Houston County, MN Welcomes Smithsonian Youth Programming

Article by: Courtney Bergey

This year, students from Houston County will have the exciting opportunity to be part of the Smithsonian’s Museum on Main Street program called Stories: YES Houston (Youth + Engagement + Skillbuilding)StoriesYES Houston is presented as part of the 2018 Smithsonian traveling exhibition, “The Way We Worked,” exploring how work became a central element in American culture, and tracing the many changes that have affected the workforce and work environments over the past 150 years.

The selected youth applicants will develop skills in local and oral history research, interviewing, media production, exhibit design, narrative writing, public speaking, and more. By the end of the project, the participants will have produced a series of multimedia stories that will inspire local conversations on economic sustainability and regional identity.

Houston County CEDA representative Courtney Bergey assisted with the program planning and will be an active partner in the project, which received $10,000 in funding from the Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation Small Town Grant program. Project coordinator is Erin Dorbin, a Houston, MN-based historian and multimedia producer.

For more information on the program, visit http://www.storiesyeshouston.com/ or check out this article http://www.bluffcountrynews.com/Content/Bluff-Country-Reader/Bluff-Country-News/Article/City-of-Houston-receives-Small-Town-Grant-award/14/23/70130

CEDA Administration of Small Cities Development Block Grants

Article by: Michelle Vrieze

Over the past 30+ years, CEDA has authored and administered Small Cities Development Block Grants (SCDBG) for numerous communities throughout Southeast Minnesota.   These grants are highly competitive and are funded through the Department of Housing and Urban Development at the federal level and the Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) at the State level.   The grants can make a huge impact on rural communities.


Processing a SCBDG is a time consuming process that starts with a community inquiry to CEDA to discuss a need within the community and if a SCDBG is an appropriate investment into the need.  There is also commonly discussion about CEDA potentially authoring the grant and administering the process for the community.    Community needs could include:  owner occupied housing deficiencies, rental housing needs, commercial rehabilitation needs or public facility improvements.  Each activity has a maximum amount of $600,000 that can be applied for.   CEDA staff will work with the community to “map out” the target areas and distribute surveys to the occupants within this area to demonstrate if there is a federal objective and a need.


Once a need is determined, a Preliminary Proposal is submitted to DEED in November.  These competitive applications are reviewed by DEED.  If accepted by DEED staff and ruled competitive, CEDA and the community are invited to submit a full application due the following February.    In consultation with CEDA, a community can increase the competitiveness of the application and receiving a favorable response to the review.  One such way is to offer leverage funds to increase the overall total available funds.  These leveraged funds could be sourced from EDA revolving loan funds, utility board funding, Greater MN Housing or other sources.


Once a project is awarded, on behalf of the community, CEDA staff administers the grant through all of the intricacies each project brings forth including setting a scope of work, reviewing bids, awarding contracts, pre-construction meetings, assuring that all paperwork is in place, making sure that any project meets any state or federal requirements all the way through to project completion and final payment and securing lien waivers.


In the most recent round of review and awards, CEDA authored three grants totaling $1,525,798.  Over the previous five years, CEDA has authored and been awarded $3,776,554 in SCDBG.


If you have questions in regards to SCDBG, please contact:

Michelle Vrieze, Director of Grants, [email protected]

or Megan DeRouchey, Assistant Director of Grants, [email protected]

CEDA Team Member Helping to Bring Dog Park to Lewiston, MN

Article by: Rebecca Charles

CEDA team member Rebecca Charles, who serves the City of Lewiston, MN, has been working closely with a Lewiston-Altura High School student to offer a new amenity to local residents of the community.

Dog parks are an increasingly popular amenity request in communities of various sizes, and can be a differentiating factor for pet owners looking to relocate. As a part of a Girl Scout Gold Award project, Allison Bronk, Lewiston resident and Senior at the Lewiston-Altura High School recently made a proposal to the City of Lewiston to add a dog park to the community.  The student approached the Lewiston Economic Development Authority (EDA) to formally request funds to pay for a mandatory land survey.  The land survey is needed to acknowledge the boundaries of the lots which will be used for the dog park.  All other required funding for the project has been raised by the student.

Rebecca Charles of CEDA worked with the student and the EDA to understand the community’s role and inherent benefit of the project and to select an appropriate proposal for the survey.  The City of Lewiston’s Economic Development Authority (EDA) approved funding for a land survey to be performed at the site of the old city pool for the creation of the new dog park.  The survey will be completed by Kleinschmidt Surveying of Winona.  Work is expected to be completed in mid-February of 2018.

The City of Lewiston is excited about the expanding local amenities that they are able to offer all of its citizens.  These developments are only possible because of the motivated and creative members of the community.

Dodge County Receives $135,450 CEDA-Authored MnDOT Grant

Article by: Tom Monson

Dodge County, MN was recently awarded a $135,450 Transportation Economic Development grant by MnDOT to make safety improvements to MN State Highway 56 in partnership with Con-Tech Manufacturing, Inc.

The CEDA authored grant award will pay for 70% of proposed improvements to build turn and bypass lanes on the highway just south of Dodge Center. Con-Tech Manufacturing, Inc. will pay the 30% match, including engineering and right of way costs. The company also anticipates the traffic improvements will result in 55 additional FTE jobs created by 2022.

Con-Tech Manufacturing, Inc. CFO, Troy Stafford highlighted, “our biggest reason for the project was for community and employee safety which complements being good stewards in the community in which we operate.”

The partnership between Dodge County, Con-Tech Manufacturing, and MnDOT is an exciting example of CEDA’s regional, collaborative role.

Eyota, MN Assists New Childcare Center

Article by: Cathy Enerson

The City of Eyota, MN recognized the local and regional need for area child care, and is working with a local business to help solve the shortage in their community.

CEDA team member Cathy Enerson who serves the City of Eyota has been working with the City’s Economic Development Authority (EDA) to provide gap financing and business planning assistance to a current in-home provider looking to expand her local business from an in-home day care with 12 slots to a 96-slot, 6,000 square foot childcare center. This business, Little Eagles Childcare Center, is the second center to commence operation in the City, and research estimates that its service will satisfy approximately 46% of the community’s deficit.  Enerson noted that because child care is a key part of community infrastructure, the EDA Board was immediately interested in providing assistance.

The project has involved several partner organizations to ensure its completion and overall success:

Financing for the total project cost of $1,035,000 was provided cumulatively by Home Federal Savings and Loan, Minnesota Business Finance Corporation, People’s Energy Cooperative, and the Eyota EDA. The City of Eyota also provided one acre of land and upfront tax increment financing to assist with financing.

Necessary research and resources were partially gleaned from First Children’s Finance of Minnesota, the State of Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED), and Minnesota’s Center for Rural Policy and Development.

Design services were completed by Urban Design Studio, and project’s selected general contractor was TLS Companies, LLC.

Tracey Krucker and Trisha King, the owners of Little Eagles Childcare Center, shared that “without the partners and the counseling [they] received, a small business with limited capital feels stuck. Working with [these] partners made all the difference. [They] are realizing [their] dreams, and look forward to taking care of children in the community.”

Little Eagles Childcare Center broke ground on November 20th, and plans to open in May of 2018.

An extensive waiting list for all ages as already been acquired with minimal advertising, and the owners are optimistic about their long-term success in Eyota.

CEDA Team Member Working to Fill 30,000 Square Foot Spec Building in Jackson, MN

Article by: Thomas Nelson

The Jackson Economic Development Corporation (JEDC), a 501 (c)4 local development corporation, is looking  to help new or current tenants grow by constructing a 30,000 square foot speculative building on their 60-acre industrial development park located in Jackson, Minnesota. The building is scheduled to be completed by May 1st, 2018 and has a 14,000 square foot optional addition already planned. The building goes above and beyond having a construction-ready site by having a move-in-ready building for a new or current business.

The JEDC approaches economic development aggressively; the organization has built numerous spec buildings and industrial parks in the past. The 30,000 square foot spec building is a part of the JEDC’s Development Park 4 project, which includes 60 acres of industrial lot space located near I-90 and HWY 71. Next to Development Park 4 is Jackson Crossings, which is a 35-acre commercial and retail development park. Both development parks already have infrastructure in place and are ready for construction.

CEDA team member Thomas Nelson who serves the City of Jackson full time as the Economic Development Coordinator is now looking to fill the new spec building and the surrounding lots. While Nelson works diligently to fill the structure and bring in new businesses, he will also be focused on working with existing companies already located in Jackson. “Helping existing companies grow and develop is so important to the retention of those companies. It can also help bring new companies to Jackson.” Nelson said. “Companies that continue to grow year after year while staying in Jackson demonstrate that it is a great place to locate a business.”

Companies in the community, including current spec building tenants, are appreciative of the JEDC’s proactive approach to community and economic development.  “In my opinion the JEDC is a huge asset to the community.  They understand the business – community relationship and that a healthy growing business is key for a thriving community.  They were the catalyst in the past, that helped solidify some of our expansion plans in Jackson.  They have been a valued partner in our growth in the community.” said Eric Fisher, AGCO director of operations in Jackson.

Having prepared sites and spec buildings can be essential to attracting businesses. Many different factors go into selecting a site, moving a company, or expanding operations. Creative approaches such as the spec buildings in Jackson can mean saved money and time for the company.

Feasibility Study Confirms St. Charles Hospitality Center Viable

Article by: Cris Gastner

The City of St Charles has taken another key step toward the development of a new hotel to anchor a new Hospitality Center project in the Chattanooga Industrial Park in St Charles.

At the direction of the City’s EDA, CEDA Senior Vice President Cris Gastner who serves the City of St. Charles and St. Charles City Administrator Nick Koverman worked with Hospitality Consulting Group to complete an update of the community’s hotel feasibility study. This independently completed study will provide valuable information to the potential developers of the project.

Gastner and Koverman have been working very closely with Steve Hedberg and Jim Kelley from HK Hospitality Management, LLC on this project in 2017 when the City and HK signed a letter of understanding for the exciting development project. The preliminary information provided by the report has been viewed very favorably by the development team. “The draft information in the report validates the developers’ financial proformas,” Gastner stated, “The fact that an independent agency’s report has reinforced the group’s positive outlook on the site will help them secure the best financing partners for their project.”

HK Hospitality is working on a large-scale development project that would include a nationally branded hotel and conference center along with a restaurant and convenience store on a site in St. Charles’ Chattanooga Innovation Park on Interstate 90.

The feasibility study will be formally accepted by the St. Charles EDA and City Council later in January.


Spring Grove, MN EDA and School District Partner to Fund Makerspace

Article by: Courtney Bergey

  1. A lawn mower engine.
  2. A decorative wood burning tool.
  3. A 3-D printer.
What do these items have in common? You will find all of them in the Spring Grove School District’s new Makerspace, an interactive, individualized-learning classroom that empowers students to follow their passions and curiosities. The Makerspace was established in the fall of 2017, and is looking to expand its impact on the community and its students.
The Spring Grove Economic Development Authority, led by CEDA team members Courtney Bergey and Bryce Lange, recently partnered with the Spring Grove School District to author a successful $10,000 Small Town Grant from the Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation; this grant award will help build capacity for the project by providing necessary tools, equipment and supplies for Spring Grove’s Makerspace students to apply their skills to community challenges.
“We are constantly having conversations about topics like housing, walkability, public art, attracting workers, and downtown businesses, but we often overlook a major sector of talent: our young people,” said Bergey. “With this program, we aim to turn the discussion over to the students and support their creative solutions to community challenges.” The program will bring students outside of the classroom and into local business and government environments.
The Spring Grove EDA will be working with the school to create new Makerspace initiatives focused on community development, including hosting local entrepreneurs and makers in the classroom, pairing students with projects in both the public and private sector, and helping to develop new ideas for the community to pursue.
To learn more about SMIF’s Small Town Grants program, visit https://smifoundation.org/smalltowngrants/about.html

CEDA Team Member Proposes a New, Interactive Map to Catalyze Tourism and Recreational Activity in Fillmore County

Article by: Marty Walsh

A new map being developed by the Fillmore County EDA aims to increase exposure to the county’s many outdoor recreation amenities for tourists and residents alike.

The new map, which is planned to be available on-line in time for Spring outdoors season, will allow users to see whatever combination of recreational activities they are interested in by turning off and on different layers of data. Currently, there is no map that combines the many Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, County, Municipal and Private recreational opportunities in one place.

The Project was suggested by Marty Walsh, who serves the Fillmore County EDA, and is being developed in partnership with the County Geographic Information Systems (GIS) coordinator, Danea Murphy, as well as assistance from Graduate Students from the St. Mary’s University of Minnesota (Winona) GIS Department.

“This map will fill a void we have in our county. The map will be a great tool for our residents and visitors to enjoy recreation they may not have known existed” said Lanesboro Mayor Autumn Johnson, when discussing the value the map brings to both tourism and quality of life in the county.

As the project is developed, CEDA hopes the model can be used to highlight the recreational amenities in many of the communities that the organization serves.


Article by: Megan DeRouchey

On November 21, 2017, AcenTek, the voice, video and internet provider out of Houston, MN, was awarded a $2 million grant from the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) to extend fiber broadband access to Rushford Village and the rural Rushford area. The CEDA grant writing team was able to play an instrumental role in securing this funding by drafting AcenTek’s Boarder to Boarder Broadband Grant application. CEDA utilized their grant writing services to facilitate a valuable partnership between CEDA staff members and AcenTek.

The total grant dollar amount awarded was $2,011,628.  Last year, CEDA partnered with AcenTek and was awarded $1.78 million to bring fiber-optic cable to the Lanesboro area.  To-date, the $2 million dollar grant has been the largest grant written by CEDA.

The Rushford Village/rural Rushford project was the second largest grant awarded by the state to improve broadband services. This project will allow AcenTek to extend fiber broadband services to the rural Rushford area.  AcenTek’s project is a great example of a public-private partnership–the State of Minnesota is contributing $2,011,628, Fillmore County is providing a 0% interest loan in the amount of $75,000, and AcenTek is picking up the remaining $3 million through private investment, for a total project investment of $5.2 million. This project is expected to be completed by mid-2019.

This project will serve 557 unserved and underserved homes and businesses in the Rushford Village/Rural Rushford exchange in Fillmore County.  With fiber optic cable installation, rural Rushford will see many advancements in medicine, education, and agriculture. These three industries impact nearly every home in rural Rushford and Rushford Village.