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Fairmont development director earns award

HONORED — Linsey Preuss, center, Fairmont economic development coordinator, won the Project of the Year award from the Economic Development Association of Minnesota for her work on the CHS expansion project. Pictured at the awards program, from left, are: Kim Lindquist, EDAM president; Matt Brown, past president of EDAM; Preuss; Fairmont Mayor Debbie Foster; and Andy Noll, president of the Fairmont Economic Development Association.

FAIRMONT — Linsey Preuss has a new decoration in her office at Fairmont City Hall, but the heavyweight crystal swirl on her shelf also represents a substantial honor for Fairmont’s economic development director.

On Jan. 23, Preuss won the 2020 Project of the Year award from the Economic Development Association of Minnesota for her work on the CHS renovation and investment project. EDAM is a professional consortium of individuals and organizations who share information, strategies, networking and educational opportunities with its members.

The award recognizes a project that has had a positive impact in Minnesota and demonstrates collaboration, creativity and complexity while retaining employment and capital investment. The CHS project fits that description.

In August 2019, CHS revealed a proposed $100 million project at the Fairmont plant. The move would retain the plant’s current 52 employees and solidify its presence while increasing market access for regional soybean growers. The capital investment included $5.3 million in structural expansion and upgrades, with the rest tagged for equipment advancements.

To spur the project, Preuss negotiated a 10-year tax abatement on any new real estate taxes generated on the $5.3 million structural work. New taxes were estimated to be about $1.4 million total over the abatement period. CHS will continue to pay real estate taxes on the existing property, currently more than $760,000 annually.

In order for the abatement to become a reality, Preuss worked with the Fairmont City Council, Martin County Commission and Fairmont Area School Board to obtain the required approval of the tax break from all three boards. Five weeks after CHS announced the project, all three governing bodies had approved the abatement package.

Brandon Nordstrom, plant manager at CHS in Fairmont, praised Preuss’ involvement in the project.

“CHS appreciated the expertise and support provided by Linsey Preuss as we worked through the local approval processes for our expansion project,” he said. “Her knowledge, commitment and enthusiasm is impressive and valued as a trusted community business and development partner.”

Andy Noll, president of the Fairmont Economic Development Authority, and Fairmont Mayor Debbie Foster attended the EDAM awards ceremony as a show of support for Preuss.

“The FEDA board is very grateful for the tremendous amount of work Linsey contributed when championing the abatement efforts through the local government processes,” Noll said. “FEDA is proud of Linsey’s commitment to the success of our area businesses, and our community should be thankful for having her on our team.

“This recognition was truly and great award and recognition of her efforts and CHS’ commitment to our city,” he said.

When Preuss received notification that her CHS work had won Project of the Year, she was quite surprised.

“I had no idea I was even nominated, and I have no idea who nominated me,” she said.

She received an additional EDAM honor Jan. 23, being named as a director for the group, which is a bit of an anomaly since almost all of the organization’s officers and board members are from the metro area.

“The whole day was cool,” said Preuss, recalling the awards ceremony at the EDAM winter conference on Jan. 23. “I was officially appointed an EDAM board member. I had to go through an election process and was chosen. That happened at 8 a.m., and then at 11:30 a.m., I won the Project of the Year award.

“It was a very proud and humbling day. It was pretty amazing,” she said.

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