NORTH MANKATO — The on-again, off-again discussion of reuniting North Mankato with Mankato and other nearby cities in a regional economic development group is on again, although in a quieter way.
Last month, the North Mankato City Council and Greater Mankato Growth officials appeared to be at an impasse over acceptable terms for the city to rejoin the Regional Economic Development Alliance, a group of seven area cities and counties.
North Mankato withdrew from the regional development group five years ago. A change in city leadership brought a renewed interest in rejoining Mankato and the other nearby governments in the cooperative group.
But the details — what fee the city should pay, whether it will have a permanent seat on the board of directors, whether it can require REDA staff to report specifically on its efforts to promote North Mankato's industrial park — left GMG suggesting the city didn't appear ready for cooperative economic development.
Leaders in both Mankato and North Mankato, however, said they still strongly believe the reunion should occur.
"Greater Mankato isn't anything without North Mankato," Mankato City Manager Pat Hentges said at an intergovernmental meeting this week. "... We're one-third less prosperous — or more."
North Mankato Mayor Mark Dehen said the failure of the cities to formally work together on regional prosperity the past five years doesn't mesh with the area's status as an official metropolitan statistical area.
"We need to act like we're an MSA moving forward in marketing ourselves ...," Dehen said.
A major sticking point has been the fee North Mankato will pay to rejoin the group. Mankato pays $4.29 per capita and has a permanent seat on the board of directors. The other cities and counties, such as St. Peter, Lake Crystal and Madison Lake, pay a much lower fee.
North Mankato wanted to rejoin at roughly the rate at which it left five years ago, about $2.75 per capita, but also wanted a permanent seat on the board.
GMG President and CEO Jonathan Zierdt is offering to meet individually with North Mankato council members to answer questions and discuss concerns, Dehen said.
Regarding the fee, Hentges said he will argue on North Mankato's behalf to the GMG Board, on which he is a member. He said he thinks it's fair that North Mankato, which has a population about a third of Mankato's, would pay a lower per capita fee.
"We have more resources as a city," Hentges said. "... Shouldn't you share that a little bit?"