Preuss aids local growth

Linsey Preuss

FAIRMONT — Linsey Preuss spends her days juggling projects, everything from increasing local child care availability to extending infrastructure to the city’s new industrial park. But her two main focuses are retaining existing businesses and attracting new ones.

“I’m working on four new projects so far this year. Last year, I did 16,” said Preuss, who just completed her fourth year as Fairmont economic development coordinator.

A project could be a new business like Minuteman Press or Last Touch LLC that just opened, or it could be a business that wants to upgrade or expand.

“We just did a Bowlmor Lanes loan for improvements, and Great Plains Transportation is planning a major expansion,” she said. “Or I might be working with somebody that’s not in town yet but is looking. There’s a wide range of businesses that I work with.”

Preuss has been compiling data for the 2018 economic development report that she plans to present to the City Council on Feb. 25. The recap provides information about the impact her department has in the business community. For example, in 2017, she responded to requests for assistance from 34 businesses, in addition to reaching out to 42 others.

“I call on businesses and ask if I can meet with them, and we’ll just have a conversation,” Preuss said. “Everything we talk about is confidential because they have to trust me in order to tell me about a project they might be thinking about. If word gets out early, it could be detrimental to the project.”

She will ask how things are going for the business, about any potential projects to improve the business and how the city might be able to help.

“Recently, the two main topics have been the shortage of housing and child care, so that’s why whose have come to be under my umbrella,” Preuss said. “Even though they’re not usually considered business problems, they are business problems because they are workforce problems.”

Attracting new business is a highly competitive process that takes months and even years to accomplish, and potential businesses need to be assured of an available workforce, infrastructure and site readiness.

“It’s a long process. Many times, businesses start thinking about a project a year or two in advance. We’re currently have been working with businesses for over nine months, and we still don’t know if it’s a sure thing,” Preuss said.

“We want to make it on their short list, and we do the work to keep us on that list. The new industrial park (at Interstate 90 and the fairgrounds road)? We do that so we can be on the short list. Their list (of potential sites) is super long so they’re looking to cut us off the list. We have to give them reasons not to.”

Preuss said Fairmont’s membership in the Minnesota Marketing Partnership has been beneficial for making connections.

“It’s a group of regions, cities and counties statewide that have joined together with the sole goal of marketing the state of Minnesota,” she said. “It is very diverse. They go to over 30 events across the country annually and market Minnesota, and because we’re a member Fairmont gets visibility.”

Preuss tries to attend at least three of these marketing events each year.

“It could be site consultations events. It could be national trade shows,” she said. “They really would market Fairmont at the agri-business trade shows or the manufacturing distribution events. Those are our target industries so those are the ones that really bring Fairmont out.”

In order to make Fairmont memorable and set it apart from other communities, Preuss follows up these events by sending hand-written notes on Fairmont stationery to contacts she has made.

“It’s just a quick thing, but I feel it sets us apart,” she said.

She also could use her latest slogan: “Fairmont is open for business.”