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BE EDA looks at investment proposal

By Chuck Hunt - Editor | Nov 15, 2020

The 10 Talents new business in Blue Earth was honored by the EDA during their meeting as the November Business Spotlight. Left to right above are: Amy Schaefer, economic development specialist; Dr. Aaron and Jenna Johnson, owners of 10 Talents; and Ann Hanna, chairperson of the Blue Earth EDA board.

The Blue Earth Economic Development Authority (EDA) spent time at their meeting last Thursday morning discussing a possible new real estate investment proposal.

A group called Rebound has a proposal where different local entities and individuals invest funds to form a Blue Earth Community Real Estate Fund.

City administrator Mary Kennedy explained how the investment fund would work. She said the proposal was for groups like the EDA and the Housing Rehabilitation Authority (HRA) investing along with private investors and the Rebound group itself.

However, EDA chairperson Ann Hanna said she was uncomfortable with using government taxpayer money and putting it into a private fund.

“I want to go on record as saying I am not in favor of doing this,” Hanna said. “And I would not sign it. It would tie up our money we could use elsewhere.”

EDA board member John Huisman said he disagreed and felt this was something the EDA should be looking at.

“We need to be a progressive organization and can’t just sit on the fence,” he said. “The Community Foundation board has looked at this proposal and thinks it has potential. I think we should go at this at a controlled pace, not a commitment yet, but continue to learn about this opportunity.”

Huisman pointed out the Rebound group has already had success with this program in Northfield and Grand Rapids, and the CEDA (Community Economic Development Associates) group is also very interested in the program.

EDA board member Bill Rosenau added he felt the EDA should not “shut the door” on the proposal, but that he is very skeptical of it.

“Some of the information, like the investors getting back returns from fees, raises a big red flag to me,” he said. “I would like more information on what they have done. It sounds like they have hit just one home run.”

Mayor Rick Scholtes, also a member of the EDA board, said he was concerned about the funding.

“Even if the EDA were to become a limited partner and invest $60,000, I am not sure where that funding would come from,” he said. “It is not really in our budget.”

Scholtes suggested the EDA have a small group of its members serve as a committee and get more information about the proposal.

In other business, the EDA announced a return to its monthly Business Spotlight award.

Board chair Hanna presented the certificate to Jenna Johnson and her new business ‘The 10 Talents,’ located in the former Central Graphics building on 14th Street.

Johnson explained they are now partially open, and have students taking music lessons every week. Some are orchestra students.

“We are still working on our meeting room, which has a kitchen attached,” she said. “It is nearly done. We are also working on finishing the back warehouse area.”

Johnson mentioned she has a birthday party booked for the warehouse area, where it is a large enough space to social distance.

“I told them it was not really finished yet, but they didn’t care,” she said. “It is our first time renting out space.”

Johnson told the EDA board it has been quite a journey. She and her family have done a lot of the work themselves.

The EDA members thanked her for transforming the former printing plant and refurbishing the building, and said they appreciated all she has done.

In other business, the EDA board:

• Heard an update on the Three Sisters Project by Beth Kalis of the Rural Renaissance Project. Kalis said the group has rented an office space at 120 S. Main Street and is working with Katherine McGill, who has experience in non-profit fundraising.

• Learned the EDA had 137 CARES Act grant applications and dispersed $116,000 in grants.

• Was introduced to Devin Greenside, who was at the meeting and who is the new maintenance person at the Ag Center, which is owned by the EDA.

The EDA board also gave city administrator Kennedy the go-ahead to get bids for snow removal at the Ag Center parking lot.

• Heard a proposal for placing an ad in Connect magazine for the North Business Park, but it failed for lack of a motion to proceed.

• Did agree to placing a local ad that would be a survey to reach out to local businesses.