The year 2016 was a pretty big one for the Blue Earth Economic Development Authority (EDA), says Tim Clawson of the Faribault County Development Corporation (FCDC).
Clawson serves as executive director of the FCDC, and FCDC is hired by the city of Blue Earth to handle all their economic development projects, working with the EDA.
At last month's EDA meeting and at one of the February Blue Earth City Council meetings, Clawson gave the annual EDA report for 2016.
The new sign at the city/EDA owned Ag Center was installed just last week.
"The EDA ended the year with just over $1.1 million in total fund cash balances," Clawson said. "And was also able to accomplish a long list of projects."
That list is indeed long. It includes:
Ag Center parking lot reconstruction,
Assisting financially with the Chamber of Commerce's land purchase for a new Giant Museum and Visitor's Center,
Main Street Reconstruction mitigation loans, and business facade grants,
Purchase and cleanup of Three Sisters buildings and redevelopment strategies,
Assisting with opening of new Jake's Body Shop,
Assisting with opening of new Cedar Inn,
Assisting with lot purchase for new ELM homes project,
Andy's Oriental building demolition and subsequent exterior wall construction on Oswald Brewery building,
Sale of the Century Building in the West Industrial Park to Kerry Ingredients,
Assisting with moving some Faribault County offices into the Ag Center,
Assisting with new Welcome to Blue Earth signs.
There is more to the list, but Clawson listed these as some of the more important items.
The EDA also was busy with a long list of loans and grants issued during 2016.
"All in all, the EDA invested $242,613 into the Blue Earth business community, and that stimulated another $502,108 of private funds being invested."
For instance, Clawson listed the 18 commercial exterior renovation grants issued in the total amount of $60,902. This was a match-ing grant, and so the businesses also invested $60,902 into fixing up their buildings. Another 12 grants, totaling $42,906 in EDA funds, plus the same amount in private money, were started in 2016 and continue to be underway this year.
"We also issued four business loans from the EDA's revolving loan fund which totaled $138,804," Clawson said. "The four businesses (Express Diagnostics, Simplified Ag Technology, Cedar Inn and Jake's Body Shop), added in $398,300 of their own money for these projects."
The EDA also offered a downtown construction mitigation loan program last summer, designed to help businesses during the downtown Main Street construction.
"We were a little surprised that only three businesses took advantage of these 0-percent interest loans," Clawson said.
Also on the EDA annual report was an Ag Center financial summary.
It showed total revenue of $243,628, most of it coming from tenant rent.
"The total expenses are shown as $428,359, but that number includes the $273,930 for the parking lot project," Clawson explained. "Without that project, the Ag Center would have shown an $89,199 net profit."
City administrator Tim Ibisch said the plan for the parking lot all along was to use several year's of rent income to cover the cost of the parking lot.
Ibisch reiterated that no city property tax dollars are expected to ever be used in the operation of the Ag Center.
This year, one of the major items on the EDA's to-do list is the rehab of the Three Sisters buildings and their eventual sale to private ownership.
"We will probably end up with covenants in the sale," Clawson said. "These would require the owners to do something with the buildings in a certain time period, and not just leave them empty. We've been down that road before."
The 2017 members of the Blue Earth EDA board include chairperson Brooke Prestegard, vice-chair Bill Rosenau, secretary/treasurer Daryle Pommeranke, Kara Drake, John Huisman, Ann Hanna and Rick Scholtes.