County Board Approves WCEDA as its Economic Development Alliance
8 Aug 2013
Article by: Review Messenger-Matthew Johnson
The Wadena County Board of Commissioners has chosen West Central Economic Development Alliance (WCEDA) to represent county interests related to economic development.
Mark Hanson, economic development director for WCEDA, requested the county’s support following his presentation about WCEDA during the board’s Tuesday, August 6, regular monthly meeting. Commissioner Rodney Bounds had spoken with Hanson at an economic development meeting in Sebeka and invited him to address the county board.
“So, today, what I’m really looking for is an endorsement, saying we are your economic development alliance for the county,” Hanson said. He said he could help collaborate on economic development projects throughout the county that the county and cities might be interested in. A brochure he passed out lists WCEDA as an independent, non-profit organization, not directly tied to any community, county or other government entity.
“This enables us to reach across borders, to encompass a wider area, and nimbly provide services and advocacy that would be impossible within the confines of a government agency,” the brochure states.
The WCEDA board of directors encompasses business professionals “strategically selected from a cross-section of community leaders within the region.”
Hanson said he has been working in this area since July 2012 helping to develop and administer finance and business development programs, including business loan programs, business training, tax increment financing and tax abatement. This has included 12 loan applications (nine approved and three pending), plus a recently approved TIF district in Menahga where developers Jeff and Monica Schindeldecker recently broke ground for a 16-unit senior housing complex.
He has also been involved helping Jeff and Shannon Lausten with getting their new restaurant (to be called Hub 71) up and running in the not-too-distant-future.
Hanson listed WCEDA’s major contributors so far as West Central Telephone Association (WCTA), FAFS/Initiative Foundation, the cities of Menahga and Sebeka, First National Bank of Menahga and Sebeka, Menahga Development Corporation, Minnesota Power and Tri-County Hospital.
Hanson said WCEDA being the economic development alliance for the county would enable him to write certain grants, if deemed necessary, to aid in economic development in the county. With its endorsement, the county agrees to place a link on its website to the WCEDA website (thealliancemn.com). People can also contact Hanson at (218) 837-5950.
Commissioner Rodney Bounds made a motion, which was seconded by Commissioner Jim Hofer, for WCEDA to be the county’s official economic development alliance. That motion was approved 4-1, with Commissioner Bill Stearns opposed.
Stearns indicated that he was in favor of having more discussion on the topic, to include WCEDA and other economic development organizations including existing economic development organizations in the cities of Wadena and Staples.
“I just don’t think it’s been properly vetted,” Stearns said. “We always pass a motion and then three meetings later we change it, so . . . I don’t know. Maybe we won’t be changing this one, but I don’t think it’s been properly vetted. That’s my point.”
Commissioner Ron Noon stressed that WCEDA would be a county-wide organization, whereas the other organizations Stearns was referring to were considered more local.
Hanson said he would be willing to meet with the board on a monthly basis if that’s what they want. He also said, in light of Stearns’ comments, he would pull back on his second request, for what the agenda worksheet described as “significant funding.” He said WCEDA is about $40,000 short of where it should be in relationship to its budget, and relies on private donations and memberships. Hanson told the board he plans to do more research and return with a request for financial support at a later date.