EDA reviews loans, marketing, budget, terms

By: 
Gretchen Mensink Lovejoy

Spring Valley’s Economic Development Authority (EDA) held its September regular meeting last Wednesday morning, reviewing revolving loans, various marketing opportunities for the town, and also the terms of its membership, as some of the EDA members have been part of the board for nearly 30 years.

Economic development director Chris Hahn outlined the revolving loans currently extended to existing and past business owners, citing that of those, there is one loan that has been neglected for quite some time and that the EDA could consider what to do about collecting the delinquent amount from the borrower who no longer lives near Spring Valley.  A suggestion was made by one of the members to peruse the possibility of employing a collection agency to seek whatever amount could be collected from the borrower because the legal cost involved in taking the matter to small claims court could easily outpace the approximate $2,000 balance.

EDA members acknowledged that if a collection agency were to be used, that agency would charge a percentage of the recovered funds to do the work, meaning that the EDA would not receive the full amount recovered but would at least have some of what it is owed by the borrower.  After some clarification, the members agreed that having an agency make the effort to locate the borrower and recover as much as possible would be the best course of action. 

In discussion regarding the EDA’s budget, EDA President Kim Brown shared that the entity currently has a healthy fund balance that will allow it to continue assisting in the development of business in town. The EDA had requested a 9.1 percent increase in the budget, but the initial budget proposal reviewed by the council during a workshop last week indicated a 5 percent increase from $40,000 last year to $42,000 in 2020.

The increase in the budget would be primarily for promotion as the EDA is looking at compiling a community guide to market the city. The project, still in the exploration phase, had been discussed previously.

Hahn commented that it might do well to “tell the story of downtown and the industrial park, because there are a lot of neat things in this community that can be done, but it’s just a matter of flying your flag and saying, ‘We’re here.’” 

Hahn related that he’s working on marketing, getting the entrepreneurial educational toolkit information funded by a previous grant and looking at promoting Spring Valley’s industrial park. 

“Is there any other focus you’d like me to have?” he asked the EDA. “I’ve been meeting with the business owners – some, but not all of them yet – and I want to make sure I’m spending my time the right way, because some communities are about ‘expand, expand, expand,’ and some are about using what they already have.”   

EDA members briefly spoke of the available buildings downtown – asking Hahn to inventory them and provide a list that can be given to interested people. They also talked about the futures of the Minnesota Joe’s building and the Spring Valley Bakery in downtown Spring Valley, as the Minnesota Joe’s building was damaged by the fire that decimated Johnny Ringo’s two years ago, and the bakery was vacated following the unexpected passing of owner Peter Haack in May. 

The apartments over Minnesota Joe’s had been remodeled and readied for use shortly before the fire, using an EDA program, but the fire damaged the Minnesota Joe’s building and made the apartments unsafe. 

The bakery building was up for auction on Aug. 10, but even though local residents had expressed interest in reopening it as a bakery and had purchased equipment to replace the existing equipment and bring it up to code, no sale was made.  The EDA concurred with Hahn that further inquiry should be made of the interested party to find out whether other options are being considered. Also, other local businesses – such as Valley Butchery, owned by Rusty Hellickson – have been provided information to garner local assistance, a topic discussed earlier in the meeting.   

In another matter, Hahn addressed the EDA’s composition, namely that there have been suggestions to expand the membership, though more than one member had volunteered to step down if there were an opportunity to do so, as several of them have served numerous terms, such as Brown and member David Phillips, who could recall the EDA’s early days in the late 1980s and 1990s. 

“I did present the EDA’s mission and vision statements to the City Council, and the council did vote to keep the EDA’s membership at five people instead of seven,” the director said.

Apparently, the EDA has been functioning out of compliance with state requirements for some time, but when that was discovered, the council decided it needed to make changes to come into compliance, which would require two City Council members. 

Brown’s term expires in January 2020, and she shared that she’d appreciate being able to use her Wednesday mornings in another manner, as terms at the outset of her participation were three years long and then graduated to six years, renewed by fact of member availability and the dearth of new volunteers upon arriving at term expiration. 

The EDA asked Hahn to find out if the council wants to make the change immediate or if it should continue as is until Brown meets the expiration of her term.