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home : opinion : editorial May 29, 2016

2/20/2013 2:35:00 PM
Growth from within

For decades, we've heard economic development directors preach the value of growth from within.
Now, given the events of the past year, local residents are undoubtedly becoming believers. Consider these developments:
• A week ago, Fast Sprayers of rural Mt. Lake announced plans to buy property in Windom's new industrial park. The move will bring a new building, 25 jobs and plans to eventually put all 100-plus jobs under one roof.
• Last spring, Big Game revealed that it would relocate its corporate headquarters to the former Lewis Drug building on Highway 60-71 in Windom. This national company, which started in a garage just south of Windom, will soon have 40 workers in its headquarters, plus a few more at its warehouse site on Windom's east side.
• Also last spring, Ag Builders/GDF of Windom announced plans to purchase the former Bolin property on Highway 60 in the northeast corner of Windom. The local firm is known as one of the region's leading suppliers of grain dryers, bins, Bobcat equipment and Toro mowers. This new highway frontage not only boosts the company's visibility, it opened up an opportunity for a popular new locally-owned Windom business - River Valley Fitness.
In all three cases, the projects were led by business owners who have a soft spot for this region as well as their local employees. In every case, the Windom EDA played a key role in making these deals beneficial to both the business and the community.
Lastly, each of these situations carry benefits that stretch far beyond the businesses themselves. The Fast deal, for instance, keeps 100 jobs in the region and gets the new North Windom Industrial Park off to a fantastic start and could easily spark other developments. The Big Game project cements Windom's relationship with an expanding and highly regarded national company. The Ag Builders/GDF Bobcat deal cleans up an area that some may consider the "front door" of our community.
In all three cases, the region's construction contractors have benefitted, or should benefit, from the additional work. And, although some of these projects involve things like Tax Increment Financing and abatements, all three projects will ultimately help the tax bases of our city, county and school.
This is not just a one or two-year trend. In recent years, we've also seen significant investments from local businesses like Hy-Vee, Bank Midwest and Hometown Sanitation. Further back, one can find more local growth success stories from companies like PM Beef (formerly Caldwell Packing), Staples Oil and Fortune Transportation, to name a few.
For our community, these developments are proof that there is far more to economic development than wishing for a 3,000-job General Motors plant to land in your community. These projects lend credence to the idea that the best development plans are those that value both out-of-town recruitment and growth-from-within.
In addition to Fast Sprayers, it appears there are at least two more firms looking at construction projects in North Windom Industrial Park. Both have strong local connections, according to Windom EDA Executive Director, Aaron Backman. If those projects come to fruition, those are two more examples of the Windom EDA assisting an existing local business.
We feel it is imperative that the Windom EDA continue its strong focus on helping local businesses succeed and grow, whether it be by finding a suitable location, or helping finance a project through such tools as Tax Increment Financing or tax abatement. The local benefits are obvious, but we believe these efforts also help market our community to out-of-town prospects.
Let's say you own a company and have your choice of two cities (that are exactly the same size) in which to construct your new plant.
• City A has a nice appearance and modern industrial park, but it carries a reputation of being far more interested in attracting new businesses than helping its existing ones.
• City B also has a nice appearance and a strong industrial park. This city has a reputation for taking very good care of its local businesses, both with employee needs and company growth.
Our money is on "City B."
We have been impressed with the approach of Backman and the Windom EDA. Their work has created a story that is certainly worth telling and re-telling to any business - local or not - that is willing to listen.
Often, a story like this would look good in an EDA marketing brochure. Sometimes, a business that does its homework can recognize the city's efforts through its own research.
However, the best public relations tool of all is the satisfied business owner or manager who is willing to share his or her story - or is already looking forward to the firm's next local expansion project.
- Rahn Larson

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