By Solomon Gustavo
DASSEL, MN - Newly minted Dassel Economic Development Authority President Kyle Ackerman delivered a report during Dassel City Council’s meeting Nov. 16.
Ackerman introduced two project proposals; Unique STEM, or uSTEM, and the “Unique Personality” vision projects.
The first, uSTEM, concentrates on unique students excelling in science, technology, engineering and math. The “quarter million dollar” project would select 40 of Minnesota’s best STEM students in grades 10-12 and take them on an all-expense-paid trip to visit successful businesses in Silicon Valley, CA, Ackerman said.
One of the goals of the project is to convince the best and brightest, and unique, STEM students to work in Dassel and work for his Dassel-based company, XtraTyme Technologies.
Ackerman said he’s had a successful meeting with Dassel-Cokato High School Principal Dean Jennissen and that he “feels like the school is going to be” the the host for a project event.
Mayor Jeff Putnam asked how Ackerman will fund the project. Ackerman said he plans to contact leading STEM companies in the state and nation for sponsorship.
“I’ve done this before,” Ackerman said of raising funds, noting that the businesses will be interested because the project allows them to “get introduced to these students and hire them.”
To apply, students would submit an essay, a two-minute video, cover letter, and resume.
Council Member Sara Nelson asked what benefit Dassel would receive from opening the project to students throughout the state. Ackerman said he aims to bring people from the metro and around the state to see what Dassel is up to.
Ackerman said he would like to host the opening event at the PAC, where selected students will bring their families. The project will bring media attention, and the city can “roll out the red carpet.”
Putnam suggested meeting with local businesses to collectively coordinate the best way to showcase the city.
The luxury bus, which will seat the 40 students and 16 volunteers, costs $30,000, Ackerman said. He said $100,000 is needed to cover expenses, leaving an “extra $100,000 or $150,000 for scholarship money.”
“You’re going to be traveling 5,000 miles with this group,” Nelson said to Ackerman. “I recommend getting some references.”
“You can’t be average and succeed anymore; you need to be unique,” Ackerman said of the STEM fields.
Putnam asked that Ackerman keep the council updated on how the project is coming along.
The “Unique Personality” vision
For his second proposed project, The “Unique Personality” vision, Ackerman said he will go into more detail before the council at a later meeting, but he did give a cursory introduction and a project outline.
“I propose that we as a city should have a personality, just like people. If we do that, and create a unique personality, we can be a little community that does big things,” Ackerman said.
Ackerman is attempting to revive the Unique Personality project, which originated in 2001, in order to brand Dassel as “the most unique city in Minnesota,” according to the project outline.
He plans to assemble a “unique certification team,” and create “objective uniqueness criteria,” as a way to gin up marketing and media attention for local businesses.
“I think Dassel has a lot of raw talent here and raw possibility. We have some unique things I’ve already discovered. If we can showcase them and raise them to another level, I think we can be a city the state talks about,” Ackerman told the council.
Odds and ends
In other business, the council:
• discussed waiving water and sewer availability charges as a way to incentivise prospective buyers to build in Dassel. A house hasn’t been built in the city since 2012, according to City Clerk Terri Boese. A builder was in attendance and spoke to the council, saying he would most likely build three houses in Dassel in 2016 if the fees were waived. The council decided to table the decision until December.
• approved a 2016 special assessment for unpaid utility balances submitted to the Meeker County Auditor’s office. The amount is $3,214.
• approved a negotiating committee recommendation to include a 2-percent wage increase for Dassel’s two union members.
• scheduled a public hearing Monday, Dec. 21 at 7 p.m on the city relinquishing an easement to Casey’s General Store in Dassel.
• scheduled an information meeting Monday, Jan. 11 at 7 p.m about restrictions for sexual offenders finding residence.