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Wells getting all REV’ed up

Ready to start 3-year program January 2021

By Chuck Hunt - Editor | Jan 4, 2021

The city of Wells is getting ready to be all “REV’ed” up for 2021.

Back in November, the city learned they had been selected to be one of four cities in the 20-county southern Minnesota area to participate in the Rural Entrepreneurial Venture (REV) program.

REV is a program of the Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation (SMIF). Included as part of the three year program is a $7,500 grant, which is paid out at $2,500 each year.

Also included is a “coach” from either SMIF or one of its partners in the REV program; Region Nine Development Commission and the University of Minnesota Extension Service. The coach helps guide the community through their three-year REV commitment.

Linda Wallace, a senior financial accountant/RLF assistant at Region Nine will be the Wells REV coach.

“The Wells EDA (Economic Development Authority) led the effort for us to apply for this program,” city administrator CJ Holl says. “It was quite a competition.”

He says they filled out applications and were interviewed by SMIF staff members as part of the process.

“I think it helped that Wells had done a Market Area Profile through Minnesota Extension in the past,” Holl says. “And we had been successful being a SMIF grantee for a childcare grant. The EDA had used that $10,000 grant and was able to get two new childcare centers going.”

Now the EDA, along with city staff, will begin meeting in January to develop a REV program strategy and plan.

“The EDA will lead the effort, but we will probably bring in other community members, too,” Holl explained. “We are looking at what other cities have done with the REV program, although every city is different in what they accomplished.”

There were six cities selected for the first round of REV grants three years ago. One of those was Blue Earth.

“We were part of the three-year pilot program for REV,” Blue Earth city administrator Mary Kennedy explains. “Now that our three years are up, we are now formalizing REV as a subcommittee of the city.”

Kennedy explained that REV will be under the Blue Earth EDA, but will be privately funded.

“The Community Workforce coordinator, Emily Davis, fundraised for the whole budget for her work, which is part of REV,” Kennedy said. “It will be a line item of the EDA budget, but is all privately funded.”

Kennedy said the REV program in Blue Earth concentrated on things such as business succession and working with students to show them there are good jobs available right in Blue Earth.

“REV has really worked out for Blue Earth,” she said. “And, after three years, it is stronger than ever.”

Meanwhile, in Wells, Holl says their REV program will kickoff in January with an EDA meeting.

“We will look at the process on how to proceed, determine what we want to get to, and decide how do we get there,” Holl says. “That is right now undetermined, but our overall goal will be to enhance business in Wells.”

He points out REV is a three-year program and that is a pretty long commitment.

“But, in reality, it takes time to get big things done,” he adds. “So it is OK to have a commitment to a longer time.”