Blue Earth ready to get REVed up
With the help of the Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation (SMIF), the city of Blue Earth is in the beginning stages of jumpstarting the local economy.
Along with Lake City, Spring Grove, Le Sueur, Lanesboro and Spring Valley, Blue Earth was chosen by SMIF to participate in the Rural Entrepreneurial Venture, or REV program. With each community having a distinctly separate set of needs, they will be working independently from one another in developing their own business model within the REV program.
During the past 30 years, SMIF has provided more than $100 million in grants, loans and programming within the southern Minnesota region. The REV program, which is a three-year agreement between SMIF and each of its selected communities, will utilize grant funding to enhance the success of existing businesses and possibly create more local jobs.
In order to initiate the city’s involvement in the REV program, a core group of community leaders which includes Tim Ibisch, Mary Kennedy, John Huisman, Cindy Lyon, Lissia Laehn and Beth Moss, began the process of assembling an inventory of all the businesses in Blue Earth.
Once a business inventory was established, the community group engaged in discussion regarding the various economic challenges facing the community. Other exercises such as constructing a vision for the city of Blue Earth, and creating a target list of top entrepreneurial business candidates for the REV program was also discussed.
The group of Blue Earth community leaders have decided to focus their attention on five transitional businesses which will be undergoing a change in management, as well as five growth oriented businesses that are looking to expand operations. According to CEDA representative Kennedy, the idea is to take a “grow your own” approach to entrepreneurial development with the 10 selected businesses.
“After we did some of those exercises, we identified what kind of entrepreneurs we want to target here in town,” Kennedy says. “With transitional businesses and growth oriented businesses, we really can hit on the two opposite ends of the spectrum.”
Back in May, the group of community leaders finalized their plans for the initial stages of the REV program. In their next phase of implementation, the group looks to form outreach and resource teams in an effort to maintain lines of communication with business owners in the community.
Business surveys which gauge the specific needs of individual companies, as well as student and school workforce engagements, will be a part of the next phase of planning. Additionally, a community gathering event at the end of summer or early fall, is also anticipated this year with the goal of spreading awareness of the REV program.
In order to track the progress of the REV program throughout the course of the three year partnership, SMIF will be providing analytical data for each of the communities involved. Meanwhile, Kennedy is excited about the potential economic upside the REV program may provide.
“After the first three years, it will be up to us to continue it on, but this can go on forever,” Kennedy says. “In the first year, we will be working with these 10 businesses, and then for the next year, we’ll pick a new 10 businesses. We can just keep expanding every year.”
If successful, Kennedy believes the REV program will help create more local jobs in rural areas. As a result, young adults may be more inclined to work in smaller communities after completing school.
“I think part of the benefit of the REV program will be showing young people there are job opportunities here,” Kennedy adds. “We want to make sure that students know what’s available, and that they can make a healthy living here. The possibilities are really exciting.”