County-wide EDA being pondered
The process might be taking longer than they had hoped, but representatives from communities in Lyon County took another step toward forming a county-wide EDA at a meeting last Wednesday.
Wednesday was the second meeting for the group with representation from most communities in the county. The first of the two evening meetings took place on Jan. 13. However, a blizzard on Jan. 14 caused day two to be postponed. While progress was made during the almost four-hour meeting last week, the final plan to be presented to the Lyon County commissioners for the EDA was not completed.
After two meetings, the community representatives and commissioners had made progress with the type of organization they wanted to move forward with and priorities for it. The group agreed they would like to pursue a county EDA with HRA (Housing and Redevelopment Authority) powers. This group would have a nine-person board. Once that is established, they will work on a partner 501C3 with business involvement. The 501C3 would have a similar board so that both entities are working toward the same goal but would include business members.
“No matter what model you pick, it’s going to come down to the kind of leadership you put at the top of it that’s going to be able to pull this group together and find the technical resources and push on the vision enough to make everything we talked about happen,” consultant Joe Czapiewski said. “Recognize that leadership is going to be a huge thing.”
After a lengthy discussion, the top five priorities for the Lyon County EDA were identified along with strategies for the priorities.
The first priority was developing financial and other resources. Lisa Graphenteen with the Balaton EDA presented the group’s strategies, including to be a resource to communities to identify and connect them to grant and loan opportunities for local initiatives; compile short- and long-term needs and goals of each city so there is understanding of what everyone needs and possibly making connections between cities and the county; identify resources that already exist and then identify what gaps are present and how the county EDA can fill those gaps and be a resource to communities to think outside the box on how to leverage resources.
“In other words, helping communities understand how to use the tools in their tool box,” Graphenteen said. “So if the city doesn’t know the benefits abatement can bring to them, helping to facilitate those discussions on tools they have in their toolbox.”
The second priority identified was marketing and promotion. Lauren Deutz, Marshall EDA director, presented the strategies including to develop brand awareness; define the county’s brand equity; brand development strategy as a whole, telling the Lyon County story; have a more defined image of, “We need to have a more defined image of who we are and what we want to represent,” Deutz said. “We think we need two separate campaign strategies — one aimed at more residential quality of life recruitment and workforce development and the other aimed more on the commercial/industrial/manufacturing side of things.”
Lyon County Commissioner Rick Anderson presented the strategies for the third priority: tax competitiveness, including looking into a lobbyist from the county or region; and advertising Lyon County in South Dakota highlighting Lyon County’s quality of life.
“Talk about tax abatement and some of the things we have going for us, that we have put in place that maybe we can create a better atmosphere of what we really do have here, and we’re not so different from South Dakota, and this is just as good a place to build as anywhere else,” Anderson said.
The fourth priority set forth by the group for the county EDA to focus on was housing. Teather Bliss, Cottonwood city administrator, presented the strategies for housing in the county, including seeking a professional service in developing a strategic plan of housing needs in each community, determine what funding opportunities are needed for land acquisition, infrastructure development, and housing development in general. The group also strategized about property acquisition, according to the strategic plan, beginning to develop infrastructure and finding developers to develop the various zoning areas as well as a funding strategy for rehabilitation of the more blighted areas, first-time home owners and gap financing.
“We all have revolving loan funds, but revolving loan funds are only business,” Bliss said. “There is no revolving loan or gap financing for a new homeowner that just needs a little bit extra to be able to move into your community and to acquire that home.”
The final priority identified by the group was business recruitment. Strategies presented by Lynd City Clerk Susan Paradis included tax base plans to recruit business and industry into Lyon County communities; identify venture capital groups or angel investors or help create similar groups; connect with Minnesota Chamber; and find technology-based companies to bring into communities that create a product to export into the world. An inventory of what each community has available was also identified as a strategy for business recruitment.
“Business recruitment comes in a couple different ways,” Graphenteen said. “Sometimes it’s us going out and recruiting a business to try and come into the community and sometimes it’s almost being a matchmaker. That we get these projects and we’re trying to figure out if their needs fit what we have available. When I think about business recruitment, my question is, as a county, do we have a good sense of what we have available in terms of buildings, sites, infrastructure needs? There are tools out there that we can have our land and our buildings available to, but I don’t know if we are fully utilizing that. Do we need to have that as a component as we think about business recruitment that really is kind of that identifying our inventory that we have available so we can match those opportunities we have?”
“Do you feel that you are getting a sense of strategy for moving these important issues forward as a group?” Czapiewski asked. “It’s going to change as we get into it, these things always do. You start off with a plan and then reality hits. That’s where it kind of shifts a little bit, but you still have that vision that you’re always going to be moving towards.”
The group also created a vision statement to use when moving forward: The people of Lyon County have joined together to cultivate prosperity and provide the strategic economic development solutions our community needs. Every local community and family will grow and thrive on the strength of their positive attributes, opportunities, and unique resources and amenities for generations to come. We will collaborate, as one entity, to proactively support and promote the growth of each community, business and the entire Lyon County area.
To keep the process of establishing a county EDA progressing, a five-person working group was formed to work with Czapiewski to create objectives for each strategy and to set the next steps before a formal presentation can be made to the County Commissioners. Lyon County Administrator Loren Stomberg said once approved by the commissioners, it would still take approximately three to four months to establish the county EDA, and the 5013C would be established after.