The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Local News

December 4, 2008

Mankato designated MSA

Federal announcement surprises officials

Mankato is now a metropolitan statistical area, a federal government designation expected to clear the way for more funding from Washington, D.C., and more notice from the commercial sector as well.

The announcement came as a surprise to city officials, who believed the area has the necessary population of 50,000 to become an MSA, but didn’t expect the acknowledgment until after the 2010 census, City Manager Pat Hentges said.

The population figure includes Mankato, North Mankato, Skyline and Eagle Lake.

The designation means that Mankato will automatically receive certain types of federal funding that it had to compete for in the past. The full extent of these programs isn’t yet known to officials, but they are expecting a few benefits.

They include so-called Community Development Block Grants, which are passed from the federal government to the states, which divvies the money up. Mankato has been awarded money through a competitive process, and used it to, for example, provide grants to homes and businesses to fix their buildings.

More transportation funding through the Area Transportation Partnership may be forthcoming, as well.

Hentges said the money was affirmation that “regional centers have unique challenges.”

As for the commercial sector, Hentges said companies use lists of metropolitan statistical areas to make expansion decisions.

“When businesses and retail businesses are looking at a marketplace, they first look at the capacity of a regional center,” Hentges said.

Looked at another way, the designation evokes a change of perspective.

“We’ve been the biggest of the small,” Hentges said. Now, “we’re the smallest in a big group.”

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