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Local EDAs work to brighten business and development
Oct. 11, 2010
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By Starrla Cray
Staff Writer

DASSEL, COKATO, MN – From promotion efforts to industrial parks, local economic development authorities (EDAs) are committed to enhancing business sectors in the communities they serve.

Each city has a slightly different approach to economic expansion. Some have a three, five, or seven-member EDA of community volunteers that meet every month, while others utilize their city councils for EDA-related functions.

“It depends how active the city and the community want to be in development,” Winsted City Administrator Andrew Elbert said.

“EDAs have a very wide latitude. They are part of government, for sure, but they can do a lot of things the council can’t do,” Waverly EDA president Connie Holmes said. “They can issue bonds, buy and sell property, and build apartments. “They are the organization that develops the business policy for a city.”

Although EDAs can acquire property and facilities, they cannot issue debt without an election, according to the League of Minnesota Cities handbook. Also, EDAs can create economic development districts, but the districts must be contiguous, and qualify as blighted under the tax increment law.

“Minnesota state law is quite strict,” Holmes said.

An EDA can use the levy powers of an HRA (housing and redevelopment authority), but is limited to no more than 0.0185 percent of the total taxable market value in the city,

The Economic Development Partnership of Wright County (www.wrightpartnership.org) also has information regarding retail, commercial, and industrial relocation within the county.

“The EDAs are part of the cities, but they work with the counties – It’s a partnership,” Cokato City Administrator Don Levens said.

Dassel
In Dassel, five people make up the EDA board, including Mayor Mike Scanlon, council member Pat Haapala, Max Johnson, Robert Walters, and Dave Thomas.

“The EDA has been in place for quite some time, but it was newly reorganized about a year ago,” Dassel City Administrator Myles McGrath said. “It used to be strictly city council.”

Recent EDA efforts have included evaluating and filling empty commercial building space, as well as community promotion efforts.

New signage between Highway 12 and Highway 15 is one example of a Dassel-specific project.

Some EDA efforts are also focused on promoting the entire Highway 12 corridor, which has been named the “Best of 12.”

One of the recent EDA research projects involved Outlook A in Summit Hills addition, according to information from the September Dassel City Council meeting.

Meeker County has moved to tax forfeiture on the undeveloped addition, and the council was asked to sign off on a Municipal Approval and Classification of Sale as part of the process.

Under statute, the city can request a six-month extension period for making this decision, which was recommended by the EDA. The council approved applying for an extension to allow the EDA to look into the property further.

Dassel’s EDA meets as needed. For more information, contact McGrath at (320) 275-2454.

Cokato
Cokato’s EDA members include council members Wayne Murphy and Butch Amundsen, along with community volunteers Kurt Dahlin, Steve Dietman, Chuck Miller, Dean Perry, and Chris Schultz.

The EDA was re-established in January 2008, and one of this year’s primary focuses has been on local businesses. The board conducted a business retention/expansion questionnaire, and has developed a brochure highlighting existing local low-interest loan programs.

“I think we’ve come a long way,” Perry said. “We have some momentum built up.”

In today’s struggling economy, it can be difficult to see the EDA’s impact immediately, according to Perry.

“You need to do a lot of the sowing before you reap the harvest,” he said. “When the economy does turn around, it’s the EDA’s goal to have the city ready, with the infrastructure in place to capitalize on business expansion opportunities.”

Cokato’s EDA meets the first Monday of each month at 4 p.m. at the Cokato City Hall.

For more information with starting a business in Cokato, contact EDA consultant Joanne Foust at jfoust@municipaldevelopmentgroup.com or (952) 201-4466.

Winsted
The EDA board in Winsted consists of Mayor Steve Stotko, council members Bonnie Quast, Tom Ollig, Dave Mochinski, and Tom Wiemiller, and community members Don Guggemos and Gerard Stifter.

“It’s been pretty successful for economic development,” Elbert said. “Our council has been pretty proactive.”

Specifically related to budgeting, the City of Winsted does not levyoutside the general levy rate-authority, according to Elbert. Therefore, any projectwith economic development intent is weighted against Winsted’s othergeneral fund needs within the budgeting process.

To learn more about the Winsted EDA, contact Elbert at (320) 485-2366.

Waverly
Waverly EDA board members include president Holmes, vice president Jason Fink, and members Keith Harris, Sarah Larson, Sarah Bartosch, Jennifer Carpentier, and Nicole Scheldrup.

They typically meet the fourth Monday of each month at 7 p.m. in the Waverly city office, but lately, meetings have been every other month because of the slow economy.

“I wish there was more development,” Holmes said.

The EDA funded Waverly’s comprehensive plan, and is also active in marketing efforts.

“If a business wanted to come into Waverly and needed a business subsidy, we would seriously look at that,” Holmes said. “We want to do what we can to help them.”

For more information, contact Holmes at (763) 658-1585 or contact Waverly City Hall at (763) 658-4217.

Howard Lake
Howard Lake’s EDA is made up of city council members, including Mayor Richard Lammers, Jan Gilmer, Tom Kutz, Mike Mitchell, and Pete Zimmerman.

“The City is working on some new programs for business development with the new legislation on pooling TIF funds,” Howard Lake City Administrator Kelly Hinnenkamp noted. “We will probably have this out in the next month or so.”

TIF (tax increment financing) has been widely used as a development tool in Howard Lake.

The city also has low-interest loan money to assist businesses, and is in the process of adding a new program through the Small Cities Development Program. This is a joint application with the City of Annandale.

To learn more about the Howard Lake EDA, contact city hall at (320) 543-3670.

Meet EDA consultant Joanne Foust
In 2001, Joanne Foust and Cynthia Smith-Strack co-founded a planning, economic development, and grant writing consulting service called the Municipal Development Group (MDG).

“We primarily concentrate on communities under 10,000,” Foust said, adding that MDG typically has between 20 to 25 clients at a time.

MDG works with each Minnesota city’s unique character, resources, and history to meet individualized economic goals.

Foust is the EDA consultant for several cities, including Cokato and Montrose. Strack’s clients include the cities of Winsted and Mayer, among others.

Foust earned a degree from the University of Minnesota-Morris, in business management and economics. She gained EDA experience early in her career through a college internship with the Morris area EDA.

Her first job was with the City of Cokato working with an energy grant and the chamber of commerce. Later on, Foust also worked with the cities of Zumbrota and St. Peter.

Through the MDA, Foust is able to provide many cities with the resources and tools they need to thrive. Watching businesses expand and grow is the best part of the job, Foust said. “The challenge has been the economy,” she added. Through MDG, Foust hopes to help businesses gain access to programs to guide them through this difficult time.

Strack went to college at St. Cloud State University, and also participated in National Development Council Training. She has 12 years of experience in municipal government, both in the public and private sectors.

Strack has conducted training sessions with elected officials and various municipal boards, committees, and commissions regarding comprehensive planning, ordinance administration/enforcement, community development programs/incentives, and capital improvement programs.

For more information about MDG, go to www.municipaldevelopmentgroup.com. To contact Foust, e-mail jfoust@municipaldevelopmentgroup.com or call (952) 201-4466. Smith-Stack can be reached at cstack@municipaldevelopmentgroup.com or (952) 758-7399.

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