CEDA Helps Two New Main Street Businesses in Harmony, MN

Article by: Chris Giesen

Two businesses are new on Harmony’s Main Street – Homespun Harmony and The Falcon’s Nest.  Both businesses were helped by CEDA Vice President, Chris Giesen, who has assisted the City of Harmony since 2009.  Homespun Harmony, a yarn arts supply store looks forward to being a gathering place for knitting, high-end yarn arts supplies, and community is the dream of Marsha LaFreniere.  Working with CEDA and the Harmony EDA, Giesen was able to help with business planning and securing a $7,700 EDA loan to assist with a building purchase.  The Falcon’s Nest, a fresh take on a longtime Harmony favorite restaurant is the culmination of the dream of the Osnager family – Emily, Shannon, and sons will be cooking causal eats and treats to locals and visitors starting in May 2019.  Giesen also assisted the owners by helping secure a $25,000 EDA loan to help renovate an existing restaurant before it reopens.

Giesen stated, “It’s great to be able to help business owners who are passionate about their community and being able to provide a service to others.  It’s especially fun to see the amount of interest there is to invest in Harmony.”

CEDA Assists Farmers in Trying New Things On And Off Their Farms

Article by: Allison Wagner and Courtney Bergey Swanson

In 2019, CEDA team members Courtney Bergey Swanson with Spring Grove EDA and Allison Wagner with Houston County EDA are collaborating with the University of Minnesota Extension and Workforce Development Inc. in an effort to help local farmers who are looking to try something new either on or off their farms. Agriculture is a major economic driver in rural communities, and many farmers have expressed challenging business conditions in recent years.

Along with their partners, Swanson and Wagner organized a farmer round table event that was held at Rockfilter Distillery in Spring Grove, MN on March 26. The event was well attended by both farmers and experts in the agricultural field. The goal of the event was to let farmers know what resources are available to them, and also to get feedback on things they could use help with on or off their farms. The event featured a brainstorming activity, a survey to gather feedback, and a tour of the distillery.

More information on this initiative can be found here: https://houstoncountymn.com/agriculture/.

CEDA Team Member is Working to Promote Access to Healthy Food in Winnebago, MN

Article by: Mary Kennedy

CEDA representative Annie Leibel has been working with the City of Winnebago, MN and the Faribault County Food Partnership to bring a new program to area youth this summer.

The Power of Produce (PoP) program is a farmers market incentive program offered to children ages 4-12. Children receive a token worth $2.00 to spend on fresh produce at the farmer’s market, and the vendors are then reimbursed for their sale. This program aims to increase family participation in local farmers markets, increase vendor revenue, and build healthier communities. The Faribault County Food Partnership group is made up of stakeholders from around the county that are interested in making healthy food options more accessible.

After a brainstorming session, Leibel was quick to recommend Winnebago as the site for the 2019 PoP program, due to the Economic Development Authority (EDA) and the community’s interest in maintaining and supporting a successful and community-driven farmers market.

St. Charles, MN Receives $10,000 CEDA-Authored Minnesota Twins Grant

Article by: Mary Kennedy
The baseball fields at City Park in St. Charles, Minnesota will be undergoing some exciting changes starting this summer. CEDA team member Cris Gastner authored and was awarded $10,000 from the Minnesota Twins Fields for Kids program. These funds will assist the City in their efforts to improve accessibility throughout the complex.
The full scope of the project includes improving handicap accessibility in the seating area, increasing accessibility to the ballfield from the parking lot, and controlling stormwater runoff by fixing ruts in the walkways. Funding projects of this scope and size can be difficult for small communities, so receiving grants like those offered by the Minnesota Twins is extremely helpful.
“We are really excited about this project because by making it less of a challenge to get on the field, people with physical disabilities still get to be involved in baseball and softball. Also, visitors and community members with mobility challenges will be able to sit with the rest of their friends and family and we hope that enhances the overall experience for everyone,”
said Gastner.

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.