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BE EDA wants to expand business park

Also receives an update on The 3 Sisters

By Chuck Hunt - Editor | Mar 21, 2021

The owners of the new business, The Blue House on Main, Noel and Renee Johnson, left, received the March EDA Business Spotlight Award from EDA specialist Amy Schafer, right.

The Blue Earth Economic Development Authority (EDA) had a full agenda on their plate at their meeting on Thursday, March 11, and yet still were able to keep the meeting to under an hour long.

One major item on the agenda was the continuing discussion of the Golden Spike Business Park north of Interstate 90.

The EDA is working on plans to expand the business park. However, there are several issues involved with any plans for expansion.

There are two tracts of land which are areas for expanding the business park; one is adjacent to the current area and is known as Phase 2, the other is also next to the current property and is known as the Manske tract.

EDA specialist Amy Schaefer reported city engineer Wes Brown said the estimated cost to do a feasibility study on developing the parcels of land is $20,000 to $25,000 each. The EDA board voted to request the City Council help fund these feasibility studies.

Other issues are a large pile of dirt, leftover from the construction of Phase 1 of the business park, and the need for constructing a holding pond for water retention in the Phase 2 area.

The city has been unable to find anyone interested in the dirt, and it would be costly to have it removed. A similar dirt pile in the new housing area cost $40,000 to move, city administrator Mary Kennedy said.

EDA members discussed getting an estimate on the dirt pile removal, and possibly discounting the price of the lot which needs a holding pond constructed. Schaeffer wondered if the EDA could possibly pay for the holding pond.

“I think either the city or the EDA should cover the cost of the pond, or else there will be no interest in the lot,” mayor Rick Scholtes, a member of the EDA board, said. “I suggest it go to the council to find the dollars needed to get it done this year, because if it does not get done this year, so we can begin moving forward, it puts us three years out to do any construction.”

The EDA board also learned that a purchase agreement on one of the lots in the current business park, between the EDA and Thriving Acre Seeds, had expired and the lot was now available for sale again.

Also at the meeting the board members heard an update on the Three Sisters Project from Rural Renaissance Project’s Janie Hanson.

Hanson said they are getting very close on starting construction and will be talking soon with the EDA about additional funding.

She also brought two entrepreneurs to the meeting with her who are interested in having space inside the Three Sisters.

One was Mike Latte who said he was interested in purchasing Oswald’s Brewery and moving it to the Three Sisters buildings. Latte had operated a brewery in Bakersfield, California. He said he would like to get the brewery operating as fast as he can.

The other person was Don Lipps who operates the Mankatolife.com website and is interested in starting a similar site in Blue Earth called BlueEarthlife.com.

Lipps is also working with Hanson on other projects, including one they hope will become a national TV show.

In other business at the meeting, the EDA board:

• Went over a marketing plan which would include doing $2,000 advertising in the Faribault County Register, doing $2,000 advertising on KBEW radio, and also doing digital billboard space on Blip, in conjunction with the Blue Earth Chamber of Commerce.

A Blip is about five words long and advertises a day trip to Blue Earth. There would be 500 blips per day on digital billboards within two hours of Blue Earth.

They also decided to do one page of a center spread in the Chamber’s Visitors Guide this year, with the other side sponsored by the Blue Earth Housing and Redevelopment Authority (HRA).

All of this is within the EDA’s $8,000 budgeted for marketing in 2021.

• Authorized two Commercial Business Improvement/Facade Grants.

One was to Armon Decorating for $5,000 for window replacement project on the building. The project will cost $11,500 and the maximum amount of the EDA grant is $5,000, up to half the cost of the project.

The other grant is to Average Jo’s Bar, for several remodeling projects which total $12,000. The EDA granted a $5,000 grant.

• Presented the March Business Spotlight Award to Noel and Renee Johnson, owners of the new The Blue House on Main store in the downtown mini-mall.

The Johnsons explained their store is a collection of overstocks and shelf pulls from department stores and other places.

The business began in their basement in California before they moved to Blue Earth.

• Discussed the branded bike project which would provide bikes to use around town.

EDA board member and City Council member Wendy Cole brought up an AARP grant for three wheel bicycles that could suit an older population.

A bike station would be at the Chamber Welcome Center at Giant Park.