from the currently unfilled housing needs.

I  found an extra benefit of using the SCDP block grant program,” Enerson said. “Unlike the revolving loan funds, we could use this tool to improve the community’s non profit buildings. Buildings like Preston’s DAC  (a building that houses the County’s disabled workforce) and Preston’s Serviceman’s Club were eligible.”

New Year, New Owner, New Name–CEDA Helps Blooming Prairie, MN Business Continue to Flourish

Article by: Stephanie Lawson

A Touch of Charm, located on the Main Street of Blooming Prairie, MN, has been a main stay since 1988 when it was opened by Leanne Hanson and two others.  Throughout the years the shop has seen change, but one thing has remained constant, Leanne’s ownership.  After 30 years of operation Leanne decided that it was time to work towards retirement.

In the Spring of 2018 Leanne met Jackie Reiter-Vorlicek, who at the time was an assistant principal looking to relocate from the Twin Cities to the Blooming Prairie Area with her husband.  When introduced, Jackie, who had dreamed of the day that she would operate a shop of her own, immediately took to the idea of one day following in Leanne’s footsteps.

Through hard work, research and community support that one day has come!  Over the past several months Jackie has worked diligently with Leanne, her lenders, and CEDA team member Stephanie Lawson to make her dream become a reality.  Utilizing Lawson’s expertise enabled Jackie to create a business plan and determine what it would take to make her vision successful.

In addition to utilizing Lawson’s business assistance services, the two worked together on a proposal to access additional funding through Blooming Prairie’s Economic Development Authority.  Through their efforts Jackie was able to access the remaining $23,000 that she needed to close the deal.

“It is our job [as an EDA] to do all that we can to ensure that our Main Street businesses are successful.  Having the ability to keep a piece of our towns history in its place, just with a new name, is exciting for us and we can’t wait to watch Jackie grow and flourish!” said Lawson.

Prairie Home held its grand opening, and is ready for a successful 2019!


Stewartville, MN Produces New CEDA-Created, Custom Postcards

The Stewartville, MN Economic Development Authority (EDA) recently reviewed postcard designs that reflect the community’s natural beauty in its impressive regional parks and desirable residential neighborhoods. The postcards, which were designed by CEDA team member Joya Stetson, will allow community members and visitors to share their experience in the City with friends and loved ones.

“Our goal is to spread excitement about and awareness of the community,” said Stetson. “Stewartville is a beautiful City; we want to continue to provide new means of showcasing how great of a place this is to live, work, visit or do business!”

So far, Stetson has created three (3) versions of the postcard—each of which features not only stunning photos, but also the City’s social media handles.  All options will be presented at the City’s booth at the upcoming Rochester Area Builders’ Home Show on February 8-10. In addition, a limited number of the postcards will be available for local businesses who would like to have them on hand to give to customers.

The postcards’ creation was the result of CEDA’s best practice visits that are conducted regularly by staff.  They are completed with the intention of learning from successful communities that are engaging in effective and creative initiatives.  On one such visit to Chippewa Falls, WI, CEDA staff learned about how the dissemination of marketing materials like postcards can offer exposure and encourage local collaboration.

Stewartville Mayor Jimmie-John King is enthusiastic about the new marketing idea. “Our EDA hopes they will increase awareness, but equally as importantly, further promote the type of internal community love that is so crucial for successful growth and development!” King expressed, “It was encouraging to know that they’re already being requested at City Hall!”