CEDA Helps Kasson, MN to Offer New Business Facade Improvement Program

Article by: Stephanie Lawson

The work of business retention and attraction is critical to the local economy in Kasson,MN driving growth for the local tax base and expanding the employment opportunities, services, and amenities that residents depend on and desire.  With aspirations to bring new opportunities, businesses and economic vibrancy to the community the Kasson Economic Development Authority (EDA) is working to grow the local economy from within by promoting entrepreneurship and small business development through the establishment of a Business Facade Improvement Program.

The Program, with guidelines authored by CEDA team member Stephanie Lawson, has been established to encourage and support business owners who are interested in restoring their existing properties; ultimately enhancing and improving the visual aesthetics of the community.  When authoring the guidelines Lawson, along with her Board, reviewed similar programs offered by other CEDA communities, taking those concepts and tailoring them to fit the City of Kasson’s businesses and their growing needs.

“With an anticipated $20,000.00 designation for 2019 we [the City and EDA] are pleased to offer this tool as a part of our economic development efforts,” said Councilperson Dan Eggler.  “We are confident that the assistance being offered here will be advantageous for our existing businesses.”

The program is set to launch after the first of the year!

Completed Southeastern Minnesota Economic Study Released

Article by: Chris Giesen

On October 9th, 2018 the Southeastern Minnesota League of Municipalities (SEMLM) and CEDA released a study with an updated economic forecast for southeast Minnesota which included options for several major policy shifts to accommodate population and employment growth over the next 25 years. Among the policy options and recommendations are zoning changes to support greater housing production, expanded transportation networks, a regional tourism strategy, immigrant support resources, and programs to increase access to childcare – all designed to grow the region’s economic development potential.

The study – the first of its kind in the region – forecasts long-range population, employment, and economic activity in the entire Southeastern Minnesota region, on a county-by-county basis. The region, comprised of Dodge, Fillmore, Goodhue, Houston, Mower, Olmsted, Wabasha, and Winona counties, encompasses 77 municipalities, with more than 368,000 residents and 190,000 employees.

“If you want to manage growth effectively, you have to have that information,” says Brenda Johnson, Executive Director of SEMLM.

The SEMLM asked CEDA to assist with the project by acting as a fiscal agent, project administration, and technical expertise.  In 2017, the legislature appropriating $275,000 to CEDA.  SEMLM and CEDA then solicited consulting firms in a search that drew international interest that could provide the expertise and tools to make this project happen.  Receiving proposals for 9 firms, CEDA assisted in the proposal review and ultimate selection of the consultant group HR&A Advisors, Inc. of New York.  Working closely with SEMLM and HR&A throughout the course of the project CEDA also completed all of the required state paperwork and reporting that is tied to legislative appropriations such as this.

“CEDA is very proud to have partnered with the Southeast Minnesota League of Municipalities on this important project for this Region.  Not very often does an opportunity come along to complete the in-depth research that the Legislature authorized to be analyzed.  The Legislature saw the vision that this information can provide. This information will be a valuable resource for municipalities and counties, regardless of size, to help guide their future decision-making processes.  We look forward to continuing to make SE Minnesota a great place to live, work, recreate and do business!” said CEDA President/CEO Ron Zeigler.

“Southeast Minnesota is lucky to have the leadership of SEMLM.  Their members saw a need for this study and will be able to utilize this information in their local and regional planning efforts.   This type of project has never been done before in our region but in order to plan wisely for growth, especially with all of the current economic activity, access to data is critical” added CEDA Vice President Chris Giesen who along with Zeigler made up the CEDA project team.

Among the study’s key findings and related recommendations are:

The population of Southeastern Minnesota is projected to grow by more than 50,000 over the next 25 years. To support this population growth, the region will require an additional 14,000 housing units above the current pace of housing production. A combination of policy changes – including allowing for accessory dwelling units and more density in key downtowns – can be enacted at the municipal-, county-, or state-levels to meet this need. Local officials will determine which solutions make sense for their communities, allowing each community to determine their own course of action.

Regional employment is forecasted to grow by 44,000 by 2040. With 10,000 existing unfilled jobs, the study proposes a series of initiatives to support the region’s existing and growing employment base. By expanding regional transit improvements, there is an opportunity to better match people to jobs throughout Southeastern Minnesota, connecting residential areas to job centers and distributing residential growth throughout the region. The study also proposes that increased access to childcare can improve access to jobs. Entities throughout the region can support the development and operation of childcare centers, and employers can be encouraged to offer services to support families with children. Finally, by supporting the region’s growing immigrant population, which grew from 4.2% in 2009 to 6.4% in 2016, the region can increase labor supply and opportunities for innovation. Southeastern Minnesota can continue to support international migrants with the formalization of existing immigrant services.

Tourism is growing in the region. Supplementing specific employment growth opportunities, the study considers additional initiatives and economic development circumstances facing the region. Given Minnesota’s growing tourism industry, with annual sales at tourism-related businesses growing by 41% between 2005 and 2015, and the strength of the industry in the region, supporting more than 16,000 jobs today, the study proposes that Southeastern Minnesota develop a regional tourism strategy to grow economic opportunities in the industry.

The region’s high health care premiums, relative to elsewhere in the state, may have economic development implications, impacting the region’s ability to competitively attract and retain businesses. The study also reflects on shifting trends in the region’s major industries, including agriculture and manufacturing. By solving for other challenges facing the region described above, however, the study postulates that the region can solve for these challenges.

The full study and data outputs can be found on the SEMLM’s website at www.semlm.org.

$375,000 CEDA-Authored Minnesota Investment Fund Award Received by Chatfield, MN for EZ Fabricating Expansion

Article by: Chris Giesen

The City of Chatfield, MN was recently notified that their application to the DEED Minnesota Investment Fund was fully awarded in support of an expansion of a local manufacturer, EZ Fabricating.  The award will grant $375,000 to Chatfield to then lend to EZ Fabricating with very favorable terms which will allow the business to add approximately 10,000 square feet of manufacturing space and create 17 new full time jobs at an average wage of $19.06.  CEDA team member Chris Giesen who serves the City of Chatfield was able to successfully author this application which gives the business a 1% fixed interest rate on a 15 year loan, and if the job and wage goals are met, $255,000 of loan will be forgiven by the state.

“This was exciting news; we’re so happy to see EZ Fabricating continue to grow especially because they do a lot of work for other businesses in our CEDA communities” said Giesen. “We had to really hustle on this application because the business had a client that was willing to give them significant new business but only if EZ Fabricating could meet their production goals, which required adding on to their building, right now.  The Company needed to start construction before winter or risk losing this new business.” He added “these applications can be very complex with a lot of moving parts, and can take a considerable amount of time to complete.  However, we were able to work with the business owners to get the required application materials together, hold the necessary public hearings, make all the approvals, and submit a full application in about two and half weeks. DEED was also very helpful in answering questions, coordinating the process, and even sped up their normal review process for us so that we could keep the owner on track to start building.”

In addition to the state program the City of Chatfield also approved a $25,000 loan to EZ Fabricating with a 1% fixed rate for a 10 year term.  This expansion is the second expansion CEDA assisted EZ Fabricating with, in 2013, Giesen assisted the business with a major expansion that resulted in several additional grant awards to assist the business as it built a new facility in Chatfield.  In this previous expansion, the Company met its job and wage goals within two months of finishing their expansion instead of the two years they were allowed.  For its help on the 2013 project, CEDA was nominated by partner F&M Community Bank and received a 2nd place “Strong Community” award from the Federal Home Loan Bank of Des Moines.

CEDA Team Member Helps Cold Spring, MN Revamp Revolving Loan Fund

Article by: Reva Mische

At their September meeting, the City of Cold Spring’s Economic Development Authority (CSEDA) approved updated guidelines and application documents for their Revolving Loan Fund! These documents and their corresponding research were completed by CEDA team member Reva Mische with an important review and editing process by City Administrator Brigid Murphy and the EDA.

After months of research and review, Mische and the CSEDA are happy to get the word out to area businesses. While the purpose of the Revolving Loan Fund remains unchanged, the revamped guidelines and application documents are intended to be more “user friendly” to encourage new and existing businesses to take advantage of the Fund. These updates come after years without applications for Revolving Loan Fund dollars.

Mische notes the importance of knowing about the source of the Revolving Loan Fund as these funds can have different sources. With this comes a set of reporting requirements unique to the funding source. For Cold Spring, their Revolving Loan Fund originated from a Federal Minnesota Investment Fund (MIF) grant. Once the EDA understood what requirements were tied to the Loan dollars, they were able to align the rest of their guidelines with their mission. The mission of the CSEDA is to ensure the sustainability and viability of the community and to maximize community assets. With revamped guidelines and a more “user friendly” process, the CSEDA looks forward to furthering this mission through reinvestment using the Revolving Loan Fund.

Since the adoption of the updated materials, the CSEDA has welcomed inquiries and applications—and they look forward to these translating into new and expanded business for the City.

“The City is now receiving applications requesting funds for new start-up businesses and requests for funds to make upgrades to current businesses in Cold Spring,” said CSEDA and City Council member Gary Theisen. “We look forward to working with our new applicants and expect more will now apply.”

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.