Honoring Carlos Creek Winery

The Alexandria Area Economic Development Commission and the Alexandria Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce had the pleasure of honoring Carlos Creek Winery as the 2016 Business and Industrial Appreciation Day recipient. As we’re wrapping up this year’s event we can’t help but feel pride at having our third highest attendance with 390 community members showing their congratulations and support for Carlos Creek Winery. It really shows how much Carlos Creek Winery is involved in the community and what an excellent job they have done with helping everyone fall in love with their winery.

Since 1984, an outstanding Alexandria area business or organization has been selected as the BIAD recipient and has been honored for their significant contribution to the social and economic vitality of the Douglas County region through creation of jobs, business investment, and community development efforts and Carlos Creek Winery is no exception. This celebration has been recognized as one of the largest and longest standing annual events of its type in greater Minnesota with attendance from regional citizens, business persons, and government officials from the area. We can’t begin to express our appreciation for all that Carlos Creek Winery does for our community…but we do want to say thank you…and we are so glad you are a part of what makes our area a great place to live and work.

Also, we wanted to say thank you to all of the wonderful people and businesses that helped and contributed to this year’s event…without all of you we wouldn’t be able to honor such a deserving business every year!

If you weren’t able to make it to this year’s BIAD, please make sure to check out this wonderful video about this year’s honoree, Carlos Creek Winery:

Employment Law, Manufacturing

Area Manufacturing & Development

Manufacturing Week, October 2nd-8th, is designed to showcase Minnesota’s diverse manufacturing and technology industries in order to increase legislative and public awareness of their importance in providing high-wage and high-skilled jobs for our communities.

The manufacturing industry is a dynamic segment of Minnesota’s economy, and an integral part of Minnesota’s economic development strategy.

  • Manufacturing has the second largest total payroll among business sectors in Minnesota, providing $20 billion in wages.
  • Manufacturing contributed almost $48.2 billion to the Minnesota economy 2015, and is the second-largest industry (16 percent) contributing to our private gross domestic product.
  • Manufactured exports brought $18.9 billion into the Minnesota economy in 2015.
  • Manufacturing provides over 317,200 highly skilled, high paying jobs, which significantly contribute to Minnesota’s high standard of living and economic vitality.
  • The Alexandria area is home to four of the world’s leading manufacturers of automated packaging machines, marking the region as one of the leaders in technology development and innovation for this industry.
  • Equipment designed, engineered, and manufactured by Alexandria area companies is utilized by businesses across the United States and around the world.
  • Manufacturing is one of the top employing industries in the Alexandria area with 18% of it’s jobs.

On behalf of the Board of  Directors and Staff of the Alexandria Area Economic Development Commission, we would like to thank our manufacturing and support industries for their crucial role in the continued success and growth of our communities.

instagram, facebook, social media

Leaving a Positive Impression

What is community marketing? It seems like an easy question to answer.  We get marketing messages every day, and yet, when you stop to think about marketing your community, it can be hard to define and move forward with a strategic plan.  Some people may associate marketing with some sort of in your face promotional effort – which it can be, but doesn’t have to be.  More may believe that marketing is a matter of having a name that is well-known – which is a part of the story, but not all of it.

When we think about how we’re living in the Alexandria area, it’s easy to see that we live, shop and work in a great area. We have numerous locally-started companies that employ thousands of our residents. We have new curriculum at our high school that gives students a more personalized school day for their future college and/or workforce needs. We also have the Alexandria Technical & Community College that offers a number of programs with career placement that is among the highest of all Minnesota public two-year colleges.

As an economic development organization, we get to market the community and all it has to offer to a wide variety of audiences –executives with site selection responsibilities, location advisors, skilled workers seeking a career, and the news media to name a few. And while it is important to send our area’s message to these sources, we also see the need to market the Alexandria area to other audiences. Not only do we want to attract growing companies that will invest in our community, but we also want talented workers to relocate and fill open positions in our region.

We also rely on the community to be our message. The local business community comes into frequent contact with the outside world via business colleagues, friends, and relatives. If you have positive views on our hometown and its progress, you will undoubtedly reflect this with the outside world. In today’s world, there is nothing more powerful and credible than “word of mouth.”

It is important that we as a community have a clear and consistent message that communicates our distinctiveness as a regional center. Defining what makes our community really different is the first step to success in community growth. Places leave a lasting impression on people – let’s be sure to leave a positive one.

Understanding Tax Increment Financing (TIF)

Tax Increment Financing is an economic development, redevelopment, and housing development tool that was authorized by the State of Minnesota in 1979 for cities, counties and other local authorities to use to offset certain development and redevelopment costs.  For local units of government to implement TIF for certain projects, the unit must find that it serves a public purpose, which includes removal of blighted areas, addition of low-to-moderate income housing, wage and employment opportunities, and bolstering the local tax base.  As part of the public purpose, the local unit of government must include a statement of finding related to a “but-for” test.  The “but-for” test simply means that if not for this assistance, this project would not be undertaken by the developer.

When implemented for a project, Tax Increment Financing will capture the increase in taxes for the new project as the incentive for the development.  The tax difference (also known as the increment) is returned to the developer as an incentive to do the project.  Local governments do not lose any current revenues when utilizing TIF. The local unit of government simply foregoes new taxes for a temporary period of time to assist a project that would not have happened otherwise.  Often times, we narrowly discuss future property taxes as the only benefit of new projects.  We must include a broader view of benefits of the project.  For instance, new projects generally provide new job opportunities, extend public infrastructure, and remove substandard property conditions.

Every year cities and counties are required to report their TIF activities to the Minnesota Office of State Auditor (OSA) for monitoring, compliance, and data collection.  According to the League of Minnesota Cities from information compiled in 2014, it is estimated that 4% of Minnesota’s total tax capacity is captured in TIF Districts.  In comparison, roughly 6% of the City of Alexandria tax capacity is captured in TIF districts, slightly higher than the state average.  The captured tax capacity measurement is one of the more common statistics used to hold local units accountable for the application and use of TIF for development projects.

Through our assistance, our elected officials have relied upon and challenged the AAEDC to uphold that all TIF projects meet the public purpose and requirements for the respective district.  However, our elected officials have the most difficult policy decision, making sure that the TIF incentive is in the best interest of our communities and our county.

Customer Service

FAN (Freshman Academy Network) Coaches – Get Connected

The Alexandria Area High School (AAHS) is seeking FAN Coaches for the upcoming school year, which is less than a month away, craziness! What is a FAN Coach? The mission of the FAN Coach program is to connect community leaders with 9th-grade students in the efforts to reinforce skill development and a commitment to education. As a FAN Coach, you encourage positive life choices that enable them to maximize their personal potential. Take the opportunity to build a connection with students, they are the pipeline for future workforce. Each coach is paired with a small group of freshman that they will meet with throughout the semester. What kind of time commitment are we asking? In the last week of August, you will participate in a training that will get you prepared for your small group. Then two meetings each month throughout September to December for one hour each. Sign up with Abby Strom at the AAEDC astrom@alexmn.org or Claire Anderson, AAHS Academy Coach caanderson@alexandria.k12.mn.us Start connecting today.

starting your own business

Building A Business Plan

One of the first steps in a new venture is the development of a business plan. The business plan describes the product or service, market, people and financing needs.

A well-prepared business plan serves several purposes:

  • For the new business, it helps the owner determine the feasibility and desirability of pursuing the steps necessary to start a business.
  • For the company seeking financing, it is an important sales tool for raising capital from outside sources.
  • For an existing company, the business plan forms the basis of a more detailed operational plan and thus becomes an important management tool for monitoring the growth of the firm and charting future directions.

A business plan should cover these five areas:

  1. Business Summary: The summary should be a brief, concise work that provides the reader with a good understanding of the entire business venture. It should cover – executive summary, objectives, mission statement and keys to success.
  2. Company Summary: It commonly includes a general description of the business, including the product or service and may describe the historical development of the business, company profile, location, legal structure, ownership, and business structure.
  3. The Product or Service: This is a detailed description of product or service lines, including the relative importance of each product or service to the company. Include pricing analysis if possible.
  4. Marketing Plan: Identify principal markets, run a market analysis, and complete an overall strategy for the business.
  5. Financials: This starts with providing name and address of key advisors, including auditor, legal counsel, and banker. Then providing financial statements and projections for next two to three years, which include: Income Statement, Balance Sheet, and Cash Flow Statement.

To request a copy of our “Small Business Booklet”, please contact the AAEDC today!

Alexandria Area High School, Future Workforce

Partnership Doing Something Remarkable for Students & Community

When the talk of the new Alexandria Area High School (AAHS) was starting a few years ago, the Alexandria Area Economic Development Commission (AAEDC) never wondered if we could help in any way, it was always – how can we help? The answer was found with my position as the community and workforce development coordinator. This position was incorporated into an existing one, to form a unique partnership with the school district. My role within the AAEDC allows me to help coordinate community resources to enhance authentic learning experiences for students.

The community has always and continues to play a big role in the success of the school and the students, but this new partnership benefits those involved in a number of different ways. Through my position as the community and workforce development coordinator, I get the chance to connect with community resources and witness the overwhelming amount of support this community puts forth. The students get the chance to listen and engage with guest speakers that are relevant to their chosen academy and hear about potential career paths.

Community members who volunteer to be mentors offer field experiences and job shadowing opportunities are given the chance to make a difference in a student’s life. Instructional guides also come into the high school to work closely with students, and all staff is given the chance to participate in externships. Without the help of the Alexandria community, none of these career exploration opportunities would be possible.

The Academy model that AAHS has implemented prepares students for their future, whether they continue their education or step directly out into the workforce. Ultimately, the partnership the AAEDC has formed with AAHS benefits our organization, the school district, and the Alexandria community, by building a pipeline for future workforce in the area.

For example, AAHS, 3M, and the AAEDC have teamed up to put on an upcoming event called Smart Girls Rock! Through this event, we are hoping to encourage girls to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering, and math by giving them the opportunity to be mentored by women in those fields that are statistically held by men.

I am also working with the high school to put on a Career Expo for freshmen students at AAHS and surrounding schools: Brandon/Evansville, Sauk Centre, and Osakis. Businesses in the community are invited to attend this event to share with the students what the Alexandria area has to offer.

AAHS would not have these opportunities to offer their students if it wasn’t for the support from the Alexandria community. We are always looking for more volunteers to share their careers and experiences with students, so if you are interested, please contact me at (320) 763-4545.

I am excited and fortunate to be a part of this unique partnership with the AAHS and making these connections with community members. The opportunities and new experiences the students are able to explore will give them the chance to find a career they are passionate about. This partnership is doing something remarkable for our students and community.

Annual Meeting, Economic Development

What Is Economic Development?

It can be an intangible concept that is hard to explain. The book definition takes a policy perspective: economic development is the efforts that seek to improve the economic well-being and quality of life for a community by creating and/or retaining jobs and supporting or growing incomes and the tax base.

When I’m asked what it is that an Economic Development Organization (EDO) actually does, I explain that there is isn’t a typical “one size fits all” approach that I can point to. We all assist in developing vibrant communities and creating high-quality jobs, but there is no single strategy, policy or program used for achieving successful economic development.

For example, an EDO can service a city, county, region or state – our Alexandria Area Economic Development Commission provides services to all of Douglas County. The services an EDO provides also vary by organization. One organization may focus heavily on workforce development while another may look largely at downtown development and revitalization. The AAEDC has a number of programs that help market the entire region to attract new businesses, as well as assist in retaining and expanding the businesses that currently reside here.

One way we do that is by being an information clearinghouse. We have a library of demographic information, and for the public to better access it, our office puts out the annual Lakes Area Fact Guide. This publication provides a demographic and statistical overview of Douglas County. Data within this publication is gathered from a wide variety of sources and is compiled to provide a detailed community profile. The data is used not only by prospective companies looking to move to the area but also by local businesses who are undergoing strategic planning or retooling their current programs and projects.

We also work with entrepreneurs in all aspects of their journey to start and grow a business. If you have an idea for a business start–up and are unsure of the steps to make it happen, our office can assist you. AAEDC services are completely confidential and provided free of charge to the businesses and residents of Douglas County. We also partner with other entities to be a full-service stop – the West Central Regional Small Business Development Center (SBDC) consultants will meet with entrepreneurs and small business owners during this time and provide cost-free, confidential consulting and assistance services.

If you are looking for financial assistance, we have a Revolving Loan Fund Program that supplies small businesses and entrepreneurs with the gap financing needed to start or expand their business. Revolving Loan Funds (RLF’s) have become an increasingly popular business financing tool because of the ability to leverage public and private dollars, as well as the bonus of recycling these funds within a community. As the RLF receives the principal and interest from outstanding loans, the money is made available to another borrower. RLF funds are available to businesses within Douglas County.

Through our many programs and services, the AAEDC focuses on job creation, community investment and improving the quality of life. We have a number of tools available to assist you as your business develops and grow. If you have a business idea or question, or any questions about the area, please contact our office. Our services are free and confidential and we would love to help you.

starting your own business

Business Opportunity: AAHS CAPS Partnership