Stewartville, MN Receives $9,000 SMIF Grant for New Business Incubation Program

Article by: Joya Stetson

The Stewartville, MN Economic Development (EDA) was recently notified that they have been awarded a $9,000 Incentive Grant from the Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation (SMIF).  Joya Stetson, the CEDA team member serving the City of Stewartville, successfully authored the grant for the implementation of a new business incubation program that the City’s EDA is launching this summer.

The new and exciting program will encourage the creation and support of new for-profit businesses that contribute to a sustainable and diverse business climate within the City’s business/commercial districts. The program will provide business owners with CEDA coordinated education and tools to promote long-term success while filling currently vacant commercial properties in Stewartville.  Although the EDA will not have a central incubation space, the provision of rental assistance over 18 months is expected to aid startup success rates.

New businesses leasing eligible, vacant properties may receive rental assistance at a decreasing rate for 18 months in accordance with the following scale: Months 1-6: 50% subsidy or $830/month max; Months 7-12: 33% subsidy or $560/month max; Months 13-18: 17% subsidy or $275/month max.

A series of entrepreneurial educational classes will be mandated for participants and will be open for existing businesses to attend as desired free of charge. The following 90-minute courses will be mandatory for participants in the program: Business Planning and Financial Projections (Prerequisite), Market Research, Pricing and Inventory, Marketing Strategies, Customer Service and Business Etiquette, Online Marketing, Websites and Social Media, Basic Bookkeeping, and Legal Considerations for Small Businesses. All courses will be coordinated by CEDA Senior Vice President and Small Business Development Center Counselor Cris Gastner.

Businesses accepted into the program will also be required to participate in quarterly meetings with open financials and to deliver a public presentation after one year outlining challenges, achievements, and plans for future sustainability.

The generous grant from SMIF will allow the City to fully commence the program and leverage resources to maximize benefits to the businesses and the community as a whole.

“[The City] is pleased to offer this tool as a part of our economic development efforts,” said Mayor Jimmie-John King. “We understand how difficult the first year of business can be, and are hopeful that the assistance being offered here will be advantageous for new businesses locating to our community.”

CEDA Welcomes Kasson, MN and Goodhue, MN

CEDA is happy to announce that the team will now be serving the City of Kasson, MN and the City of Goodhue, MN as a part of the organization’s Community Support Program.

CEDA Community and Business Development Specialist Rebecca Charles began work in Kasson in May.  “Kasson is a great community that prioritizes quality of life for its businesses and residents,” Charles stated. “I feel lucky to be a part of the research, planning and program administration that will lead to even more success for the City!”

The City of Goodhue, MN will begin its contract with CEDA this June.  CEDA Community and Business Development Specialist Donna Mack will be leading the organization’s efforts there.  “We’re really looking forward to working with the City of Goodhue,” said CEDA Senior Vice President Cris Gastner. “The community has so many exciting opportunities on the horizon; I cannot wait to see the progress we will make together!”

We look forward to working with both communities for the duration of 2017 and beyond!

Spring Grove Pilot Program Reflects on a Successful Year

Article by: Courtney Bergey

The City of Spring Grove recently extended its contract with CEDA to continue the Spring Grove Pilot Program, which began in July 2016. This new model vastly increased the City’s investment in economic development, moving from a one-day-per-week contract to four days a week. The program utilizes a team of CEDA staff working both in the community and remotely.

In the past year of the Pilot Program, the City of Spring Grove, MN (pop. 1,300) has seen visible improvements in the community. An 80-slot, state-of-the-art daycare opened last fall, five businesses have moved into the downtown district, and the EDA recently received an award letter for a $417,000 BDPI grant. The grant funds will be used to extend sewer to the undeveloped industrial park where the iconic local business Spring Grove Soda Pop plans to build a new 25,000 sq ft facility. 

“Our investment in CEDA has laid the groundwork for many exciting projects in Spring Grove, and we are excited to continue our partnership,” said Mayor Sarah Schroeder. “Many of these advancements would not have been possible without CEDA’s work in the community.”

Long-Time CEDA Project, JEM Movie Theatre, Welcomes New Ownership

Article by: Chris Giesen

In February, ownership of Harmony’s JEM Movie Theatre changed hands.  Amber and Dana Coaty, along with their four children are now the proud owners of this Main Street Harmony attraction.  One of the only single-screen family-owned movie theaters in the country, the Coaty’s purchased the business from Michelle Haugerud who operated the theater for 14 years with the help of her family.

The future wasn’t always as exciting for the JEM; in 2011, Hollywood’s switch to digital projection almost closed the only theater in Fillmore County for good.  When the industry announced that it would be only distributing new films in a digital hard drive format in the near future, it left the Haugeruds in a difficult position.  A digital projector would cost upwards of $70,000 to $100,000 and at ticket prices of only a few dollars for adults and one screen, a new digital project wasn’t feasible for the JEM.

CEDA Vice President Chris Giesen, who serves the City of Harmony worked with the Haugeruds to explore several avenues of low-interest loans and grant programs, but nothing would work for this unique situation.  After several dead ends with traditional programs, Giesen called Cris Gastner, CEDA Senior Vice President, who had worked with Harmony for several years prior to Giesen, to brainstorm.  In the meantime, several local efforts to fundraise for the projector began, including dedicating that year’s 4th of July celebration to the theater effort.  Together, Giesen and Gastner started to connect the dots.  “Several buckets of money began to appear locally but none of them on their own would make the project work”  Giesen said.  “We had an offer for a very large donation and no-interest loan from the local community organization the Trust for a Better Harmony, but the group hadn’t been active.  Because the Trust wasn’t active, we needed to find an organization to be a conduit for the money.  We felt CEDA would be a perfect fit.”

“This was a perfect example of how CEDA is willing to get creative, where others can’t, to get projects done” said CEDA Senior Vice President Cris Gastner.

CEDA took on the role of fiscal agent, which was a 10-year commitment, for the grant and loan from the Trust for a Better Harmony.  Ultimately, the JEM found a slightly used digital projector that cost less than one which was brand new and the community donated enough to cover the additional costs and repay the Trust’s loan in full within the first year.  CEDA was happy to process the transfer paperwork to make the sale in 2017 to the Coaty’s a seamless transition.  The CEDA team and Board of Directors wish all the best to the Coaty’s as they start their business adventure!

CEDA Kicks Off Government Relations Program in 2017

Article by: Chris Giesen

As a part of its expanded marketing program, in 2017 CEDA initiated a more formal government relations program headed by CEDA Vice President Chris Giesen.  The goal of this new outreach program is not to “lobby” government officials on specific programs or to try to influence legislation but to educate our government leaders in a nonpartisan manner on economic and community development issues and their impact/potential impact on communities that CEDA serves.

“We want to develop better long-term relationships at all levels of government,” Giesen said.  “We want to raise awareness and increase the visibility of our CEDA communities, provide expert advice in the field of economic development to our government leaders, and be able to utilize the relationships we build to the benefit of our communities when a project, issue, or disaster needs additional government assistance.”  Giesen continued, “we have been meeting with legislators for several years to talk about economic development but we wanted to grow our effort.”

Every year, CEDA will meet with state legislators that represent all of CEDA’s communities in Minnesota, Iowa, and Wisconsin.  Earlier this month, CEDA President/CEO Ron Zeigler and Giesen met with 9 of the 10 federal legislators that represent CEDA communities in their Washington, DC offices.  A highlight of this visit was our meeting with Senator Joni Ernst (Iowa) where we discussed housing and workforce needs.  She agreed that we need to have flexible tools that will work in our rural communities.  A week later, at the Howard County Business and Tourism annual meeting in Cresco, Iowa, Senator Ernst was the featured speaker and in her speech, she thanked Zeigler and Giesen for visiting her to discuss those important issues and that she appreciates the work that we are doing.

CEDA looks forward to growing these relationships for our communities and will keep you posted on our meetings and conversations!

CEDA Awarded $60,000 from Otto Bremer Trust

Article by: Ron Zeigler

Community and Economic Development Associates (CEDA) recently authored and was approved for a grant in the amount of $60,000 from the Otto Bremer Trust (OBT)! This grant will assist our organization with the general operating support necessary to provide quality, affordable economic and community development services for rural communities in Southeastern Minnesota.

CEDA’s Mission truly aligns with the Trust’s commitment to building vibrant communities and moving those communities forward in noticeable and powerful ways. 

“The receipt of this grant was exciting news for CEDA!  The confidence the Otto Bremer Trustees have in us is greatly appreciated” states CEDA CEO/President Ron Zeigler.  “CEDA constantly works toward the betterment of the rural areas of Southeastern Minnesota.  These dollars will allow us to continue and expand the great work that our team is providing for the sustainability of the region.”

People’s Energy Cooperative Helps Sponsor Minnesota Design Team Visit to Eyota, MN

Article by: Courtney Bergey

In spring 2016, the Minnesota Design Team visited Eyota to provide innovative ideas for future community and economic development. The visit, which was organized by CEDA team member Cathy Enerson, was sponsored in part by People’s Energy Cooperative with a $1,800 economic development grant in partnership with Dairyland Power.

It has been a year since the Design Team visit, and there is still positive momentum surrounding it; several ideas highlighted during the visit have been brought to fruition, including a Retail Gap Analysis and an outdoor film series. People’s Energy Cooperative continues to support these community initiatives and recently awarded a $1,000 Operation Round Up grant to the City of Eyota for their film series.

In 2016, over $100,000 in grants were made to nonprofit organizations and schools through Operation Round Up, a remarkable program made possible by PEC members “rounding up” to the nearest dollar on their monthly energy bills. In addition to grants, PEC also has grants available for economic development projects and a revolving loan fund to support new or expanding businesses in its service territory.

Nonprofits, municipalities, and businesses in PEC’s service territory are invited to contact CEDA team member Courtney Bergey to learn more.

Stewartville, MN Fire Department Receives $55,000 Otto Bremer Trust Grant for Stand-By Generator

CEDA team member Joya Stetson, who serves the City of Stewartville, MN, worked closely with City Finance Director Barb Neubauer and Fire Chief Vance Swisher in successfully authoring a $55,000 Otto Bremer Trust grant for the purchase a new 100kW 120/208V, 3 phase 600 amp service stand-by generator.

This generator will have the capacity to power the entire fire station in addition to the response services that are especially necessary during inclement weather and power outages. Because of the new generator, the City’s fire station will be able to effectively operate as an emergency center for the entire area served by the Department.  This service area consists of the City of Stewartville, the City of Racine and the townships of High Forest, Racine, Sumner, Rock Dell and Pleasant Grove.  In total, the Department serves nearly 10,000 residents.

“We are so grateful for the grant from the Otto Bremer Trust!” Swisher said, “Without the funding, this important project would not have been able to go forward in 2017.” The project, which is estimated to cost over $60,000, will provide a growing number of residents and businesses reassurance during power outages and crises.

The City’s Fire Department anticipates that the generator will be installed and operational in spring of 2017.

Spring Valley Hosts Presentation from U of M Extension

Article by: Cathy Enerson

CEDA Community and Economic Development Specialist Cathy Enerson recently organized a presentation by Liz Templin of the University of Minnesota Extension to the Spring Valley EDA, the local chamber, tourism board, and area community members on a comprehensive retail gap analysis for the community. In addition to the presentation, the community meeting allowed local organizations to provide updates on their most recent activities.

The purpose of the retail gap analysis is to explore the health of retail sales in the community, identify trends, threats and opportunities for businesses with the focus on Spring Valley and its customer base of 13,371 area residents. The presentation highlighted information on customers, which included demographics, commuting patterns and lifestyles. The information can be used for future business plans, local expansions, and new business start-ups. “I will tell you, I have done this presentation in other communities and it doesn’t look this good in a lot of communities,” Templin commented. “I think you can feel, from my perspective, proud of the diversity and mixes that you have here.”

EDA President Dave Phillips stated that “the EDA provides many tools for attracting and retaining businesses in the community and these tools have led to things such as the downtown revitalization, the expansion and retention of businesses, succession planning, new housing, an important tool we can provide is information”. Dave indicated that “in 2016 the EDA completed two child care surveys, showing that there was a need for more options in Spring Valley and that has led to a joint venture that may bring a center here if everything falls into place.”

CEDA and LeRoy, MN EDA Improve Transportation Options for the Community

Article by: Axel Gumbel and Sherry Hines

The LeRoy Economic Development Authority (EDA) is boldly going where not many small town EDAs may have gone before – by launching a public bus service.

The service launched on December 1, 2016 and consists of one trip daily (morning/evening) to and from Rochester with stops in Grand Meadow, at Saint Mary’s Hospital, downtown Rochester and Walmart south (if needed).

What triggered the EDA to get into the bus business was the discontinuation of a long-standing LeRoy/Grand Meadow route in November of 2014. A group of Mayo Clinic employees then organized a van pool through a rented Enterprise passenger van. This van pool also was discontinued in September of 2015. That’s when the LeRoy EDA began discussions on how to bring back a public bus service with all members agreeing that a public transit connection to southeast Minnesota’s economic hub was vital to the continued appeal and survival of LeRoy.

Initially, EDA board members, LeRoy City Clerk, and CEDA staff member Sherry Hines attempted to work with existing bus companies to re-establish the LeRoy/Grand Meadow route, but it quickly became evident that such a route is not attractive or easily profitable for any larger bus company. That’s when EDA members and staff began entertaining the seemingly impossible idea of purchasing their own bus and operating the service.

As luck would have it, one of the companies the EDA and Hines met with, Minnesota Coaches, supported this effort, in part because the company owner had family ties to LeRoy and very much liked the idea of supporting their old hometown. Minnesota Coaches also had a used 31-passenger bus for sale. After EDA members traveled to the Twin Cities to inspect the bus, developed possible budget scenarios and explored the necessary local support structure for maintenance, drivers, etc., the group decided to take the plunge and purchased the bus.

A whirlwind of activity then took place in November 2016, when the EDA developed promotional materials (flyers, website, Facebook site) and a schedule, hired drivers and set a name and budget for the new service. LeRoy City Lines went into service at 6:30 a.m. on December 1, 2016.

Another crucial factor for the success of this new service was Mayo Clinic’s decision to support LeRoy City Lines passengers (who are Mayo employees) with an up to $80 bus pass subsidy per month. The success of LeRoy City Lines will depend greatly on Mayo employees using the service. However, since the EDA owns the bus and employs the drivers, the group also is offering the bus for charter trips during the day or on weekends and wants to promote this opportunity around the region.

Three months into the new service, the response has been very positive.