Will BE fund EDA or FCDC?
The Blue Earth City Council wants to do something about economic development in the city, but how to do it is a big question.
During a two-hour budget work session last Monday night, the council spent nearly half the time debating what to do with $50,000 earmarked for bringing local business and industry to the city.
At issue is whether to help fund the Faribault County Development Corporation (FCDC), formerly called Go Minnesota, or to go back to hiring an economic development director for Blue Earth’s own Economic Development Authority (EDA).
The council appeared split between the two choices, but, because it was a work session and not a regular meeting, they could not take a formal vote on the question.
City Administrator Kathy Bailey says sometime soon the council will have to make a decision on this question.
“I know they (the FCDC board) are looking for a new director, and they are counting on this $50,000 from Blue Earth in order to proceed,” she told the council.
Councilman Glenn Gaylord expressed his concerns.
“It bothers me that we are the only community that is helping fund this county group,” he says. “I think we need a commitment from the other communities in the county, especially those who are benefitting from this, before we commit to it again.”
Councilman John Huisman disagreed.
“We can’t help what other cities do,” he responded. “We need to work on our own stuff, and do things for Blue Earth.”
He says he has heard from local businesses that they want a local EDA director, someone who will work on developing business in the city.
Mayor Rob Hammond says a county-wide approach is needed.
“No one (businesses) looks at individual cities anymore,” Hammond says. “They look at a county. And the successful counties are able to market themselves.”The mayor added that without the $50,000 from the City of Blue Earth, the FCDC may not be able to do as much marketing.
“If we keep the $50,000 in the city, it will be used for personnel and we won’t have funds for marketing either,” Hammond explains.
Gaylord says he feels efforts in economic development have not been succeeding.
“We had our own EDA and that didn’t do much good, then we went with Go Minnesota and that didn’t do much good either,” he says. “So, what can we do with this $50,000 that will do some good?”
Huisman suggests the council look at some communities which have had some success at economic development, and learn how they went about it.
“There are cities in Iowa that have successfully gained businesses,” he says. “How are they doing it?
Hammond responded that the State of Iowa backs their local cities’ efforts at economic development, more than Minnesota does.
Some council members expressed a desire to try and support both the county-wide effort and a local EDA.
“I don’t think that is possible,” Gaylord says. “If we are going to try and keep our levy increase at three percent, and I think we are, then something’s got to go.”