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Someone needs to be in charge

By Staff | Jul 31, 2011

There seems to be a lot of consternation – once again – about who is going to be in charge of economic development in Faribault County.

The issue may not be who should be in charge, but the fact that somebody better be.

There are those people out there who believe that development of business and industry is something to be done solely by the private sector and that government bodies ­- cities and counties – should not be involved.

That is a theory which may work in a big city, but isn’t going to make it in small town USA.

Out here, we need to do whatever it takes to get a business or small industry to locate in our rural area. Afterall, businesses virtually have an unlimited choice of where to go. Every small town in Minnesota (or Iowa, Wisconsin or South Dakota) is going to do whatever it takes to get that business to come their way.

We need to be ready. The cliche is, we “need to have our ducks in a row.” That means when someone comes a knocking with questions and needs, we better be ready to answer those questions.

Telling them, “Let me check that out and get back to you,” won’t cut it. We better have already have checked it out.

Those who believe that businesses themselves will do all the work are naive in this area. Businesses want help. They want a building, they want to remodel, they need financing. The list goes on and on.

And, they are going to locate somewhere where all those needs are met.

Don’t think that type of thing isn’t going on in Faribault County. Just read the pages of this newspaper if you don’t believe it.

A new business started up in Easton, while another one there expanded and built a new building. Wells has a large manufacturing plant going online soon in a totally remodeled facility. Winnebago has been filling empty buildings with new businesses. Blue Earth has several larger manufacturing plants remodeling, buying buildings, hiring new employees.

Would all of these things happen on their own? Maybe. But all were assisted by local government entities. One in particular – the Faribault County Development Corporation (FCDC).

The issue here shouldn’t be whether there is a need for a county-wide organization to be in charge of economic development. There should be. Economic development is no longer something every small town should be trying to do on its own – or can any longer do on their own, due to limited funding available. Budgets are being cut.

All of the cities and towns in the county need to pool their resources and work together as one entity.

Now the question becomes, is FCDC the best organization to spearhead this work of economic development?

We had high hopes for it when it first began.

With its pledge of using private funds for economic development and involving all of the communities in the county, it certainly sounded like the right track to take.

But, they soon looked for public money, also, and received $50,000 from both the county and city of Blue Earth.

It took FCDC a while to find their course. Their focus seems to have shifted over the few years of its existence. They are evolving into whatever they need to be in order to be the economic development leader in the county.

Are they doing what needs to be done? That is the big question.

Both the county and city of Blue Earth gave them $50,000 to use this year to operate. Both said they want results or the funding may not happen next year. With the 2012 budget planning sessions about to begin, that question is due to pop up again very soon.

We think FCDC could be the entity to lead the charge for economic development in the county. But, they need to involve everyone in the county.

It has been bothersome from the start of FCDC (formerly Go Minnesota) that Blue Earth is the only city on board with them. And the only one making a financial commitment. FCDC needs to get the support of the other cities in the county, one way or another, in order to be this county-wide agency they say they are.

If not, then we fear for its future.

And if FCDC is not in charge of economic development in the county, then who is?

Somebody needs to be.