By Brian Ojanpa
Free Press Staff Writer
— The “metro creep” has officially claimed Le Sueur and Sibley counties.
But what that bodes, if anything, is anyone’s guess for now.
In the eyes of the federal government, those two counties and Mille Lacs County are now considered part of the Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington Metropolitan Statistical Area.
What formerly was a 13-county Twin Cities MSA is now a 16-county entity.
A county becomes part of an MSA when at least 25 percent of its workforce commutes to one of the abutting MSA core counties.
Le Sueur County abuts Scott County, and Sibley County borders on the counties of Carver and Scott.
So what does being part of that MSA signal? Perhaps nothing beyond inclusion in a statistical cohort, said Sibley County Administrator Matt Jaunich, who also heads county economic development efforts.
“There’s maybe a slight chance of opening up federal funding opportunities, but that remains to be seen,” he said.
City of Le Sueur Economic Development Director Ed Tschida said towns in the northern part of Le Sueur County have fed workforce numbers into Twin Cities MSA counties.
“Le Sueur County borders on Scott County, the fastest-growing county in the state.”
Moreover, Tschida said the burgeoning town of New Prague sits in both counties.
That could be skewing numbers somewhat because New Prague residents and others living in the northern part of Le Sueur County may be commuting only a short distance to jobs; some could literally be just across the street in Scott County.
Meantime, the city of Le Sueur continues to be a member of the economic development entity Greater Mankato Growth, located in the Mankato-North Mankato Metropolitan Statistical Area.
Tschida said Le Sueur County’s new Twin Cities MSA status could become intriguing with respect to its affiliation with Greater Mankato Growth.
“If the metro area were to approach Le Sueur County with the same level of support and encouragement, then that would be interesting. If you’re Le Sueur County, it’s sort of an enviable position.”
But for now, Tschida and others opine, the two area counties’ new inclusions into the Twin Cities area grouping amounts to little more than creating positive perceptions.
To wit: It’s better to be in an MSA than not.