Wells EDA concerned with loss of Lampert’s
The Lamperts corporation decided to close its Wells location at the end of 2019, and have now put the property on the market. The Wells EDA is trying to figure out how to fill the local lumber gap, and spoke about potential alternatives during their regular monthly meeting on Thursday, Jan. 9.
EDA president Brad Heggen talked to the corporation several times about the possibility of selling the business to local owners, but the existing employees at the Wells location were not interested in becoming business owners. Heggen talked with the owners to see if they would be willing to sell the business, but since Lamperts owns other stores, they considered that potential to be a competing business and did not want to sell business or property to be run as a lumber yard.
“It didn’t leave an avenue to save the business as a local lumber yard,” says city administrator CJ Holl. “Our best hope is that someone will see the property as beneficial for some other use, much like the Blake Greenfield building immediately got reused by Schroeder Electric. It’s in a good location.”
“It really is unfortunate that Lamperts wasn’t willing to work with the city a little more,” said Heggen during the meeting. “It’s a strategy on their part and we have to respect that decision.”
So, while the Wells EDA continues to try and fill its new Wells Business Park, it is also finding some gaps that need filling elsewhere within the city limits. And that includes improving the current businesses Wells already has.
When it comes to the EDA’s commercial building enhancement grant, it seems the modifications the board made to the grant application in 2019 have benefitted the applicants. One application was approved at the end of 2019, and a handful of new applicants have applied for 2020 to improve their business structures and storefronts. The EDA took a few moments to continue making some changes to the application to make sure it is both easy for the applicant and specified enough for the EDA to make sure the board receives all of the proper documentation before an application is accepted.
“Things are going well for you,” said Holl to the EDA. “You changed the application which was pretty large and rather overwhelming and now you’ve had three applicants. That’s great.”
Members then moved onto the topic of childcare. Wells City administrative associate Tiffany Schrader updated the board on the progress of both childcare as a whole, and the potential CCF Bank childcare location.
Schrader shared she’s been working closely with the Faribault County childcare licenser who has brought up some gaps in the planning.
“We have found just a few things that we didn’t think about before, and it just requires a little more brainwork,” said Schrader. “I spoke with Jeff Andrews from SMIF (Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation) and he helped me go over things. We found out in our CCF?space that we are in need of a sink to wash bottles and dishes, as well as a food prep area and a fridge. The funds we were given by SMIF?will be disbursed in May, so I was getting a little worried, but Jeff reassured me that we really are on a good track with things.”
“Stuff doesn’t happen overnight,” said Heggen. “We’ve made progress and that’s what counts.”
“I think you are doing a great job with this pretty large task,” Schuster said to Schrader. “We are very lucky to have you working with us.”
Schrader stated she knows there are folks in the area who will benefit from the SMIF?funds and is staying positive while she works out the kinks.
In other subjects, the new Wells liquor store is just two weeks away from opening. According to city administrator Holl, the Wells VFW?has taken an interest in the old liquor store site and may want to purchase the location.
“If they do, it’d be a win for everyone the EDA and the city both see the use of two of its buildings, and the VFW?could expand their business, too.”
With regard to the Wells Business Park, AMB?properties hopes to close on Feb. 28, for its new lot in the business park. Holl remarked things were progressing with AMB?properties, and two other lots are in the process of being sold as well.
“It’s great to see the EDA working hard on getting these lots filled,” said Herman. “There’s still more work to do.”
Feb. 13, is the next scheduled EDA meeting date, where the Wells board will continue their efforts to provide economic development to the city.