Marketing for economic developmentLake County has a lot to offer potential businesses and Chris Maddy, Northland Connection, tries to make it easy for entrepreneurs to get the data and referrals they need.
By: Karin Smith, Lake County News Chronicle
Lake County has a lot to offer potential businesses and Chris Maddy, Northland Connection, tries to make it easy for entrepreneurs to get the data and referrals they need.
He was invited to the Jan. 15 county board meeting to present information about the regional economic development services Northland Connection provides.
The company has an extensive on-line interactive database, www.northlandconnection.com, offering in-depth research on northeastern Minnesota and northwestern Wisconsin. The portal is designed for expanding businesses, commercial and industrial real estate brokers, and developers.
They also offer analysis, evaluate leads and organize site visits. Irresistible Ink (Hallmark) came to Two Harbors and the Iron Range through Northland Connection’s recruitment efforts, said Maddy.
He said that for Lake County, his key selling points are the quality of life--including top shelf health care; transportation links with the highway and nearness to rail, air and shipping ports; and a quality workforce.
Also, the large number of machine shops in the Two Harbors area is particularly attractive to suppliers, he said. Low cost utilities and an affordable cost of living were also mentioned.
About 80 percent of the contacts are existing business that are growing and 20 percent are new. Most of the inquiries come from business people with a personal connection to the area, either through family or from having spent time visiting here, said Maddy.
The board voted unanimously to continue as a contributing partner to Northland Connection at $4,000 for 2008. The Two Harbors Development Commission is supportive of the program, but has decided it cannot afford the expense this year. Maddy said he did not know about Silver Bay’s partnership yet.
The board discussed commissioner Paul Bergman’s suggestion of creating a countywide Economic Development Authority, with commissioners, city councilors and citizen representatives.
Commissioner Lenore Johnson said that the new collaboration between the Lake County Housing and Redevelopment Authority (HRA) and the Cook County Economic Development Authority was intended to address that need at this time.
Bergman offered to be the liaison for any leads that come in. No decision was made at the meeting.
• At the Jan. 31 board meeting at 1:15 p.m., there will be a public hearing that is required for the Minnesota Small Cities Development Program grant application. The Lake CountyHRA is applying for the grant for 18 housing rehabilitation projects-- six in Silver Bay, six in Two Harbors and six in Grand Marais--and funds for 12 assessment abatements in Grand Marais. A representative from the program will be at the meeting to explain the process..
• Honor Schauland, Isabella, and Lee Davis, Crystal Bay Township supervisor, attended the meeting to discuss plans for the Clair Nelson Intermodal Transportation Center.
The building will be erected on the site of the former Finland Rec Hall on County Road 7. The county agreed to have Al Goodman, Lake County highway engineer, handle the considerable amount of paperwork associated with the project.
“We supported this when it was just a dream and authorized grants,” said Commissioner Rick Goutermont. “All Al’s time is in-kind to grants. We’re in it already, both feet up to our knees, we want to follow through.”
The $800,000 of federal funding expected for the project has made it through the House of Representatives. It now has to be approved by the Senate and signed by the President.
Due to the complexities of federal funding, the community’s building committee will not be able to act as its own contractor on the project, but will hire one large contractor to frame up 10,000-12,000 square foot facility.
Then the interior projects can be done by local talent, said Goodman.
Davis said doing the project this way works with the funding. “It won’t be halfway built and end up hanging there.”
The federal involvement means an architect will have to be present to do things like weekly grade checks on construction materials.
The county highway crew will also help with the ground work for the building’s energy-efficient geo-thermal heating system. They will also help form up the slab, provide help with gravel and sand, and assist with rebar and pouring of the concrete
Coop Light and Power has made a low-cost loan available to the project because of the state-of-the-art energy efficient design.
While the federal paperwork and procedures have delayed the project a bit, the grand opening is planned for summer 2009.
• The next meeting of the Lake County Board of Commissioners is Thursday, Jan. 31, 1 p.m., in the commissioners’ chambers at the Lake County Courthouse.