Tag Archives: EDA

Are Northfield businesses leveraging bricks with clicks?

Hans Muessig and Ross Currier Hans Muessig presentation in Northfield
Northfielder Hans Muessig is a Director with the Minnesota Intelligent Rural Communities program at University of Minnesota Extension. Last week, he was the presenter for Doing business online, the first in a series of three workshops on ‘Reaching Customers in the 21st Century’ that’s sponsored by the NDDC, the EDA, the NEC, and the Northfield Area Chamber of Commerce.

See Ross Currier’s posts on his NDDC blog:

Randy Jennings excoriates the City Council for its economic development practices

Northfield Economic Development banner

Randy Jennings has a guest column in yesterday’s Nfld News titled What is economic development? Yawn? Nosiree. It is a benign title for a hard-hitting piece.  (I assume the headline was crafted by the editorial staff at the paper, hence my use of the word ‘excoriates’ in the blog post title. It essentially means ‘kicks the ass of’ but you can look it up.)

It’s a well-written piece, so I encourage you to read the whole thing. But here are some excerpts:

With its takeover of the Economic Development Authority and the resignation of yet another member of the city’s professional staff, the city council has completed its dismantling of Northfield’s economic development, community development and city planning efforts…

Since then, the city council has new members with their own agendas and priorities. Community re-engineering ideas with clever names like “green steps,” “strong towns” and “complete streets” get attention. Job creation and tax base expansion do not…

Several current council members are actively opposed to commercial and industrial development. They spent more than a year angling to take control of the EDA without advancing a single idea about job creation or tax base expansion. They are instead funding specific organizations and activities that enhance their definitions of quality of life in Northfield. No impact on attracting jobs or expanding the tax base. Not economic development…

Perhaps the next election will serve as a referendum on what kind of a future Northfield would like to develop: more quality of life re-engineering, or more jobs and an expanded tax base…

I’m not well-informed on matters of economic development but I’m more supportive of the direction the current City Council has taken.  Two large Northfield employers, Monster Games and Perkins Specialized Transportation Contracting, were featured in the Northfield Community Video project for which Randy was hired to be the Project Coordinator by the EDA. If you watch the videos that feature their owners (here and here), you’ll see that they attribute their location of their businesses in Northfield in large part to the very things that Randy criticizes in his column: Northfield’s vibrant downtown and overall quality of life.

So let’s talk Northfield economic development: the good, the bad, the ugly.

What are the pros and cons of various locations for a campground in the Northfield area?

According to Camper Van Finder, the consideration of a Northfield area campground (RV park and tent camping) is now on the radar of the Parks & Rec Advisory Board (PRAB), the Northfield Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB) and soon the Northfield Economic Development Authority (EDA). (See the comment thread attached to the July 3rd blog post, Why doesn’t Northfield have a campground?)

So we can now start brainstorming possible locations and what the pros and cons might be of each.  If the City creates a Campground Ad Hoc Task Force, the discussion here might be helpful to them.

For example, Sechler Park:

Sechler Park open space Sechlar Park open space Sechler Park aerial view
Sechler Park was one of the sites mentioned at last week’s PRAB meeting.  I took the above two panoramic photos of the open space at the southern edge of the park, between the two ball fields and near the picnic shelter and playground.  (See the aerial view image on the right, taken from page 5 of this Park Master Plan Appendix (PDF).

Advantages for tent camping:

  • Flat grassy area
  • Parking lot
  • Water and bathrooms at the picnic shelter
  • Adjacent to the Cannon River
  • Adjacent to Mill Towns Trail
  • Close to downtown
  • Gates to the park would allow it to be restricted during off-season, high water, etc.
  • Little needed for infrastructure improvements
  • Other advantages?

Disadvantages for tent camping:

  • Noisy railroad yard nearby
  • Seasonal flooding
  • Other disadvantages?

Attach a comment if you can think of other pros and cons for tent camping at Sechler.  Would the site also work for RV camping?

Got another site you think suitable for tent camping and/or an RV park? Suggest it!

The Northfield Roundtable: a public planning group without the public

For the past year or so, I’ve been hearing bits and pieces about a group called the Northfield Roundtable (also referred to with three words–the ‘Northfield Round Table‘–making online searches trickier). They met last Saturday in the conference room of the Archer House and I took a few photos.

Northfield Roundtable, April 30, 2011 Northfield Roundtable, April 30, 2011

Consultant Bill Johnson, Northfield Roundtable, April 30, 2011 Northfield Roundtable conceptual framework plan Northfield Roundtable conceptual framework plan

The Northfield Roundtable has been around since at least the fall of 2009. The EDA packet for June 24, 2010 contains a letter (page 25) from the group with their request for $9,000 from the EDA (the EDA minutes for that meeting show that the funding request was approved) for the services of consultant Bill Johnson, pictured above.  Members of the group at that time:

Blake Abdella, Dixon Bond, Rick Estenson, Margit Johnson, Bruce King, Joel Leer, Art Monaghan, Suzie Nakasian, Dave Neuger, Brett Reese, Fred Rogers, Jennifer Sawyer, Alice Thomas, Dave Van Wylen, Steve Wilmot.

How did the group form? How were members selected/invited?  What is their mission?  Who do they report to? Where are the results of their planning sessions?

It’s tough to find out, as there’s no overview document, brochure, or website for the group that I could find. Has the Northfield News, KYMN, or Northfield Patch done any reporting on the group? Apparently not.

Planning Commission Chair Tracy Davis included this update in a blog post last September:

Commissioners Davis, Imm, Herreid and Schulte participated in a workshop sponsored by the recently-formed Northfield Roundtable.  Commissioners Nakasian and Thomas were also participants in the workshop as Roundtable members.  Other participants included Messrs O’Connell and Olson. 

The fifteen members of the Roundtable, all volunteers, work to clarify, support and facilitate a clear vision and framework for development and redevelopment opportunities that enhance the economic vitality and livability of Northfield. 

The workshop was conducted to solicit ideas for improving connectivity and encouraging development in the rectangular commercial area bisected by 2nd Street, touching the Library and Q-Block on the east and west, and extending north to south from the Crossing to Bridge Square.  Ideas solicited by a consultant from the workshop participants will be packaged by the Roundtable into a future report.

So it seems that a group of influential community members has formed on its own to conduct brainstorming/planning sessions for Northfield-related public development, with public financial support, without much (any?) public process, public transparency, or public engagement.

Sure, whatever results or recommendations generated by the Northfield Roundtable would go through the various public bodies (Planning Commission, City Council, etc.) before any actions are taken.

But by then, all the educational opportunities are gone, the interesting discussions have already occurred, the influential positioning has taken place, and average citizens are pretty much left with just weighing in pro or con, as any public hearings appear to be mere formalities.

And public cynicism deepens.

Get to Know Northfield! video released

Get to Know Northfield! is the new EDA-commissioned video “highlighting the distinctive characteristics and qualities that make Northfield an attractive place to live, work, attend school, start a business, or simply visit and play.” The video was produced by by Blue Moon Productions and cost $30,000. The partnering organizations and their contributions:

Carleton College – $3,500
St. Olaf College – $3,500
Northfield Area Chamber of Commerce/CVB – $5,000
Northfield Economic Development Authority – $15,000
Northfield Hospital and Clinics – $6,000
Rebound Enterprises – $2,500

More:

“Why We’re Here” Twin Cities video goes viral. How will the new Northfield community video compare?

In today’s Strib: Filmmakers find a sense of place; Why do we live in the Twin Cities? A hit online video provides the answers.

Their short, sweet online video thoroughly evokes its title: "Why We’re Here." Not only do the subjects explain what lures and keeps them in the Twin Cities ("a big city in a not so big city," "great quality of life," "lots of green space"), but the 6-minute film’s music and tone could salve even the most hardened cynic’s soul.

Small wonder, then, that in its first four days of being posted online, "Why We’re Here" drew more than 30,000 viewers exclusively via word of mouth (and Web). "We struck some kind of chord," Bernstein said. "The thing that has surprised us is how many people have said it made them choke up, people unabashedly telling us that the thing made them cry."

I’m eager to see how the new Northfield community video, commissioned by the EDA and completed by Blue Moon Productions in December, compares to this video created by Susan Bernstein and Mary McGreevy of Seven and Sixty Productions. (Or how about the Chrysler Eminem Super Bowl Commercial – Imported From Detroit? Heh.)

(For background, see A) my June, 2010 blog post, Why make a $38,000 video to promote Northfield now when we already have one that’s good enough?; and B) Page 11-14 of the May 27, 2010 EDA packet.)

The partnering organizations and their contributions:

Carleton College – $3,500
St. Olaf College – $3,500
Northfield Area Chamber of Commerce/CVB – $5,000
Northfield Economic Development Authority – $15,000
Northfield Hospital and Clinics – $6,000
Rebound Enterprises – $2,500

Knight Foundation report: emotional attachment to one’s city is an economic strength. True for Northfield?

The results of this study are worth considering for Northfield and its economic development.

Soul of the CommunityWhat makes a community a desirable place to live? What draws people to stake their future in it? Are communities with more attached residents better off? Gallup and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation launched the Knight Soul of the Community project in 2008 with these questions in mind…

While the economy is obviously the subject of much attention, the study has found that perceptions of the local economy do not have a very strong relationship to resident attachment. Instead, attachment is most closely related to how accepting a community is of diversity, its wealth of social offerings, and its aesthetics. This is not to say that jobs and housing aren’t important. Residents must be able to meet their basic needs in a community in order to stay. However, when it comes to forming an emotional connection with the community, there are other community factors which often are not considered when thinking about economic development. These community factors seem to matter more when it comes to attaching residents to their community.

Other links:

New Urban Network: Passion for community related to economic growth

Neal Peirce column: Money’s Not Everything: Surprise City Poll Results

Council considers a takeover of the EDA. Good idea?

Northfield EDA

In today’s Nfld News: Council may take on EDA powers.

In a last-minute move, Councilor Erica Zweifel Tuesday asked the City Council to consider transferring power from the Economic Development Authority to the council… Councilor Betsey Buckheit supported Zweifel’s query, noting that she’s concerned about the EDA’s work and its expenditures. If the EDA’s responsibilities are taken over by the council, Buckheit wondered if the city could realize efficiencies in time and money… Personalities, Buckheit said, weren’t her concern. Instead she worries that the EDA is setting policy, but isn’t accountable to the taxpayers.

See more background on the EDA and current members on the City of Northfield’s Economic Development Authority web page.

The economic stimulus from consulting: more than $1.65. Can I get an EDA loan now?

My consulting business brings an infusion of $1.65 to downtown Northfield most days, depending on where I have coffee. Last week I was happy to ratchet that up a bit with two client meetings at the HideAway CoffeeHouse and Winebar.

Neal Peirce, Farley Peters, Sean Hayford O'Leary, Curtis Johnson  at the HideAwayThe principals of The Citistates Group paid a visit to Northfield on Wednesday to meet with me and Northfield web designer Sean Hayford O’Leary. Sean and I have worked with Neal Peirce, Farley Peters, and Curtis Johnson for years but had never met with them F2F.

Al DeKruif, Daryl Bauer, Brian WermerskirchenOn Thursday, I met with Republican-endorsed Senate 25 candidate Al DeKruif and two of his campaign volunteers, Daryl Bauer and Brian Wermerskirchen. I’m working with them on social media-related activities for Al’s campaign.

The first time my consulting business had a huge economic impact (dozens of dollars!) on downtown Northfield was in the summer of 2004 when a group of Brits from the Blair government descended on the Contented Cow, desperate for British beer. They returned with some colleagues in the summer of 2005.

I hope this helps for the day when I need to hit up the Northfield EDA for a loan.