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County EDA groups propose changes

By Staff | Oct 2, 2011

More than 30 county and city officials gathered to discuss how to structurally implement economic development in Faribault County Thursday.

Officials brought forward three possible structures needing further examination by city councils and EDAs.

“We are not here to make a decision,” facilitator Toni Smith says to the group. “We want to give information that feeds into the whole.”

County Commissioner Tom Loveall introduced the first structure. He used the analogy of Faribault County Development Corporation (FCDC) and the Faribault County EDA working cooperatively together like dancers to help support other entities.

“I picture the Faribault County EDA maintaining and growing a revolving loan fund,” Loveall says. “FCDC would be in charge of the sales and marketing side of economic development.”

Attendees were then encouraged to voice strengths and weaknesses of the model proposed by Loveall.

Strengths of this model brought forth by officials included having one county wide entity, an efficiency of staff and having funding in one place.

Weaknesses mentioned included multiple authorities over funds, a perception of unfairness to how funds are appropriated and legality issues.

Blue Earth mayor, Rob Hammond proposed a different model. He suggested FCDC being the hub of all economic development in the county with city and county EDAs giving and taking services like spokes on a wheel.

Strengths of this option voiced by attendees included a direct contact, no middleman and more confidentiality when working with private businesses.

Weaknesses of this model brought forward were transparency, possible funding issues and a perception of unfairness.

The final model introduced was one where cities are the center of economic development. The 11 city EDAs would be responsible for producing a stronger county. Officials coined this model as the library model as it is how library services are provided in the county.

Strengths of this model include lower cost for each city, by reducing payments to utilize FCDC services and parochial trust. Weaknesses include a lack of unity among county cities and difficulty in developing partnerships with organizations and businesses.

“This is the start of the discussion,” Smith says. “It is up to you now where you proceed from here.”

While a final structure was not agreed upon, the basic principles of communication, everyone having an equal voice and an organized nucleus were established for future decisions made by entities.

“Respect and autonomy needs to be accommodated for all of the players,” Loveall says during his closing comments. “At some point the county board will push a vision on the county EDA.”

Minutes and notes of the meetings will be sent to city councils and EDAs to decide which structure they are in favor of.