The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Local News

November 15, 2012

Regional EDA viewed mostly, but not all positive in North Mankato

NORTH MANKATO — The idea of a regional economic development authority involving Mankato, North Mankato and area communities was viewed mostly favorably by the North Mankato Council and Port Authority members at a joint meeting Thursday night.

But Port Authority Chair Bob Knutson was skeptical of getting involved with Mankato or Greater Mankato Growth, the regional chamber.

Mayor Mark Dehen said the regional EDA would benefit North Mankato by giving it much broader marketing exposure to potential businesses outside the area and by helping to standardize how the communities offer incentives, leaving everyone on a level playing field. He said it would also save money and take pressure off city staff who have to handle all economic development work now.

"The idea is to market the whole area," Dehen said.

Councilman Bill Schindle said North Mankato now attracts businesses that know about the city and want to build there. "This could draw people who don't know North Mankato exists."

Councilman Bob Freyberg said the cities involved in the joint EDA group could also agree to more standardized incentives -- such as what kind of projects would get tax subsidies or subsidized land -- so prospective businesses can't play one community off of another.  

Dehen said the regional EDA would be a one-stop clearinghouse for prospective businesses that inquire about building in the area. But Dehen said it wouldn't mean North Mankato would lose its independence. "If a business comes to us and says they want to build in North Mankato, we get them. We don't have to send them to this (regional EDA) board."

He noted that North Mankato and Mankato would have an equal number of representatives on the board.

Knutson was leery of getting involved because the regional EDA would rely on Greater Mankato Growth to do much of the marketing for the region. In a controversial move, North Mankato pulled out of GMG six years ago, saying it could market itself better for the amount of money it was paying GMG.

"We did use them for marketing and we didn't get anything from them," Knutson said. "We opted out and we've done very good for ourselves."

Knutson, as well as Councilwoman Diane Norland said they'd like to see specific evidence of the number of businesses GMG has drawn to Mankato. Dehen said it is information that is being gathered.          

The idea of a regional EDA grew out of an earlier intergovernmental committee meeting between Mankato and North Mankato council members and staff.

A joint economic development authority could be created, possibly through special legislation passed by the Minnesota Legislature.

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