When we first heard about the formation of Go Minnesota, it was pretty exciting news.
A private group of county business and industry leaders forming an organization to work on economic development in Faribault County.
They said they would be self-funding, and would be able to do many things government-run economic development authorities (EDA) can do, only do them faster and better – plus they would be able to do many things the EDAs could not.
It sounded very promising.
However, when Go Minnesota started soliciting members and funding, they also solicited funds from government bodies, and received money from the City of Blue Earth and the Faribault County Board of Commissioners.
That sounded to us like a bad idea from the start. Instead of operating as a private enterprise, suddenly it became a quasi-governmental agency. This meant the public bodies would want some input into Go Minnesota, as well as something in return.
That is precisely what is happening now. The county board wants monthly reports from Go Minnesota and wants to have a say in what Go Minnesota does. They also want to know what Go Minnesota can do for them.
In the words of one commissioner, “we want to know if we are getting a bang for our buck.”
Since the county is using public funds, they feel they have a right to know what is going on, and a duty to see the public’s money is being spent wisely.
We feel this will hamper Go Minnesota’s goals. They originally said they were looking at the big economic development picture, and didn’t want to get bogged down in bureaucracy. But that is where they are headed, it appears. Plus, pulling in government money has opened up the turf war battles – with everyone wanting new businesses located in their specific town.
The possible solutions to this dilemma include having Go Minnesota go back to using only private funding for the work they want to do. We think they could be better off in the long run, if they can raise enough private money.
The county could step in with funds only if needed for a specific new economic development project.
The other solution would be for the county to help fund the organization, but simply in the same manner as the other 21 private business members – no more, no less. Perhaps one of the commissioners could serve on the Go Minnesota board of directors, if they so desired.
Because of this funding issue, the process of economic development in Faribault County is becoming a political mess, one that needs to be straightened out fast.