Houston County, MN Career Fair Fosters Workforce Opportunities

Article by: Allison Wagner

The Houston County Economic Development Authority (EDA) and Workforce Development Inc. (WDI) partnered to host a free career fair for businesses and job seekers on February 12 at the La Crescent Area Event Center. CEDA’s Small Cities Development Program Specialist and Houston County EDA Director Allison Wagner worked with WDI to plan and market the event, which featured nearly 30 Houston County businesses. 

“We believed that hosting a County-wide career fair would be an excellent way to showcase many of our local businesses and attract job seekers to the area,” said Wagner. 

Student and adult job seekers from the County and surrounding areas, including Winona and LaCrosse Counties, met one-on-one with businesses to explore opportunities in finance, education, accounting, healthcare, manufacturing, customer service, construction, childcare, and more. 

Career seekers expressed that they were excited to see such an array of career opportunities represented. Businesses owners and affiliates said they enjoyed speaking to potential employees while also getting to meet and visit with other employers. Some exchanged career marketing strategies at the fair.

CEDA Team Helps Business Start Up in Spring Grove, MN

Article by: Courtney Bergey Swanson and Rebecca Charles

The Spring Grove Economic Development Authority, led by CEDA team members Courtney Bergey Swanson and Rebecca Charles, recently provided business coaching and $15,000 in gap financing to help local entrepreneur Jenn Gulbranson start a new business on Main Street. Jenn had been operating her salon business just outside of town, but had always wanted to start a boutique as well. When the opportunity came for her to move her business to a space downtown, she and her husband jumped at the opportunity to make it their own, uncovering historic brick walls and investing in modern finishes to accommodate an expanded salon and new boutique. The project leveraged $120,000 in local investment.

They recently held the grand opening of West Main Boutique and Stratford Salon, partnering with local businesses RockFilter Distillery and Capra Nera Creamery to sample locally-made bourbon and artisan goat cheese at the event.

CEDA-Authored Grant Awards Nearly $582,000 to Rehab 23 Homes in Hayfield, MN

Article by: Allison Wagner and Ron Zeigler

The City of Hayfield has been awarded a $581,900 Small Cities Development Program (SCDP) Grant from the Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED). The grant was authored by CEDA’s Small Cities Development Program Specialist, Allison Wagner.

“The process of applying for DEED’s SCDP program can take nearly a year”, Wagner says. “It involves working with the City to identify a target area, surveying the area to determine the level of need, and submitting a preliminary application. Then, cities must be invited to submit a full application. Once a city is awarded, CEDA conducts an environmental review before grant money can be used.” 

Last month, CEDA began disbursing grant funds for the City of Hayfield. Abby Wright, CEDA Community Grants Specialist, and Wagner are working to disburse the funds to 23 households over the next two years. Disbursement includes meeting with homeowners to determine eligibility, walking though homes in order to determine needs, writing work write-ups for contractors, getting State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) approval, coordinating and attending pre-construction meetings, doing inspections, and reporting to DEED. 

CEDA has been applying for and disbursing SCDP grants for over 30 years. SCDP funds, which are 100% forgivable for homeowners who stay in their home for seven years from the project start date, are used by low-to-median income home owners to fix health and concerns inside the home, as well as major aesthetics on the exterior of their homes. Funds are commonly used to repair worn and leaking roofs, torn away siding, missing or dysfunctional gutters and railings, peeling paint, and to address lead hazards.

CEDA Completes commercial rent study in Itasca County, MN

Article by: Sarah Carling
CEDA team member, Sarah Carling, who serves the Itasca County Economic Development Corporation, recently produced and presented the results of the Itasca County Commercial Rent Study she conducted. Overall, 739 surveys were sent to commercial property owners with 196 survey responses received. This produced a 26.5% response rate.
Many of the outcomes showed that Itasca County is competitive in price per square foot with other neighboring counties. For example, St. Louis county is $12.07 avg price/sqft where Itasca County is $10.92 avg price/sqft.  Itasca County is focused on promoting the vacant commercial buildings and lots as they are cross promoted on both local and regional sites.

CEDA Helps Blue Earth REV Team Host Business Tour Day

CEDA representative, Mary Kennedy led efforts to organize a Business Tour Day for all 9th and 10th grade students at Blue Earth Area High School on February 4th. The event, which was the second of three scheduled events for the school year aimed to connect students with local professionals to showcase the job and career opportunities available in the Blue Earth area. 30 businesses from around the school district participated, offering 30-minute tours. The students, who were organized into 14 different groups each toured seven businesses and had lunch catered. “My favorite part of the day was talking to several students who had asked for job applications at tour stops,” Kennedy said. The events are being planned and organized by the Rural Entrepreneurial Venture (REV) group. The goal of the program, which includes one more career event this school year, more than 40 businesses, and all students in grades 9 and 10 is to show students that there are job opportunities in a variety of industries and that the community supports whatever path students choose after high school; whether that be entering the workforce, taking classes at a technical school, or pursuing a 4-year college degree. Whatever path they choose, REV hopes that the program this program provides a platform for relationship building, and offers information for the students to make educated decisions about their futures, and hopefully brings them back to work or open businesses someday. “I can’t say enough about the support the business community offered through this event. Operations were stopped for hours to provide students an inside glimpse at the behind the scenes work of career areas they have expressed interest in. When so many people come together to share the passion they have for their jobs and the community they work in, amazing things happen.” Kennedy shared.

CEDA Team Member Organizes Agriculture Summit in Fillmore County, MN

Article by: Chris Hahn

The Fillmore County Economic Development Authority (EDA) will host an Agriculture Summit at Eagle Bluff Environmental Learning Center on March 26th.  This year’s schedule includes presentations on Agricultural Entrepreneurship, Emotional Wellness for Agriculture Families, Succession Planning for Agriculture Business, Investment in Specialty Crops, and Value-Added Agriculture Processes, among others.

“We believe it is important to offer an event that engages ag-based businesses and families in Fillmore County and the neighboring communities, offers resources, and provides real-world examples of success in new and evolving business practices,” said Chris Hahn,CEDA representative and EDA Director for Fillmore County.

Agriculture remains the primary economic driver in Fillmore County. The 2017 Census of Agriculture counted over 1400 farms in the Fillmore County, contributing around $291 million in agricultural products sold. Approximately 32% of all farms represent operations less than 50 acres in size.  With more than 375,500 acres dedicated to agriculture in Fillmore County, innovation and process improvements remain a critical piece to the continued success of the agriculture industry, and offer new opportunities and challenges for agriculture-based businesses.

Karen Reisner, President of the Fillmore County EDA, states that “agriculture is one of the two greatest economic drivers in Fillmore County, and it influences almost every aspect of our daily lives. Farmers support many businesses in the county, state, and country. Today’s farming umbrella covers a diverse group of small and large farming operations.”

The Fillmore County Economic Development Authority is inviting agriculture families, businesses, and the general public to attend the Fillmore County Agriculture Summit at Eagle Bluff Environmental Learning Center located at 28097 Goodview Dr., Lanesboro, MN 55949 on March 26th at 8:30 AM to 1:30 PM.  A continental breakfast and snacks will be provided.  Sessions will run approximately 25 minutes, with additional contacts, information, and resources on topics to be provided by presenters to take home.

This is a free event; however, pre-registration is requested to estimate the number of attendees. To pre-register, please go to https://fillmorecountyagsummit2020.eventbrite.com.

For more information about the Fillmore County Agriculture Summit, please contact Chris Hahn, Fillmore County EDA Director at 612-327-9729, or via email at [email protected]

 

CEDA-authored grant helps AcenTek bring high-speed internet to thousands of people in Southeast MN 

Article by: Abby Wright

On Tuesday, January 21, Minnesota Governor Tim Walz announced that the MN Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED), in its fifth year of the Border-to-Border Broadband Grant Program, shall award 30 of 80 broadband project requests submitted last September from around the State, totaling $23,270,933 in funded projects. The largest awarded request at $2,895,318—with a total project cost of $9,651,059—was authored by CEDA Community Grant Specialist, Abby Wright, on behalf of one of CEDA’s longstanding partners, AcenTek, a communications company that provides internet, voice, and video services to 33 communities throughout MN, IA, and MI. Located in the City of Houston, MN, AcenTek sought to expand its fiber-to-the-home infrastructure to make high-speed broadband accessible beyond the City limits, where, for the people who live and work there, lack of dependable, affordable, remote communications often necessitates long commutes in addition to other major inconveniences.

“The project clearly aligns with the ‘B2B’ program,” Wright says, “It’s going to make so many people’s lives better.” Over 200 residents, farmers, and business owners in the project area expressed in letters of support that high-speed internet will allow them and their family members to bank and manage their healthcare online, telework, stream videos, and conduct faster research for homework, jobs, or to self-educate. As a result of AcenTek’s construction of infrastructure for fiber optic internet in the project area, about 485 unserved and 424 underserved locations in Houston and Winona Counties will see improved broadband service levels that exceed the 2022 and 2026 State speed goals. 

Chief Financial Officer of AcenTek, Darren Moser, who led the project, says, “These residences, businesses, and farms will get state-of-the-art facilities and services for years to come.” 

Cris Gastner, CEDA’s Senior Vice President, oversaw the project on CEDA’s end. The photo below depicts Gastner representing CEDA and introducing AcenTek at a public hearing, which over 35 people attended, including Wright and Allison Wagner, EDA Director of Houston County and the Small Cities Development Program Specialist at CEDA. The Houston County EDA Board had just voted to support the project with a three-year, interest-free loan to AcenTek. The loan combined with AcenTek’s own investment equated to a 70% match of the total eligible project cost, though AcenTek will not see a financial return on investment for at least 13-15 years.

Moser says, “Without the public-private partnership with the State of MN and the Office of Broadband Development, this project could not happen, and we could not have been successful without CEDA and our other partners in the application, Houston County and the engineering firm, Cooperative Network Services. We are grateful for CEDA’s professionalism and attention to detail in putting this application together.”

Photo courtesy of John Tabbert, AcenTek

NW Illinois Economic Development Launches Its Largest-Ever Small Business Course 

Article by: Emily Legel

NW Illinois Economic Development (NWILED) launched its largest-ever Build It Grow It class in January.  The CEDA team member serving the NWILED contract, Emily Legel, organized the event from finding locations, registering attendees, doing publicity, speaking about the event at area business meetings and door to door discussions.  Over thirty-two individuals from twenty-five businesses attended sessions in Galena and Fulton, Illinois, learning about the Growth Wheel and different types of financing for their business. With participating industries ranging from retail and hospitality to fitness and non-profit, attendees range from a newly created start-up to more established companies from Galena and every life cycle stage in between.  

Thanks to generous donations from NW Illinois businesses and communities, area businesses are able to learn about topics from organization and employee issues to networking and sales to differentiating themselves in their market. A weekly marketing email and private Facebook community are also included with the course. Attendees also get the option of free one-on-one counseling sessions with Brian McIntyre, a certified business appraiser and licensed business counselor, a value of over $900 per session, and the course will end with a pitch competition where participants can win $1000 for an expansion effort.

“NWILED exists to help businesses in NW Illinois grow. When we had to move the Galena location due to an outpouring of interest, I knew we were getting somewhere. In the past 6 months alone, I’ve seen the program grow and develop, and based on the turnout we saw in January, I have no doubt we’re on the right track,” stated Legel.

This is the sixth time this program has been offered, with several alumni crediting the course with their success. One returning business owner mentioned a dramatic increase in sales in the year following the program, with another returning business owner mentioning how the private counseling sessions pushed her to expand from a home-based business to a storefront. For more information on the course or to sign up for future sessions, please visit www.nwiled.org/build-it-grow-it.php or contact the office at [email protected]

Industrial Growth and Grants Received in Harmony, MN with CEDA Assistance!

article by: Chris Giesen

In the final weeks of 2019, the Harmony EDA purchased approximately 8.2 acres of land to expand their existing industrial park to accommodate a prospective expansion of an operations and warehousing facility owned by Dairyland Power Cooperative of La Crosse Wisconsin.  “We’ve been working with Dairyland for some time now to build a facility in Harmony and the EDA felt this was the right time to proactively step forward and purchase additional land.” Said Chris Giesen, Harmony’s CEDA representative and CEDA Vice President.  “The growth of our industrial park will not only assist with the prospective Dairyland project, but it will also create up to 6 additional 1 plus acre lots for additional business growth.  We are still working through the final details of the project with Dairyland but this is a big project for Harmony.”   Dairyland’s proposed project would build a 23,000 square foot building, is estimated to create $2.3 million in new tax base, and bring 4 new FTE jobs into Harmony. 

 

In conjunction with this proposed project, Giesen applied for and secured a $74,537 Greater Minnesota Business Development Public Infrastructure (BDPI) grant from the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) and a 0% interest, $84,082.50 loan from MiEnergy Cooperative.  Both the grant and loan will fund the necessary public infrastructure improvements to serve the proposed Dairyland project in the Harmony Industrial Park.  Over the 10 year term of the loan from MiEnergy, the 0% interest rate is estimated to save Harmony taxpayers about $13,000. 

CEDA launches Harvest Entrepreneur Network (HEN) in Greater Minnesota

Article by: Courtney Bergey Swanson

Entrepreneurs in Greater Minnesota are invited to join the Harvest Entrepreneur Network (HEN), a new CEDA-led program made possible in part by funding from the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development. Through HEN, CEDA’s professional staff will 1) provide free, individualized coaching to a cohort of rural entrepreneurs, and 2) develop a series of workshops aimed to educate, connect, and support businesses in greater Minnesota. Eligible entrepreneurs are invited to apply through March 6, 2020.

For more information on upcoming workshops or to complete an online application for the Harvest Entrepreneur Network, visit https://www.cedausa.com/agricultural-resources/.