economic development

What Does Economic Development Do?

What is and what does economic development organizations do? Being that there’s no one definition for economic development is why these two questions are often asked. Although economic development organizations can be a bit different in the services they provide they all tend to have the same similar goals of job creation, community growth and improving quality of life.

The Alexandria Area Economic Development Commission (AAEDC) is just that. The AAEDC’s mission is to provide regional leadership in a collaborative effort to facilitate job growth and our vision is to see the area as a regional center sustaining a vibrant, growing economy that is attractive to businesses and to a capable, productive workforce.

“Along with our communities and businesses, the AAEDC has continued to forge strong partnerships. With assistance for our efforts, our businesses continue to create jobs, wages, and tax base; three critical components in measuring economic success and vitality. Using our economic development programs, the AAEDC assisted many of our companies with opportunities to grow and prosper in the Alexandria area and Douglas County”.
-Nicole Fernholz, AAEDC Executive Director

In in growing the embarked on and completed a strategic plan that spells out our focus for the next three years. The greatest area of need and opportunity is workforce development. The AAEDC in partnership with the Alexandria Area High School Academies and the Center of Advanced Professional Studies (CAPS) network have helped prepare students for their future, whether they continue their education or step directly out into the workforce. The AAEDC also partners with the Alexandria Technical & Community College to offer regional small business trainings for entrepreneurs and small businesses in the Alexandria area.

As we move forward the AAEDC is also looking to develop a process for linking housing needs and community assets to expand workforce housing options in the region. Along with expanding and diversifying the pipeline of skilled workers for the Alexandria area businesses both current and prospective. In assisting those efforts, expanding visibility of the Living Alexandria Area marketing efforts to both future workforce and businesses.

The AAEDC also offers many different services for startup or expanding businesses.

  • Business Planning: The AAEDC works with a wide variety of businesses and individuals to assist in the business planning process. We create and analyze financial projections to identify potential needs of the business. Within the financial packaging and planning process, the AAEDC does not recommend any specific commercial lending institution(s) to clients.
  • Site Selection Assistance: In a continuously growing effort to assist area realtors and property owners in marketing commercial properties throughout the area, the state, and the nation, the AAEDC maintains two supplemental property listing databases of “for-sale” and “for lease” properties throughout Douglas County. These databases are free for the listing of commercial properties in Douglas County and serve as a database of properties that can be easily accessed by individuals, businesses, and site selectors from throughout the nation.
  • Financial Incentives: Our organization works with new and existing businesses on startup and growth projects, some of which can be supported through incentive programs including, Tax Increment Financing (TIF), Tax Abatement, Industrial Revenue Bonds, and the State of Minnesota’s Job Opportunity Building Zone (JOBZ) program. In addition to commercial tax incentives, the AAEDC has Revolving Loan Funds at its disposal to assist businesses with growth and expansion projects in the area. Funds are specifically used in coordination with primary financing through a financial institution and cannot be used as the primary means of project financing.
  • Demographic Information: The AAEDC strives to be a demographics, statistics, and information clearing house for our area and produces different publications each year focusing on the growth and changes of our communities and all of Douglas County.
small business

Small Business is Something to Celebrate

In the next few weeks, our area will celebrate two nationally recognized weeks that celebrate small businesses and the quality jobs they create. National Small Business Week 2018 kicks off at the end of this month with an awards ceremony in Washington D.C. where national award winners will be recognized and awarded for their achievements.

National Small Business Week is held from April 29 to May 5 and is an annual event hosted by the U.S. Small Business Administration to recognize the nation’s top small businesses, entrepreneurs, and champions. Every day they’re working to grow small businesses, create 21st century jobs, drive innovation, and increase America’s global competitiveness. In Douglas County, there are approximately 1,400 companies that have created over 19,000 jobs. Two thirds of that labor come from within the county, with the remaining labor coming from surrounding counties. Our county is a net importer of labor, meaning we bring more labor into our county than we send out.

Following that week of appreciation, National Economic Development Week kicks off from May 7-12. National Economic Development Week was created by the International Economic Development Council in 2016 to increase awareness of local programs that create jobs, advance career development opportunities and increase the quality of life. The first campaign was held in conjunction with IEDC’s 90th anniversary, and over the span of two years, more than 450 campaigns have been created throughout the U.S. and Canada, creating millions of impressions, hundreds of news stories, events and many more activities.

Starting a small business is not easy, and there are stumbling blocks that entrepreneurs need to overcome in that journey. Through my work with economic development, I have been exposed to a vast number of programs and policies that aid in the creation, retention and expansion of jobs; the development of a stable tax base; and the enhancement of wealth.

Often, one of those blockades is access to capital. Many entrepreneurs need capital to start or expand their small business, combining what they have with other sources of financing. The AAEDC has 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 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, and loans can be made up to $75,000 through our office.

There are a variety of activities that our office performs in Douglas County to ensure positive economic development. Our tools involve site selection for developers, workforce development, infrastructure and business finance, attraction, expansion and retention, community development and many more. If you have a business idea or question, or any questions about the area, please contact our office at 320-763-4545. Our services are free and confidential, and we would love to help you in your entrepreneurial journey.

> Click HERE to contact our office

> Click HERE to get more business startup information

Anderson Funeral Home

Honoring Anderson Funeral Home & Crematory

With roots going back to 1872, Anderson Funeral Home & Crematory has given many years of service to the Alexandria area. From the dedicated and caring staff to their commitment to the community Anderson’s has built a legacy of meaningful relationships and compassionate service. The Alexandria Area Economic Development Commission & the Alexandria Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce were proud to have awarded Anderson’s Funeral Home & Crematory as the 2017 Business & Industrial Appreciation Day recipient.

For more of the Anderson Funeral Home & Crematory story please watch the video below:

The Business & Industrial Appreciation Day (BIAD) event has honored a Douglas County company each year since 1984, and is recognized as one of the largest and longest standing annual events of its type in greater Minnesota.  Annually, one company from the region is selected as the BIAD recipient based upon the following factors: 

  • Growth in number of employees; the impact of the business on the job market
  • Increase in sales and/or unit volume; an indication of continued growth
  • Capital Investment; an indication of commitment by the business to increase community capacity
  • Community Contributions; evidence of the business’s investment of time, skills, and resources to assist in community oriented projects

West Central SBDC Consultant in Alexandria Area

Shannon Berns is the newest consultant joining the West Central – Small Business Development Center (SBDC).  Shannon has a Masters of Business Administration degree from Hamline University.  Shannon has been an entrepreneur, small business owner, banker, Economic Development professional, marketing director and small business consultant.  Shannon is Founder of Du Nord Consulting located in Alexandria, MN.  The West Central SBDC has added Shannon Berns as a consultant to better serve clients in the Douglas, Stevens, Grant and Pope counties.

Shannon lives in the Alexandria, MN area. Shannon is an outdoor enthusiast who finds adventure in everything she does. She works directly with businesses and entrepreneurs to navigate their organization toward growth. Shannon believes in the importance of supporting and engaging a collaborative environment for our business community. In your backyard or across the globe.

Click HERE for the first steps to starting a business!

New Training Projects from MN Job Skills Partnership

The Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) has awarded workforce development grants totaling $2.2 million under the Minnesota Job Skills Partnership (MJSP) to train 2,744 workers.

“Minnesota is forecasted to have a shortage of more than 100,000 workers by 2020. We can’t afford to leave Minnesotans unprepared for good job opportunities,” said Lt. Governor Tina Smith. “These grants will help train thousands of Minnesotans, in every corner of our state, for diverse opportunities, including manufacturing and health care.”

“Over 295,000 Minnesotans have received training funded by the Minnesota Job Skills Partnership program, which has seen tremendous success in preparing Minnesotans for careers of the future,” said DEED Commissioner Shawntera Hardy. “These training grants are used to upgrade employees’ skills and effectively make Minnesota businesses more competitive and desirable places to work.”

Under the program, educational institutions and businesses work together to secure MJSP funding. Businesses initially meet with an accredited educational institution to explain their training needs and to learn options. Once they agree on a plan, the educational institution contacts DEED to determine eligibility for a grant.

The following grants were awarded in the Alexandria Area:

Alexandria Technical and Community College and Douglas Machine, Inc., Alexandria – $43,785
Alexandria Technical & Community College will create a training platform to allow Douglas Machine to train 130 employees via short video training modules specific to Douglas Machine.
Local contact: Greg Sandeno, Alexandria Technical and Community College, 320-762-4553

Alexandria Technical and Community College and 3M, Alexandria and Staples – $221,309
Both 3M locations are undergoing infrastructure improvements and technology updates to meet growing global demands. A total of 488 employees will receive training to address skills gaps and prepare for future challenges. 3M plans to hire an additional 28 employees over the next two years.
Local contact: Greg Sandeno, Alexandria Technical and Community College, 320-762-4553

(contributed: Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development)

Benefits Survey

West Central MN SHRM Wage & Benefits Survey

A Comprehensive Wage & Benefits Survey of Compensation, Company Benefits and Policies
for the West Central Minnesota Area.

Are you a business located within the counties of Becker, Clay, Douglas, Grant, Otter Tail, Pope, Stevens Traverse & Wilkin? Do you wonder if your business is competitive in the wages and benefits that you offer your employees? Would you like to receive local data on wages and benefits offered by employers in our area?

If so, we encourage your company to participate in the 2017 West Central MN Wage & Benefit Survey. This opportunity is provided by the West Central MN chapter of the Society for Human Resource Management and Alexandria Area Economic Development Commission. This is an excellent opportunity for businesses to receive information on wages and benefits of companies and organizations in west central Minnesota.

Area businesses of any industry and size can participate in the 2017 West Central MN Wage & Benefit Survey, open June 1- June 30, 2017. All survey results will be compiled by the AAEDC and all company information will be kept strictly confidential. Final survey results will be based upon aggregate data compilations to protect individual company information. There is no cost to participate in the survey, but final data will only be provided to participating employers.

All data will be held in the strictest confidence by the AAEDC, compiled and released in aggregate form with minimum job data being required to protect individual company information.

Economic Development Week May 8-13

The Alexandria Area Economic Development Commission (AAEDC) is excited to be celebrating National Economic Development Week, May 8th through 13th in the Alexandria area.

“National Economic Development Week is a wonderful way to bring increased awareness to those development programs that enhance the local economic impact. We as the Alexandria Area Economic Development Commission continue to strive in promoting and strengthening our community in many facets.” – Nicole Fernholz, Executive Director, Alexandria Area Economic Development Commission

What is Economic Development? By definition 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.  Even though there isn’t a typical “one size fits all” all Economic Development Organization’s (EDO) 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

An EDO can service a city, county, region or state – our Alexandria Area Economic Development Commission (AAEDC) 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.

(Courtesy: “One on One” with Joe Korkowski – Voice of Alexandria)

  • Demographic Information: Our office puts out the annual Alexandria Area Facts Guide which is a community profile providing a demographic and statistical overview of Douglas County. This data is used not only by prospective companies looking to relocate to the area but also by individuals looking to move to our community or local businesses who are undergoing strategic planning.
  • Business Planning and Startup: If you have an idea for a business start–up and are unsure of the steps to make it happen, the AAEDC office can assist you in all aspects of the journey to start and grow a business. 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.
  • 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.
  • Site Selection Assistance: In a continuously growing effort to assist area realtors and property owners in marketing commercial properties throughout the area, the state, and the nation, the AAEDC maintains two supplemental property listing databases of “for-sale” and “for lease” properties throughout Douglas County. These databases are free for the listing of commercial properties in Douglas County and serve as a database of properties that can be easily accessed by individuals, businesses, and site selectors from throughout the nation.
  • Workforce Development: The AAEDC has launched a campaign called Living Alexandria Area with the intention of creating awareness and attraction of potential workforce to the Alexandria area. Our office works closely with the Academies of Alexandria to help provide them with new opportunities in hopes of finding a career, whether they continue their education or step directly into the workforce. The AAEDC also partners with the Alexandria Technical and Community College – Customized Training Center to offer regional training’s and development for entrepreneurs and small businesses.

Economic Development Week was created and is coordinated by The International Economic Development Council. It is being held during the week of the organization’s 91st anniversary as the largest professional membership organization for economic developers. 2017 will be the second consecutive year Economic Development Week was coordinated by IEDC. More than 75 communities participated in the 2016 campaign. A memorial keepsake booklet was created to showcase celebration activities communities across the country hosted. More than 40 members of Congress, county and local elected officials had resolutions and proclamations signed. The Economic Development Administration also issued a statement commemorating Economic Development Week.  

“This national event helps communities recognize economic development practitioners and shed light on their programs and their role in stimulating job creation by businesses in their community. This program helps us all share information on two priorities; informing community leaders about the value of economic development, and ensuring that everyone in our communities have the opportunity to succeed through access to a good job.” -F. Michael Langley FM, CEO, Greater MSP, Minneapolis – St. Paul, MN, IEDC 2017 Board Chair.

Living, Alexandria Area, relocating, small business, moving

Celebrating Small Business!!!

We had a wonderful time celebrating National Small Business Week (April 30-May 6) at the Alexandria Area Economic Development Commission! We had the opportunity to celebrate and showcase some of the many great small businesses in the Alexandria area. Joined by city and county officials we toured four different small business types – starting with Alex Assisted Living, followed by Geneva Beach Resort & Sugarbush Lodge, then Creations, An Event Studio and last Copper Trail Brewing Company. We were able to tour their businesses, find out how they got started, and new developments in their business or industry. Make sure to click the business links above to find out even more about these area businesses.

Also, check out below for a few of the photos from the tour, and follow us on Facebook: @LivingAlexAreaMN and Instagram: @LivingAlexArea to see more photos and videos.

Alexandria Area High School, Future Workforce

Endless Opportunities to Engage with Our Future Workforce

The Academies of Alexandria are continuously looking for volunteers to partner and interact with our future workforce within the four academies; Business, Communication & Entrepreneurship (BCE), Health Sciences & Human Services (HSHS), Engineering, Manufacturing, Technologies & Natural Resources (EMTNR) and Freshman Academy. The latest program seeking partnerships is CAPS (Center for Advanced Professional Studies). What is CAPS? Alexandria CAPS is an innovative program at the high school that focuses on immersing students in authentic career experiences.

CAPS is designed to help students increase professional skills needed for working in the real world, whether college is next or stepping directly into the workforce. These skills are developed through hands-on, project based experiences while working in a professional setting. With the help of the community, these unique experiences are possible.

Each academy is hosting a CAPS Showcase to learn about the positive impact of partnering with a CAPS class, as well as hearing from past students and business partners talk about their experience with the new program. Learn how you can get involved. These dedicated partnerships build a pipeline for future workforce in the area.

Livability

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