Economic Development Efforts Help Build a Vibrant Community
9 May 2019
The first full week of May is International Economic Development Week (EDW). It’s an opportune time to reflect on the importance of local economic development efforts in constructing a vibrant community and sustainable economy.
Economic development efforts are often misunderstood because they generally happen behind the scenes, outside of the public eye. The International Economic Development Council created EDW in 2016 to help raise awareness for economic development and the ripple effects it has on communities.
EDW is a chance to recognize economic developers, the local leaders and organizations that work tirelessly to recruit investors, develop businesses, create jobs, enhance the tax base and ultimately improve the quality of life of their communities.
Elk River’s Economic Development Authority (EDA) is an arm of the Elk River City Council and a public corporation. The EDA was established in 1987 and is empowered to take on a range of economic development projects. This may include acquiring, developing, improving, and disposing of property, entering into contracts, and operating and maintaining public affairs.
President Dan Tveite has been involved with the EDA for nearly two decades. “The purpose is to attract and retain key business within the community to make sure we have a sustained economy and don’t just rely on being a bedroom community of the Twin Cities,” he says.
The EDA has a comprehensive range of services aimed at building the local economy, creating jobs and supporting area businesses. Here are some of the primary ways the EDA’s work betters our community:
Support for entrepreneurs and small businesses
The EDA serves as a valuable resource for new and developing companies. From advising on basic topics like business planning to helping find a location and identify financing, these services are integral to assisting with early-stage business success.
Business attraction, retention and expansion
The EDA works to attract businesses. Staff are continually looking for opportunities to bring businesses to Elk River. The EDA has focused on attracting a specific subsection of manufacturing businesses that craft highly specialized products and employ 20-50 people. Tveite says attracting such companies has been a goal over the past 20 years as they are “more recession-proof than general machine shops.”
Such targeted recruitment has helped the city develop a reputation as a light industrial hub of the Northwest Twin Cities Metro area. This specialized niche necessitates skilled labor, which translates to higher paying jobs for the community.
Helping businesses that already exist in the community is also a critical EDA task. Staff work to maintain good relationships and communication with the business community. They offer advice and technical assistance to help companies problem-solve to optimize their chances for success and expansion.
EDA staff can assist companies with accessing resources and financing to enable renovations, equipment upgrades or infrastructure improvements. They can also advocate for businesses when needed to ensure the business development and expansion process is streamlined as much as possible.
Assistance with workforce development
Finding skilled workers is one of the primary challenges for businesses today. That’s why economic developers work closely with local partners to help build and maintain a strong local workforce. The EDA helps companies with recruitment as well as developing tailored training opportunities for in-demand jobs.
The Youth Skills Training Program is an ongoing partnership between ISD 728 and area employers to help prepare the next generation of trades workers. It offers students a chance to explore manufacturing careers and participate in valuable work-based learning.
In addition, Anoka Technical College has a unique partnership with area companies to offer specific curriculum and training. The mutually beneficial partnership helps ensure businesses have the skilled workforce they need and helps match workers with gainful employment.
Providing funds for businesses
Economic developers are knowledgeable about business financing. They can help new and existing businesses identify the capital and incentives they need to start up and grow.
The EDA has a myriad of financing options, from microloans to improve energy efficiency to financing that creates a bridge to make a project commercially feasible. Tax abatement and tax increment financing may also be available to businesses, depending on the number of jobs created or tax revenue generated.
Marketing and promotion
From its easy highway access to its probusiness climate and skilled workforce, Elk River has an attractive infrastructure for business. The EDA is at the forefront of marketing Elk River to prospective investors and residents. Staff work to identify and promote the community’s assets and business advantages to the larger world.
Economic Development Success Stories
The EDA played an integral role in successfully attracting Die Concepts to Elk River. The company, which machines high quality precision dies, relocated from Ramsey County. The EDA worked alongside the owner to help him access a microloan and forgivable loan to revitalize a once blighted property and rebuild a manufacturing facility from the ground up. The well respected company has brought a number of quality jobs to the community.
As the largest private employer in Elk River, Sportech is integral to the community. The EDA established a great partnership with the company, which is an industry leader in aftermarket add ons for the powersports industry. When Sportech was scouting locations to build new offices and a production facility, the EDA worked with the company to retain it with an attractive tax increment financing option. The company returns the favor by providing quality jobs and offering good employees opportunities to advance and access training and education.
“We help provide resources to make companies successful. So many people view public and private sectors as in conflict,” says Tveite. “We help bridge that gap a bit and try to see how the sectors can work together.”
Learn more about the Economic Development Authority and how it’s working to strengthen the area economy!