Many cities and counties in Minnesota have established Economic Development Authorities (EDA) to oversee the economic growth of their jurisdiction. An EDA’s primary objective is to aid, assist and promote the growth and expansion of commercial, retail and industrial development.
For years, Wright County has avoided the creation of an EDA, but, with the county moving all of its offices out to a single campus location outside of Buffalo – the Justice Center is scheduled to open this fall and the new Government Center is slated for occupancy in the late summer of 2021 – the idea of creating an EDA has gained traction.
Earlier this year, the Wright County Board of Commissioners approved the creation of an EDA task force to look into the logistics of creating an EDA for the county. While there is no guarantee that after the task force meets and discusses the options moving forward that an EDA will be created, it is viewed as a natural progression for a county the size of Wright County.
The impetus behind the potential creation of an EDA is to give the county more control and leverage concerning the sale of county-owned properties – namely, the Government Center in downtown Buffalo and the Health & Human Services Center at the intersection of Hwys. 55 and 25 in Buffalo. With an EDA in place, the county could seek out competitive bidding while maintaining control of maximizing the asking price for those properties, which wouldn’t be possible without an EDA.
The creation of the task force fell together about as seamlessly as possible under a tight timeline. State statutes for such a committee require that there be 11-15 members and should have two county commissioners, six members representing cities, and the remainder representing townships, local EDAs and the business community.
When those who responded that they would be willing to volunteer to serve, not only did the respondents meet the requirements for the formation of the task force, it came from the needed cross-section of the county that allowed for representation for each of the commissioner districts.
The 13 members approved to move forward with the creation of the task force and who they represent are as follows: Commissioners Mike Potter and Darek Vetsch (Wright County), Jolene Foss (Wright County Economic Development Partnership), Kris Crandall (City of Clearwater), Nick Haggenmiller (City of Howard Lake), Jennifer Nash (City of Buffalo), Corey Tanner (City of Otsego), Marc Weigle (City of St. Michael), Shannon Bye (Monticello Township), Greg Eckblad (Rockford Township), Gene Janikula (Woodland Township), Wayne Elam (Commercial Realty Solutions) and Brian Matzke (Citizens State Bank of Waverly).
The task force is allowed to have no more than three meetings and the plan is to have the first meeting in late August and monthly meetings after that – most likely in September and October.
If the county board approves the creation of the EDA after the task force provides a recommendation, it may easily be mothballed once the county properties are sold. But, the benefits of having an EDA in place is that the county can access additional grant funds that aren’t available without one.
At a time when the county is in transition with the consolidation of county buildings in one location, getting the optimal return for the properties they will be leaving is critical and could result in hundreds of thousands of dollars more in sale prices for those buildings as opposed to rolling the dice with an auction of the properties.
The EDA task force will present the county board with a report of its findings and recommendations about how to proceed before the end of the year.