Development group drafts strategic plan

FAIRMONT — The Fairmont Economic Development Authority has approved a three-year strategic plan describing its overall mission and its focus on six areas of economic development.

“We’re going to use it mostly for grant-writing purposes because there’s grants available for all the different activities we do,” said Linsey Preuss, Fairmont economic development director. “What the strategic plan says is, ‘This community has talked about it, and this is a priority.’ That’s a requirement on just about every grant.”

She cautioned on her use of the word “grant,” saying it has a different meaning to municipalities than it does for non-profits.

“A grant to us as a city does not mean that it’s a grant to a business,” she said. “Businesses call me all the time looking for grants, but there aren’t grants available to business owners for general operation.”

She can recall only one such instance, a $75,000 grant from the Minnesota Department of Agriculture to Butcher Block in Fairmont. Preuss called the grant “very rare” but added that the state recognized the dire need for a meat-processing business in the area.

FEDA’s mission statement states: We support the successful growth and pride of the Fairmont area businesses and citizens.

The six major economic development components, which all have equal status of importance, include:

o Retention/expansion — Providing the necessary human and financial resources so local businesses and industries of all sizes can be successful in retaining and expanding their entities.

o Financing — Developing the best possible tool box of financial tools available for growing area businesses of all types.

o Workforce development — Developing, retaining and attracting talent to the area to sustain and grow Fairmont area businesses.

o Recruitment — Continuing to work toward attracting business and people to Fairmont.

o Site development — Have property available for business to easily access future growth and development.

o Housing — Ensure Fairmont has a good inventory of safe, decent, quality housing for all income levels to attract people to Fairmont and retain residents.

FEDA will use its strategic plan as a guide through 2021, and Preuss hopes this will help capture funding from both the state and federal level, although competition for monies is highly competitive.

“There’s all different funding sources,” she said. “You just have to know where to go for which ones and what our priority is now. I’m only one person so I can’t write a grant for every one of those priorities, but I can write a couple.”

Grant writing is time consuming, but using the strategic plan as a guide will enable Preuss to act quickly if she hears of funds available.

“If I go to a training, and I find out there’s dollars that could go back into the state fund if they aren’t spent, then I’m going to write a grant because I know that the chance of getting funding are pretty good,” she said.