by TaLeiza Callowa
Cynthia Smith-Strack is quick to tell anyone economic development is a process – not an event. It is something that takes time to blossom and sustain itself.
Smith-Strack, the St. Joseph Economic Development Authority’s consulting director, presented the EDA’s annual report for 2011 to the city council last month. Economic development has been an active process in the city of St. Joseph. Here’s why:
During the past five years, 293 jobs have been added in the city. Of those, most were added from the expansion of business versus businesses starting up, according to data from the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development, highlighted in the report. More jobs were lost from decreases in business volume than the closing of businesses.
Building-permit values for commercial and industrial reconstruction in 2011 totaled about $5.4 million, up from about $370,000 in 2010.
Last year the EDA addressed four functions: organizational development, infrastructure development, business development and market development.
Of those four functions, 75 percent of the EDA’s time was devoted to business development, up from 11 percent in 2010, according to the annual report.
Organizational development came in second for strategic direction as 16 percent of staff time went to that area, down about 3 percent from 2010. Third place went to market development with 5 percent of the EDA’s time dedicated to that area. That is down about 2 percent from 2010.
One big plus of market development was the creation of an idea incubator on the city’s website where the public could make suggestions about development in the city while defining just what economic development is.
From the numbers, it is clear there was a shift in focus to business development. That type of development can been seen with arrivals such as Minnesota Street Market, Closet 2 Closet and anticipated additions like Cone Castle and Bello Cucina.
Smith-Strack explained it is a result of increased commercial construction projects from the previous year.
Decreased public spending and the end of the St. Cloud Area Economic Development Partnership are also contributors to the shift.
What’s encouraging was who came at the top of the organizational structure of the EDA – the citizens.
This says no matter how many grants are awarded to businesses for upgrades or new businesses planning to come to town, community is first. What residents need provides direction for city leaders.
Well, those are just a few examples of the strides that have been taken in the city with more pending this year and in the future. The 47-page report is worth reading. Inform yourself.
The annual report is available on the city’s website in the city council packet from Feb. 16. Visit: www.cityofstjoseph.com.