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County won’t fund its own EDA

By Staff | Nov 23, 2009

Bill Groskreutz

To the victor, goes all the money.

Faribault County commissioners are putting all their money into one piggy bank when it comes to economic development.

On Tuesday, the board voted 4-1 to enter into a contract with Go Minnesota for 2010 and no longer fund the county’s Economic Develop-ment Authority.

When the outcome was final, EDA director Zoa Heckman shook the hands of several Go Minnesota board members and offered her congratulations.

Go Minnesota board chairman Jeff Lang says his organization will provide a consistent voice and vision for economic development in the county. Unlike surrounding counties, Lang says Faribault County has not seen an increase in its economic indicators.

“We need to change that tide,” says Lang “I believe the vision of Go Minnesota and using private and public dollars will be the prescription that works. I’ve always felt that way.”

Commissioner Bill Groskreutz cast the lone dissenting vote.

Groskreutz says he talked with Wells and Kiester officials and they were against backing Go Minnesota.

“They are not supportive of the county spending their tax dollars for Go Minnesota, for that purpose,” he says.

In the past, Commissioner Tom Loveall has openly voiced his opposition to spending any tax dollars on economic development, even at the county level.

Loveall says his change of heart is a “political compromise” because most of the board thinks the county should fund efforts to attract jobs.

“I wouldn’t fund either one of them. But, I’m looking at a way to privatize this, for the cheapest way to do it,” he says. “We’re saving $36,000 in tax dollars by doing this.”

This year, the county allocated $86,000 to its EDA. Of that amount, the development group’s board decided to give Go Minnesota $50,000.

Commissioner Tom Warmka says he’s disgusted with how much money has been spent on economic development in the past. However, he says trying to attract businesses is worthwhile and needs to be done.

“When you’ve got good jobs, good-paying jobs, that keeps people here, and that brings our kids back.,” says Warmka.

The District 5 commissioner says he’s willing to give Go Minnesota two to three years to “get things right,” otherwise the county may have to consider other options.

Warmka says city officials he talked with in his district didn’t want to totally eliminate the county EDA and weren’t entirely sold on Go Minnesota.

“I don’t care if it’s Go Minnesota or Faribault County EDA … if every single city in the county does not buy into it this is not going to work,” he says.

Details of a contract between the county and Go Minnesota must still be ironed out.

Agreeing on what should be included in the agreement may not be that easy.

There was a short discussion on where the Go Minnesota office should be located, and whether it should even be in Blue Earth. Commissioners were in agreement that the Go Minnesota office should not be in the Blue Earth City Hall.

Groskreutz and Commissioner John Roper — who represent the county on the EDA board — will work on the agreement with Go Minnesota officials.