Fairmont EDA OKs $5K outlay

FAIRMONT — The Fairmont Economic Development Authority on Monday unanimously approved spending $5,000 to help fund a $25,000 tourism study, but members did not OK the financial outlay without some reservations.

In February, Stephanie Busiahn, director of Fairmont’s Convention and Visitors Bureau, made the financial request to FEDA, citing the 800 private sector jobs and the $33 million in gross sales generated by tourism in Martin County. In an average year, about 80,000 people stay at Fairmont hotels, and these are the people the tourism study would like to profile.

The University of Minnesota Tourism Center would send personnel to train local residents to gather 350 to 400 surveys from visitors by asking brief questions about why they are visiting Martin County, and their recreation and accommodations. The information would provide a comprehensive visitor profile and an understanding of characteristics and spending patterns.

FEDA members questioned how the study would be beneficial to economic development.

“If we’re spending $5,000, there better be some value for us,” said Andy Noll.

“The question is, would we get $5,000 worth of benefit?” asked Wendy Voss.

The board discussed the intangible and indirect benefits that might be realized from information from the study and wavered on whether to approve the request.

“This is one of those things where I can legitimately argue both sides, but if there’s something usable, I will use it,” said Linsey Preuss, economic development director.

Turning to another matter, Preuss reported that three additional lots have been sold at the White Tail Ridge addition since Jan. 1, bringing the total to eight sold out of 20 available lots.

In other business, the board:

o Approved payment of $1,500, the same as in previous years, to the Fairmont Area Chamber of Commerce for Area Career Exploration. This year, 665 sophomores from 12 area schools will visit Fairmont High School on April 11 for ACE. More than 100 booths will be staffed by area businesses that will share information on job availability and other career options in the region.