Three Sisters makeover still coming
While it may not seem like much is happening with the Three Sisters buildings in downtown Blue Earth, one of the main people behind the project says there soon will be.
“We have winterized the buildings and had been planning on starting some of the exterior work back in September, but then we decided to wait until next year,” says Janie Hanson. “And, with the way the weather has been, I am glad we did.”
Hanson is a native of the Frost area and a Blue Earth Area High School graduate. She recently moved back to Blue Earth and owns a company called Connect the Grey. It was Hanson, along with some others, who became interested in remodeling the Three Sisters and using it as a model for revitalizing small towns in rural Minnesota and elsewhere in the Midwest.
That led to forming the non-profit group called Rural Renaissance Project. The group wants to share information and ideas on how to spark interest in entrepreneurs, business creation, investment and revitalization in small communities across the country.
Since Rural Renaissance Project is a non-profit, a separate company called The Three Sisters Project was formed, and it is the actual owner of the buildings.
“The Three Sisters Project is working with Knutson Construction of Mankato developing the construction plans, engineering and project cost estimates,” Hanson says. “We plan to open up contractor bids in February and get going on the work in the spring when the weather allows.”
She says first on the list is a lot of exterior work, as well as the HVAC systems (heating ventilation and air conditioning) inside the buildings.
As far as funding for the project goes, Hanson says they are using a mix of grants, gifts from donors and investments.
“The entire city of Blue Earth is designated as an ‘Opportunity Zone.’ They were created by the 2017 Jobs Act, and are a way for people to defer capital gains by reinvesting in a community project,” Hanson explains. “It is well suited for what is going on in Blue Earth.”
Hanson also says the group is trying to get the word out and get some people to get involved with the project and help with ideas.
“There is a lot of talent locally,” she explains. “Lots of it here in Blue Earth. We want to see if there are people interested in owning, managing or working at a business which could be located in the Three Sisters building. The buildings are a blank slate and we are looking for ideas for them.”
They still want to have things such as a wine bar, restaurant and co-working space, as well as an area for educational classes, art displays, and more.
Hanson says those interested in more information can go to the website ruralren.org.
One of the first tenants will be another company Hanson and her business partner, Deanna Lahre, co-founded.
It is called Croptomize and is a company which created an app which helps farmers keep up to date on all sorts of financial information, including current crop prices.
“Now that it launched last month, we will be creating new jobs here in Blue Earth,” Hanson explains. “These kinds of good paying high tech jobs are possible to be located here because of the gig fiber optic cable that Bevcomm has installed.”
Another software for farmers, called Farm CFO, will be launched this next year, Hanson says.
“It shows how leveraging tech and data together can help farmers be more profitable,” Hanson explains. “And this company is located here and was created here.”
Hanson says the hope of Rural Renaissance Project and The Three Sisters Project is that the rehabilitation of these downtown buildings will help spark some community pride.
And, it will help draw people to Blue Earth, they hope.