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.

Frazee, MN promotes city & local businesses through community brochure

Article by: Reva Van Vleet

In 2018, the Frazee, MN EDA worked diligently to promote and support local businesses through events, business input surveys, and social media campaigns. As a continuation of these efforts, this year CEDA team member Reva Van Vleet proposed a project that would include collaboration with the Frazee-Vergas Forum to put together a brochure highlighting the Frazee community and local businesses. Van Vleet and the EDA leveraged social media, direct business outreach activities, and the partnership with the Frazee-Vergas Forum to reach out to interested businesses.

At $35 per business or organization, the Frazee community brochure is a cost-effective, collaborative way to promote the city and local businesses. Each business has a spot to feature a photo or logo, contact information, and a short description of their business. From a boutique to a grocery store, the brochure includes a wide range of Frazee’s community and business offerings. Included in the brochure is a map with each business plotted on the map to serve as another dynamic way to highlight the community. This 11 x 17 tri-fold brochure will also highlight community amenities and events and will be used as an area tourism map featured at local travel stops and online.

CEDA Team Members Use Small Cities Development Program Grant to Inject $933,835.75 into Commercial and Rental Properties in Preston, MN

Article by: Cathy Enerson

CEDA Director of Grants, Michelle Vrieze, has wrapped up the Small Cities Development Program Block Grant (SCBG/SCDP) two year grant period in Preston, MN. Vrieze worked closely with CEDA team member Cathy Enerson who serves the Preston EDA.  Vrieze and Enerson helped the community to inject nearly a million dollars into the existing commercial and rental housing stock in eight blocks of Preston, a city with 1,350 residents. CEDA’s grant team reported that Preston closed out the SCBG/SCDP grant in December 2018; the grant funds were used to rehab fifteen (15) commercial projects using $288,000 in grant money, along with the use of EDA loan funds and private dollars. In addition to the fifteen (15) commercial buildings, thirty-three  (33) rental units were rehabbed using $252,000 in grant money, along with Greater MN Housing funds and private dollars. The total investment of all funds was $933,835.75.  

The Greater MN Housing loan funds played a significant role in improving a fourteen (14) unit apartment building that changed ownership due to the purchaser’s ability to qualify for grant funds for a significant rehabilitation project.  The Preston EDA will continue to administer its EDA companion loans.

Jon B. DeVries , AICP, who serves on the Preston EDA stated“As a citizen and new member of the EDA Board, I can attest to the significant impact the SCBG/SCDP Grant and Greater MN Housing funds have had on the eight downtown commercial blocks surrounding the courthouse square.  New businesses are in place, multiple existing buildings are under renovation, and the downtown is being animated by residents moving into renovated apartments.

De Vries, along with other EDA board members toured the rehabbed eight blocks a few months ago. The success of the grant/loans along with a 2018 housing needs update which was updated by Enerson and a University of Minnesota Morris student has encouraged the EDA to form a Preston Housing Committee.  The committee is using EDA, Preston Community Foundation, and SMIF grant funds to stimulate new housing construction by creating content for a livability website tab to promote Preston. The initiative hopes to attract developers and development to accommodate anticipated employment growth. Anticipated growth will come in part from the proposed Veterans home, the DMC ripple effect and the need to make up from the currently unfilled housing needs.

I  found an extra benefit of using the SCDP block grant program,” Enerson said. “Unlike the revolving loan funds, we could use this tool to improve the community’s non profit buildings. Buildings like Preston’s DAC  (a building that houses the County’s disabled workforce) and Preston’s Serviceman’s Club were eligible.”

New Year, New Owner, New Name–CEDA Helps Blooming Prairie, MN Business Continue to Flourish

Article by: Stephanie Lawson

A Touch of Charm, located on the Main Street of Blooming Prairie, MN, has been a main stay since 1988 when it was opened by Leanne Hanson and two others.  Throughout the years the shop has seen change, but one thing has remained constant, Leanne’s ownership.  After 30 years of operation Leanne decided that it was time to work towards retirement.

In the Spring of 2018 Leanne met Jackie Reiter-Vorlicek, who at the time was an assistant principal looking to relocate from the Twin Cities to the Blooming Prairie Area with her husband.  When introduced, Jackie, who had dreamed of the day that she would operate a shop of her own, immediately took to the idea of one day following in Leanne’s footsteps.

Through hard work, research and community support that one day has come!  Over the past several months Jackie has worked diligently with Leanne, her lenders, and CEDA team member Stephanie Lawson to make her dream become a reality.  Utilizing Lawson’s expertise enabled Jackie to create a business plan and determine what it would take to make her vision successful.

In addition to utilizing Lawson’s business assistance services, the two worked together on a proposal to access additional funding through Blooming Prairie’s Economic Development Authority.  Through their efforts Jackie was able to access the remaining $23,000 that she needed to close the deal.

“It is our job [as an EDA] to do all that we can to ensure that our Main Street businesses are successful.  Having the ability to keep a piece of our towns history in its place, just with a new name, is exciting for us and we can’t wait to watch Jackie grow and flourish!” said Lawson.

Prairie Home held its grand opening, and is ready for a successful 2019!


Stewartville, MN Produces New CEDA-Created, Custom Postcards

The Stewartville, MN Economic Development Authority (EDA) recently reviewed postcard designs that reflect the community’s natural beauty in its impressive regional parks and desirable residential neighborhoods. The postcards, which were designed by CEDA team member Joya Stetson, will allow community members and visitors to share their experience in the City with friends and loved ones.

“Our goal is to spread excitement about and awareness of the community,” said Stetson. “Stewartville is a beautiful City; we want to continue to provide new means of showcasing how great of a place this is to live, work, visit or do business!”

So far, Stetson has created three (3) versions of the postcard—each of which features not only stunning photos, but also the City’s social media handles.  All options will be presented at the City’s booth at the upcoming Rochester Area Builders’ Home Show on February 8-10. In addition, a limited number of the postcards will be available for local businesses who would like to have them on hand to give to customers.

The postcards’ creation was the result of CEDA’s best practice visits that are conducted regularly by staff.  They are completed with the intention of learning from successful communities that are engaging in effective and creative initiatives.  On one such visit to Chippewa Falls, WI, CEDA staff learned about how the dissemination of marketing materials like postcards can offer exposure and encourage local collaboration.

Stewartville Mayor Jimmie-John King is enthusiastic about the new marketing idea. “Our EDA hopes they will increase awareness, but equally as importantly, further promote the type of internal community love that is so crucial for successful growth and development!” King expressed, “It was encouraging to know that they’re already being requested at City Hall!”


Cold Spring, MN EDA Partners with High School Class and Local Business Owner to Open Pop-Up Shop

Article by: Reva Van Vleet

The Cold Spring, MN EDA partnered with the ROCORI High school’s entrepreneurship class, led by Dave Hinkemeyer, and local business owner, Lance Weber, to host a Pop-Up Shop in the vacant Weber Clothing Store. ROCORI High School’s Vice Principal, Nate Guetter, contacted CEDA team member, Reva Van Vleet, about a space for a Pop-Up Shop after the idea came about during Deb Brown’s visit to Cold Spring in September.  Brown’s visit was funded through a Hometown Turnaround grant that Van Vleet applied for and received on behalf of the City through the Initiative Foundation. The Pop-Up shop launched on December 8, 2018 during the Cold Spring Chamber of Commerce’s Santa Days. The shop saw such great success that it stayed open for three Saturdays during December.

While the Pop-Up shop sold ROCORI logo wear and branded items, the entrepreneurship students were also able to sell their own handmade items. Through this partnership, Mr. Hinkemeyer’s students were able to gain hands-on experience of opening and running a business. The pop-up shop also brought light to the empty storefront, highlighting the space and giving patrons another shopping opportunity in downtown Cold Spring. Looking to the future, Van Vleet envisions more opportunities for pop-up shops and other creative uses in Cold Spring’s vacant buildings through a continued partnership with the ROCORI schools and area property owners.

Jackson Business Development Committee (JBDC) to Announce Business Challenge with Prize Package worth $20,000

Article by: Thomas Nelson

On Thursday, January 10th the Jackson Business Development Committee (JBDC) will begin accepting applications for its Jackson Business Challenge. CEDA team member Tom Nelson helped develop the program which aims to attract new businesses to the downtown Jackson by offering a prize package worth $20,000.

The Jackson Business Challenge was created to fill empty buildings in downtown Jackson and attract entrepreneurs to the community. The contest will consist of three rounds with the first round deadline being February 27, 2019. The rounds will consist of the following:

Round 1 – Business Concept

Round 2 – Detailed Business Plan

Round 3 – Oral presentation April

The prize package valued at $20,000 will consist of grants funds, rental assistance, free marketing, accountancy assistance, legal assistance, and more. The program will look at the viability of applicants’ business plans as well as how they will enhance downtown Jackson. Entrepreneurs as well as current business owners in and out of Jackson are encouraged to apply to the program.

“The winner of the competition will gain both monetary and professional assistance setting them up for success in the community” Nelson commented. “I am excited to draw attention to a great community that has a ton of potential.”

Complete details and applications available at:

Lake City EDA Completes Market Research on Community/Child Care Center

Article By: Kjellgren Alkire

Included in the monthly municipal utility bill, Lake City residents received an update on the market study research conducted by the Lake City EDA during the summer 2018. CEDA’s support for this work has been instrumental. Both Lisa Babington and Kjellgren Alkire worked to execute this demographically-representative project with Minneapolis firm ANA Marketing. Lake City has seriously discussed building a community center for many years, but has not yet taken action. These conversations have included building a YMCA or indoor swimming pool or rec center or child care facility. Like many communities throughout the midwest, Lake City families experience the effects of the child care shortage.

In order to quantify the many conversations regarding the hopes for a Community Center and Child Care facility, the EDA conducted a research project in the summer of 2018. The summary report from this survey and related research data are available at:
A total of 933 surveys were received and each of these surveys represent a single household. Accordingly, this survey conservatively represented approximately 2500 individuals are by these responses. Lake City’s current population is 5109 and the surrounding townships account for approximately another 1200 individuals.
“Due to the great response rate, I believe that this information will be useful in shaping future decisions,” said Megan Smith, Lake City’s Director of Planning & Community Development.
56% respondents support some sort of tax increase to pursue a community and/or child care center. Accordingly, the Lake City EDA continues to partner with the Red Wing YMCA and local groups to better understand the implications of this survey and the realistic possibilities for a potential development towards a community facility.