The Blue Earth Economic Development Authority (EDA) board discussed a unique partnership idea at their regularly scheduled meeting on Thursday, Feb. 10, at 7:15 a.m.
EDA specialist Amy Schaefer shared she has recently been made aware of a Region 9 grant opportunity for Blue Earth.
“The EDA has been given an opportunity to partner with Fairmont on an ARPA (American Rescue Plan Act) grant through the Federal EDA that would create a position that would focus directly on economic recovery and resiliency within Blue Earth and Fairmont,” Schaefer said in a report.
“The grant, if awarded, will fund the position for five years,” she continued. “The grant will be written for approximately $500,000.”
Schaefer explained she and Linsey Preuss, Fairmont’s economic development coordinator, have been working with Region 9 to develop the grant opportunity.
“Region 9 thinks it’s a wonderful idea,” Schaefer said. “It could set up a model that other communities could use.”
Schaefer shared more details about the position which she and Preuss hope to create through the grant.
“We would hire one person to work between the communities, connecting industries, identifying problems and bringing attention to workforce issues,” Schaefer explained. “It is a huge job. It would be a dedicated position to recovering the workforce post-COVID.”
“It would be completely funded through the ARPA grant,” Schaefer added. There will be no cost to the city of Blue Earth.
EDA board member Bill Rosenau inquired as to the projected timeline of the project should Schaefer and Preuss secure the grant.
“The grant application is due March 22,” Schaefer responded, explaining the application must be processed by the federal EDA office. “I don’t see this starting until 2023.”
“This will be a high-paying job that will require a lot of skill. It will take some time to find the right person,” Schaefer added.
“I think this is a great opportunity and a great thing to pursue,” Rosenau responded. “I make a motion that we pursue this.”
Rosenau’s motion passed unanimously.
“It doesn’t make sense to not work with towns close to us,” Schaefer concluded. “If we do well, they do well. If they do well, we do well. We’re hoping to build on that idea.”
Schaefer also resumed a discussion which the EDA had commenced at a previous meeting in January. She brought updated information regarding marketing opportunities for the EDA to consider.
“I researched a little more with Connect Magazine,” Schaefer began.
She shared a detailed packet including advertising packages and costs. The offerings encompassed a wide range of options, from a $150 advertisement occupying one-twelfth of a page to a $1,240 full-page advertisement.
“Could we use this to advertise a day trip to Blue Earth?” EDA board member Jamie Jones inquired.
Schaefer agreed. “It’s important to get people here,” she said. “People won’t move here if they’ve never been here.”
The EDA board requested Schaefer bring them a sample advertisement to consider at a future meeting.
Schaefer also presented additional information regarding the development of a commercial advertising the Blue Earth community.
“I was talking to ABC News, and I asked if they film commercials,” Schaefer said.
According to Schaefer, Blue Earth could script and film an advertisement with ABC News for the cost of $250.
“I got a quote from another company, and it was nothing like this,” Schaefer added. The previous quote was significantly more costly.
“I like this idea better than doing Connect Magazine,” mayor Rick Scholtes responded.
Schaefer presented an additional quote from KEYC-TV in Mankato to the EDA board. The station offered to develop and air a commercial for a 12-month period at the cost of $10,000.
Scholtes pointed out that ABC News charged $920 to run a commercial for a month. If Blue Earth were to run an advertisement with ABC for a year, it would end up costing more than KEYC’s offer.
Schaefer acknowledged Scholtes’s observation, but added ABC News would allow Blue Earth to air the commercial for less than a year if that was what fit the EDA’s marketing budget better.
“I can check with ABC to see if we can go month-by-month,” she suggested.
Scholtes added Blue Earth’s Housing and Redevelopment Authority (HRA) may be able to contribute funds to the project as well.
Chamber of Commerce director Shellie Poetter already plans to partner with the EDA and contribute grant funds to the development of a commercial.
“What if we earmark $6,000 towards this, and then discuss this with the HRA?” Scholtes suggested.
Scholtes made a motion to allocate $6,000 from the EDA’s marketing budget towards the development of a commercial, which passed unanimously.
“I think we built a bigger marketing budget to spend it,” city administrator Mary Kennedy concluded. “It’s a big budget, and this is a big project.”
“For one year, see what you can get for it,” she suggested.