Living Alexandria Area Micropolitan

Top Micropolitan in Minnesota

Our Alexandria and Douglas County community is ever growing and expanding, and this last year was no exception. Alexandria, Minnesota was ranked in the 2016 Top Micropolitans in the United States for new or expanding facilities by Site Selection Magazine. The magazine has been ranking communities since 1988, and ranked 575 of the nation’s micropolitan areas this year. Alexandria was ranked number one for the state of Minnesota, and tied for fifty-one in the nation, based upon the number of qualifying business construction or expansion projects in 2016.

“The Alexandria area is proud to be ranked in the top micropolitans in the U.S. again this year, and as the #1 micropolitan in Minnesota,” said Nicole Fernholz, Alexandria Area Economic Development Commission Director.

The Alexandria Area Economic Development Commission was able to submit three projects that met Site Selections qualifications. Knute Nelson’s 195,000 square foot expansion, Stone Manor’s 140,000 square foot housing complex and Beverage Wholesalers 61,000 square foot warehouse.

The micropolitan statistical area (MSA) is defined as one or more adjacent counties that have at least one urban core area of between 10,000 to 50,000, plus adjacent territory that has a high degree of social and economic integration with the core as measured by commuting ties.

Qualifying projects must meet at least one of the following criteria:

  • Project cost (at least $1 million)
  • Number of new jobs created (at least 50)
  • New square footage (at least 20,000)

Click HERE to learn more about the Alexandria Area

Minnesota Ranked 3rd Best State

The U.S. News and World Report ranked Minnesota as the 3rd best state in the nation. The report cites Minnesota’s economic opportunities, education and quality of health care as factors also ranking Minnesota as the #1 state in the region.

“This ranking affirms what we already know: we live in one of the very best states in the country”
– Governor Mark Dayton.

Category National Ranking Regional Ranking
Opportunity 2 1
Infrastructure 5 1
Health Care 3 1
Education 11 1
Economy 12 2
Crime and Corrections 17 3
Government Administration 24 5

The data driving these rankings were drawn from extensive and reliable governmental and private sources as well as proprietary data including a national survey of what matters most to citizens around the country. Among the seven main categories measured in the Best States rankings, more than five dozen subcategories of metrics are taken into account. – U.S. News


Livability and Growth

In 1990, the Commission was created to provide economic growth and stability by supporting existing businesses, or by attracting new industry, while ensuring the protection of our natural resources and quality of life.  Twenty-six years later, our organization continues to forge ahead, doing more with less and meeting the demands of our communities and businesses, all while staying focused on and achieving our mission.

Through our work in 2016, $17,000,000 was devoted to our community. Those are local dollars being invested into the place where we work and raise our families. A community that continues to grow and is consistently ranked as a premiere place to live.

And although economic development has traditionally been viewed as job creation, we also must focus on the livability of our community. Without being a desirable place to live, we will not have the workforce pipeline needed to enable our companies to grow. The workforce shortage is not unique to our area, but it is central to our approach of economic development. Focusing on long-term workforce efforts for our industry clusters is key to economic prosperity in a community.

We are extremely proud of our accomplishments over the past year, and we look forward to continuing our work; partnering with businesses throughout the region in creating and retaining jobs and investments in our communities in 2017.  Our success represents the work of many people throughout our area.  The interest, participation and support from our business leaders and elected official were essential to the success of this organization.

Looking to start or expand your business? Click HERE for more information

Know someone looking at relocating to the area? Click HERE for more information


starting your own business

Want to start your own business…now what?

Estimates vary, but generally more than 625,000 businesses are started each year in the United States. Yet for every American who actually starts a business, there are likely many more who intend to start a business, but don’t. There are many explanations why people don’t take that step into entrepreneurship, but in my experience, there are three common reasons.

Everyone has his own roadblock, something that prevents him from taking that crucial first step. But generally, most people are simply afraid to start; they may fear the unknown, failure, or even success. Others are overwhelmed in the false belief they have to start completely from scratch. They believe they need a product that no one has ever done before—the next big invention or unique service.

Entrepreneurship is scary and it’s not for the timid. But I don’t define timid as fearful. It’s not that it takes tremendous amounts of courage, but you do need a certain tenacity to hit the ground running every morning, and to get back up when you’ve been knocked to the ground.

Secondly, people wonder if it’s good time to start their business idea. Honestly, there’s really never a bad time to launch a business. Clearly it is smart to launch in strong economic times because people have money and are looking for ways to spend it. However, launching in uncertain economic times can be just as smart. Presumably there’s a need for the business you’re starting, and because many people are reluctant to launch in tough times, your new business has a better chance of getting noticed.

Finally, there’s the belief that starting a business is a mysterious process. Entrepreneurs know they want to start a business, but they don’t know the first steps to take. That’s where our office can help – we have the tools that can help you figure out what it is you want to do and then how to take action on it.

Click HERE for more information, or HERE to contact our office!

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.

living, 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.

critical thinking

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 [email protected] or Claire Anderson, AAHS Academy Coach [email protected] 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!