CEDA Team Member Creates Podcast to Educate Students About Workforce Opportunities

Article by: Emily Davis

COVID-19 created many challenges in life, including how to effectively educate students and expose them to different career opportunities while they were distance learning. CEDA’s Community Workforce Coordinator, Emily Davis, was tasked with creating a way to allow students to still explore careers while they were at home. That is when she created the Pick Your Path podcast.

The Pick Your Path podcast consists of short 10 to 12 minute episodes, each episode gives a glimpse into a different career and the education or experience needed for that position. The podcast allows students to learn about multiple different careers in a short amount of time, from any location that they want to access it from.

“I was trying to think of a way that students could still learn about different careers, while at home, and a podcast seemed to fit the bill,” Davis said, “I was excited that the episodes would be able to be utilized by all students during the summer as well as during the school year. I would love for this to be available to students for years to come!” She also said that she thought a podcast would be less intimidating when asking professionals to participate.

Davis publishes a podcast at least once a week, sometimes more.  She has published 6 so far and continues to schedule interviews across all career clusters. You can listen to the podcasts at the following link. https://anchor.fm/emily-davis09

Hayfield EDA receives $10,000 SMIF Grant to facilitate city’s new Healthy Hayfield Supply Reimbursement Grant Program

Article by: Rebecca Charles

The Hayfield Economic Development Authority was awarded a $10,000 grant from the Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation (SMIF) for the purpose of administrating the Healthy Hayfield Supply Reimbursement Grant Program.  The primary objective of the program is to provide the resources necessary to make doing business in the midst of the COVID-19 Pandemic safe for all existing Hayfield area businesses. Existing businesses will include both non-profit and for-profit businesses and organizations.  Businesses meeting project guidelines will be reimbursed for approved purchases related to the pandemic. In addition to assisting applicants, funds are also requested to be spent locally.

After hearing first-hand about the struggles many of our local businesses are facing, CEDA team member serving the Hayfield contract, Rebecca Charles started to look for ways to help.  Charles created the Healthy Hayfield Supply Reimbursement Grant Program with the intention to provide funding for area businesses to offset the costs of required PPE, cleaning supplies and equipment.  “This is a different time for all of us, but we have to keep small businesses going even with the extra costs for PPE and other supplies” says Charles.  “This program has the potential to help a number of businesses with those extra costs”.  It is never easy to find funds for local programming, so a search began.  The Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation has many great programs and partners who are committed helping the smaller communities in Minnesota. Charles wrote a grant application for the organization’s Small Town Grant to fund the program.  In addition, she authored and submitted a second application on behalf of Lanesboro for their Stay Safe Resource Grant Program.  Both projects were awarded, receiving $10,000 each.

Funding for the Healthy Hayfield Reimbursement Grant Program will be awarded on a first come, first served basis, following a review of applications by the EDA board.  It is the hope for both of these programs that a majority of these funds can be spent locally.

Harmony, MN Receives CEDA-Authored Grant for Ambulance Equipment

Article by: Chris Giesen
The City of Harmony was recently awarded a $21,500 Community Facilities grant by USDA Rural Development to purchase a new motorized cot and lift for its new ambulance.
“This is a great program to help in rural communities; we’ve been able to utilize this program many times for various public works and emergency management equipment needs in Harmony” said Chris Giesen, the CEDA team member who authored the grant application for Harmony.
The program can be used for a variety of public uses, both for equipment and construction/renovation of public buildings and has both a grant and loan element available, depending on the project.  Among other criteria, the community’s demographics is a major factor in determining whether or not it is eligible for the grant portion of the program.
“The total project cost was about $39,000 so, that equates to a 55% grant on this particular project.  In the past, we’ve been awarded even higher grant percentages,” Giesen continued.  “The USDA staff is always very helpful with our applications.  I would recommend that every community look at this program to see if they qualify.”

Kasson EDA Assists in Co-Working Space Development

Article by: Nicholas Ouellette

The Kasson EDA, along with CEDA team member Nicholas Ouellette serving the Kasson EDA, is working with the owners of the historic Dodge County Independent Building to explore options to create a co-working space in the Main Street building. The building owners, Ed and Tina Butler, hope a co-working center can provide space where local entrepreneurs can grow their businesses, network and promote economic growth within the City.

The building, currently home to the Dodge County Independent, can readily be divided into smaller offices and has high-speed internet throughout the building implemented to serve the paper’s needs. The Kasson EDA is currently surveying the community to determine demand for and opportunities to utilize co-working space. A survey is available online and has been sent out to businesses registered to residential addresses, where local entrepreneurs might be starting their businesses or looking to move into office space. While managing the survey, Kasson EDA Staff are investigating co-working space models to find a plan that best fits the available space and the community’s needs.

Overall, the Butler’s goal is to provide a location for business innovation in Kasson where entrepreneurs can create a sense of community. To stay up to date with this project, check back on the City of Kasson’s Facebook page.

CEDA Team Member helps Veterans realize their dream of a Memorial Park in Stewartville.

Article by: Heather Holmes

CEDA Team Member, Heather Holmes, Housing and Recreation Director for the City of Stewartville has been working with the Stewartville VFW Post 8980 and American Legion Post 164 to fundraise and build the Stewartville Veteran’s Memorial (SVM) Park on the south edge of the City. The project was a dream of Maurice Sinn, one of the original members of VFW Post 8980 and the last survivor of the original group.

“This has been an incredible honor to work with the group on moving this much anticipated project forward,” said Holmes, a veteran herself. “The City of Stewartville, Olmsted County, local businesses and citizens have been so generous. It is humbling to see the incredible support.”

The estimated total cost of the project is $300,000 and to date about $100,000 in cash and in-kind donations have been raised including a generous donation of $25,000 from an anonymous foundation which also offered a Matching Grant of $50,000 which will expire on December 31, 2020.

On July 21st, 2020, a $5,000 donation was presented to the SVM park committee by ONB bank at their newest location in Stewartville. Josh Buckmeier, ONB Vice President, states “when the “Rogers” presented to us early this year, we knew we wanted to contribute towards the Veterans Memorial Park. We are even more excited to learn our $5,000 contribution will turn into $10,000.”

Located on the southside of Stewartville on the west side of highway 63, The Memorial Park will provide a location for events and for visitors to honor local veterans. Work has already begun on the site. Grading has been completed and the underground electrical conduit is being installed. The next step will be the concrete work which includes new curbing off Highway 63 as well as sidewalks and picnic shelter base.

“This project is a huge undertaking,” says Roger Peterson, Stewartville American Legion Post 164 Commander. “But with the City’s support and Heather’s assistance along with the matching grant of $50,000, we hope to hit our goal and double every dollar received until the end of the year.”

CEDA assists new Dollar Fresh in Cresco, IA

Article by: Howard County Business And Tourism (CEDA Team)

Filling large empty buildings in rural communities is a challenge for many, especially if it is retail.  The CEDA contract in Howard County, IA was no different after Shopko closed its doors in the middle of 2019 at their location just outside of Cresco.  Many contacts were made and seeds planted to potentially occupy the vacant 33,000 sq. ft. building, and when Hy-Vee contacted the Howard County Business & Tourism office near the end of 2019, hope was looking more like reality.

Jason Passmore explained, “CEDA and Howard County Business & Tourism worked with Hy-Vee in late 2019 to move this project forward, with huge assistance from the Howard County Board of Supervisors and local lender Cresco Bank & Trust.”  The Cresco location is one of the first handful of stores to offer the new Dollar Fresh format that Hy-Vee is opening in various locations throughout the region.

Open seven days a week and employing over 30 workers, Cresco welcomed Dollar Fresh on June 26, 2020.  Dollar Fresh offers groceries, wine and spirits, clothing, shoes, fuel, ready-to-eat meals along with their aisles on-line format offering easy curbside pick-up.

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: https://youtu.be/MX7UUWMcI10

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.