Healthy economy in a livable community, 1998

During the last two weeks of February, 1998, the Northfield Economic Development Authority (EDA), the Northfield Chamber of Commerce (CoC), and the League of Women Voters (LWV) co-sponsored a community forum titled:

Growing a Healthy Economy in a Livable Community

The Web Cafe portion of the forum occurred in topic 47 of the Government conference from Monday, Feb. 16 through Monday, March 2.

Web Forum Panelists included:

Jim Ashman, Northfield EDA

Suzanne Ciernia, League of Women Voters

Mitch Goldstein, Community National Bank

Nancy Gruchow, past City Council member and business owner

Gordon Kelly, Northfield Planning Commission

Keith Lauver, MicroAssist

Dave Machacek, ViA The Flexible PC Co.

Joel West, Community Development Director, City of Northfield

Bruce Wiese, Northfield Chamber of Commerce

The forum was moderated by Griff Wigley.

Economic development references:

Shaping Our Future: Strategic Plan for Northfield

New position on Northfield City Growth and Development by Nfld League of Women Voters

Inside Out: Transitional housing is step toward making city a livable Community (Feb 27 Nfld News)

Growing a city: First forum introduces topics of growth by Rachel Vogt (Feb 27 Nfld News)

Northfielders must stay on top of issues for ‘livable community’ by Bob & Suzannah Ciernia (Feb 6 Nfld News)

Well-planned business expansion is good for all of us by Ray Cox (Oct 17 Nfld News)

Livable communities need to encourage business and job growth by Leota Goodney (Oct 31 Nfld News)

Tracking trends: Report poses challenges to economic development by Tad Johnson (Jan 9 Nfld News)

City needs to take care of its existing businesses by Ray Cox (Aug 22 Nfld News)

Government.47.3: Griff Wigley (griff) Mon, 16 Feb

Panelists: on your remarks, get set, post!

Briefly introduce yourself and say a little bit about your involvement and interest in commercial and economic development issues in Northfield. For 10 bonus points, say what you think are the biggest commercial and economic development decisions looming before the town in the next year or so.

As soon as most of the panelists have posted their opening remarks, I’ll open it up to everyone else for posting comments and questions.

Government.47.4: Griff Wigley (griff) Mon, 16 Feb

NCO is building the League of Women Voters new web site… it should be ready Real Soon Now. In the meantime, I’ll post the League’s new position on Northfield City Growth and Development here in the next post. This position statement was adopted by the League in November 1997.

Moderator’s Hint: To read posts or follow any other hyperlink, it’s best to “right-click” your mouse (click and hold for Mac owners) and open up a New Browser Window to follow the link. That way, you can easily keep your place in the conversation here while having a second window up for reference purposes.

Government.47.6: Nancy Gruchow (ngruchow) Mon, 16 Feb

I’m Nancy Gruchow. I live over on Lincoln St. north, just a short walk from the Ole Store. My husband and I have two kids, Laura, who is off in Portland, studying a little and enjoying life; and Aaron, a jr in high school, whose interests seem to be soccer and racquetball. We ran Authors Ink until we ran into too much red ink, and now I am back at my former job of Public Defender. Paul teaches out of town. I served on the City Council for 3 years from Ward 3 (over near St. Olaf); and I’m on the Housing & Redevelopment Authority (still), whose mission is to provide low and moderate-income housing of different types. The HRA term is 5 years.

So the HRA right now would like to buy this rundown house on Washington Ave., near More 4, and turn it over to the Community Action Center, which has a big federal grant to run a housing program for 3 years in Northfield, Montgomery, Faribualt, and (I think) Lonsdale. For about 20 years, the Community Action Center has been helping people find temporary housing when they’ve been evicted, or the furnace fails, or the hot water heater busts, or some emergency strikes. Lately they have rented efficiency apartments and put up folk there. But the HRA would like to buy them a duplex, close to downtown, within walking distance of lots of things. This house on Washington hasn’t been occupied–except for pigeons–for quite a while, but it could be remodeled into a two-bedroom unit and a one-bedroom unit. Cash-flow-wise, the federal grant would come very close to paying all the expenses for three years; then it is time to request another grant, or find other funding.

I have more info on this, but I’m sure Griff wants me to Keep It Short so—do you folks think we should do this? Some of the neighbors feel it is too nice a house to use for this, but it does need $70,000 worth of work to bring it up to code, so I’d say it isn’t that nice; and also, I’d say, poor folk with no place to live are not, automatically, Trash who deserve lousy housing. Don’t tell me NIMBY.

Government.47.7: Griff Wigley (griff) Mon, 16 Feb

Hey Nancy, good to have you here and be the first one of the panelists to post.

Let’s keep this issue of the Washington St. house among the several we’d like to address here.

But first, a few more panelists need to sign in. Who’s next?

Government.47.8: Mitch Goldstein (mitch) Mon, 16 Feb

Good Day!

Mitch Goldstein, Vice President of Retail and Marketing at Community National Bank. I’ve been a resident of this community for a little over two years. My wife, Theresa is employed by Northfield Freezing Systems and I have two young children.

In addition to being a banker, I am also involved in the local Masonic Lodge, Sertoma, and the Chamber. I also have a strong community background, having been active on the Downtown Business Council, Community Action and the Chamber in Brainerd, as well as many other organizations.

My feelings toward development are basically that if we are not growing, we are dying. We must have controlled growth in all areas that economically impact the community. Residential growth, particularly a well-diversed growth, benefits everyone. But, we must also think of the benefits of retail and commercial growth. I think of the thousands, if not millions of dollars in revenue that are lost annually to other communities that may have a bit more diversity in their retail sector. We must focus on ways to grow and improve our community, not ways to keep non-residential growth and expansion away.

I look forward to continued conversation.

Government.47.9: Griff Wigley (griff) Mon, 16 Feb

Hi Mitch, welcome aboard. Good to have a relative newcomer to town participating here. I hope you bring your Brainerd experiences to the discussion.

BTW, I think Community National is the only bank in town with its own web site, correct? If so, congrats!

Government.47.10: Griff Wigley (griff) Mon, 16 Feb

The Nfld News had Feb. 6 article on the Washington St. house titled:

Eyesore: HRA wants to rehabilitate Washington Street house by Tad Johnson

Last week’s Feb. 13 Nfld News (not yet up on their web site) had a follow-up article titled:

Money matters: Council clashes over funding for transitional housing proposal

While residential housing is not our primary focus for this forum, this issue does have a bearing on it since the HRA wants to use Master Development funds to buy the house… and web forum panelists Joel West, Jim Ashman and Nancy Gruchow are in the thick of the “clashing.”

Government.47.11: Griff Wigley (griff) Mon, 16 Feb

While we’re waiting for the other panelists to post their intro remarks, I thought I’d post a few friendly tips about forum protocol for all participants here, both panelists and pedestrians!

– avoid lengthy posts, ie, anything longer than a screenful. It’s the equivalent of standing up in a living room conversation and giving a lecture. If you do have a long piece, eg, an article, put it in a “hidden” post, explaining in a separate post what it’s all about.

– use lots of white space, ie, paragraph returns, to make your posts easier for others to read. Paragraphs should be no longer than 8-10 lines, preferably shorter…. even if it violates what you were taught in grammar class.

– since we might be discussing several issues “simultaneously” here, all piled in one topic, learn to make use of the linking ability of the software, especially the word “post”. For example: “Mitch, you talked about your background in post:8. Could you….” See how just typing the word “post” with a colon and number after it automatically creates a link? Cool, eh? It helps others to know what you’re talking about and makes it easy for them to follow the link back to see what was actually posted.

– This forum could likely become debate-oriented so just in case there is some controversy, here’s a gentle but firm tip: avoid personal attacks on others who disagree with you. Also: 1) avoid sarcasm; and 2) use people’s first name when referring to someone else who’s participating here. Avoid saying, for example, “Jim seems to be the type of guy who always….” It’s insulting. So try to talk (write) as if others are right here in a room with you. “Jim, you seem to always be…”

I’ll assess reasonably small fines to offenders. 😉

Government.47.12: Griff Wigley (griff) Mon, 16 Feb

Panelist Ray Cox had an In My Opinion column in the Nfld News last October titled:

Well-planned business expansion is good for all of us

He also had an opinion piece on this issue back in August, mainly about the Dokmo Abra Auto Body and Glass sign fiasco with the city, but it touched on the philosophical issues as well:

City needs to take care of its existing businesses

Ray’s a clueless newbie when it comes to the Internet but since he’s reasonably competent in a number of other endeavors, I expect he’ll get the hang of it and post here within a day or two. In the meantime, feel free to take issue with any of the points he raises in those opinion pieces he wrote for the news.

Government.47.13: Griff Wigley (griff) Mon, 16 Feb

A few more relevant links:

Last October, Chamber of Commerce President Leota Goodney wrote this opinion piece for the Nfld News:

Livable communities need to encourage business and job growth

The City of Nfld’s report titled “Economic, Demographic and Social Indicators” was profiled in a Nfld News two-part series in January by Tad Johnson. The first was titled,

Tracking trends: Report poses challenges to economic development

Part Two of the series was titled:

City needs cheaper housing

Government.47.15: Bruce Wiese (bruce) Mon, 16 Feb

Hello, this is Bruce Wiese calling, or at least I hope so!! As I am sure you will be able to tell I am new to this program so you may have to bear with me for awhile as I am impatient with reading instructions and this sometimes causes computers to do strange things. I am also the king of the run-on sentence, so if my english teacher is out there please sign off now!!

I have been asked to contribute to a forum panel on “Growing a Healthy Economy in a Liveable Community”

This is my first posting and my Bio; I have been employed by Novartis Seeds (formerly Northrup King)for 27 years, the last 12 at Stanton. I have been a resident or Northfield for 9 years and currently serve on the board of director of the Northfield Chamber of Commerce, please understand that my opinions are just that and do not represent the opinions of the Chamber Board of Directors or it’s membership, -end of disclaimer, I also serve on the Community Advisory Committee on Learning for the Northfield School District.

A “Liveable Community” requires its citizens to have a place to Live, Work and Play. How to best achieve this is the topic of this discussion.

I look forwrd to your comments!

Government.47.16: Griff Wigley (griff) Mon, 16 Feb

Welcome, Bruce. If you’re a clueless newbie, you’re pretty good at hiding it. 😉 Thanks to you and the rest of the Chamber folks for co-sponsoring this forum.

Government.47.17: Griff Wigley (griff) Mon, 16 Feb

Ok class, just one more background reading homework assignment for now. I’ll have a quiz in the morning so study hard.

Tad Johnson wrote a piece in the Nfld News on Jan 9 titled:

Shaping the future: New mayor, council members ready for active participation

In this article, Tad cites some of Mayor Bill Rossman’s plans re: economic development:

“One of the things we talked about a lot during the campaign was economic development,” said Rossman, who was sworn into office Friday. “With the Livable Communities Initiative, the residential plan is in place.”

He added that he would like to see the city put economic development in the same condition. Among the development plan potential include the EDA’s industrial land site analysis plan, the former Kump Lumber Company property and Highway 3’s center section.

By the end of the first half of the year, the council aims to have a city staffer dedicated to the EDA mission. The position was included in the 1998 budget. Rossman said the post will most likely work under Community Development Director Joel West.

The first of the city’s informal meetings with local businesses and industries will be Jan. 16. Rossman said that he, West, City Administrator Scott Neal and EDA Chair Jim Ashman plan to discuss a wide range of issues with Malt-O-Meal officials.

As for council relations, Rossman hopes the goal-setting retreat planned this month will help develop a sense of direction for the new committee. He also hopes to use the “Shaping the Future: A Strategic Plan for Northfield” from 1992 to frame the council’s discussion. The report was formulated by members of the community and city officials.

Government.47.18: Griff Wigley (griff) Mon, 16 Feb

Just so the panelists are aware:

There are already 30 people following this topic, quietly lurking in the background.

This is about the same size audience that typically shows up for a civic-oriented face-to-face panel discussion at the Library’s meeting room.

Government.47.19: Nancy Gruchow (ngruchow) Tue, 17 Feb

Griff, you mentioned in Post:17 that the city hoped to have a staffer to work with the Economic Development Authority soon. I would like to point out that the Housing & Redevelopment Authority has put up the money for that staff position in 1998. We at the HRA see a link between housing and economic development.

To wit: we believe it is good for the community to have jobs here, and for the employees to live here (if they want to). Now, this is an underlying assumption behind our funding this position.

Many people live in Northfield and commute. A lot more live elsewhere and work here, and we at the HRA would like there to be sufficient housing, at different prices, so the workers can live here if they want to. As more jobs are created in Northfield, we need to build more houses at different prices ranges.

Government.47.20: Gordon Kelley (goldgopher) Tue, 17 Feb

My name is Gordon Kelley. I am a 9 year resident of Northfield and a six and one half year member of the Planning Commission. The goldgopher comes from my alma mater. I will try to post this message correctly, since my first post was lost.

As Nancy mentioned, I will mention my family. One daughter who was a seven year student at Nfld public schools and was class of 1996 at NHS and is now a student at Minn Duluth. One wife who is manager of Fashion Bug over by K-Mart. My major interests: transportation planning to support the community, locating the land for commercial and industrial development and then designating that land, bringing commercial and industrial development to town, and I will also add I am interested in TIF (do the benefits really outweigh the costs? is it being used properly? does the public really understand these funds?) Also, as someone has previously mentioned, my remarks are mine and do not in any way represent an official position of the Plng Commis.

I look forward to responses to Griff’s questions raised earlier: What is the ideal balance between residential, commercial and industrial? How will transportation planning affect commercial and industrial? Where should new zones be? I look forward to responses from the public on these questions.

Government.47.22: Griff Wigley (griff) Tue, 17 Feb

Hi Gordon, thanks for that intro. This makes your second stint as a forum panelist here in the NCO Web Cafe, as you were on the city parks forum last fall. I’m glad you’re so well-paid as a planning commission member that you can afford the time to do this. 😉

Government.47.23: Jim Ashman (ashmanj) Tue, 17 Feb

I am Jim Ashman, President of Northfield’s EDA. Development, sustainable, livable, affordable, growth are terms “floating” throughout the City of Northfield. Each with many definitions. The objective of the EDA this year, is to establish Northfield’s definitions for these terms, and many others, to move our population into tomorrow and the year 2000. Our initial concern is “growth”. Growth is formed by 2 factors: development (which means quality and making things that we have better); expansion (which means quantity and getting bigger). One comes before the other on our table. Development of our existing community includes the creation of jobs, income, savings, and a stronger community. The maintained and enhanced quality of life in Northfield will fuel expansion. More to come…….

Government.47.24: Griff Wigley (griff) Tue, 17 Feb

Hi Jim, good to have you here. As president of the EDA, you’re on the one of the main hot seats here. I’m sure you can take the heat. 😉

People might not know it but Jim is also director of the Finstad Center for Entrepreneurial Studies at St. Olaf:

Government.47.25: Dave Machacek (davem) Tue, 17 Feb

My name is Dave Machacek. I grew up in Northfield, went to the University of MN, worked for three years in Germany, and then worked for Northfield Equipment and Manufacturing. I ran this 50 person business for 5 years before it was sold to York International. I was on the EDA for 2 years, and recently applied for the vacant First Ward City Council seat (I received the most votes cast in that process and lost, but that’s a story for another time).

I now work for ViA, The Flexible PC Company. What does ViA do anyway? Founded by Dave Carroll, ViA has developed and patented ideas that allow different parts of a computer to be connected by flexible means. Our computers therefore conform to the body and can be worn like belts. We are growing fast and have many exciting customers and opportunities.

I would like to start out by making one point regarding the City support of existing Northfield businesses.

Sometimes it works!

Government.47.26: Griff Wigley (griff) Tue, 17 Feb

Hi Dave, welcome aboard… good to know that you served on the EDA.

I’m also glad to have a couple of representatives from local high-tech companies here (the other being Keith Lauver from MicroAssist who should be here Real Soon Now)… we want to spend part of the time here talking about to what extent the city of Nfld should try to attract more high-tech businesses as well as (better?) support the existing ones.

In case anyone wants to know more about ViA, their site is at

Government.47.27: Griff Wigley (griff) Tue, 17 Feb

We should have a couple more panelists post their opening remarks yet today. Regardless, tho, I plan to open things up for everyone to participate at around 10 pm tonight. Thanks, folks, for being patient!

Government.47.28: Joel West (joel) Tue, 17 Feb

I am Joel West, Community Development Director for the City of Northfield. In addition to directing the activities of the Community Development Department I serve as staff to the Economic Development Authority and the Housing and Redevelopment Authority. Over the past two years (approximatley), the City (I use the term collectivley, i.e. EDA, HRA, etc.)has been pursuing some projects that could have a substantial impact on growing a healthy community.

In late 1996 and into 1997 the Economic Development Authority commissioned an Industrial Land Physical Site Analysis. This analysis was the second of a two phased planning process, the objective of which was to locate areas for future industrial development. The study was completed in May of 1997. The study did identify a 90 to 100 acre area southeast of Highway 3 that borders Northfield as a likely location for future industrial development. Since that time the EDA has presented these finding to the Planning Commission, and has had discussions with the land owners. The consultant on the analysis envisioned an idustrial or more appropriately a business park development for this site. It was also envisioned that a buffer of multi-family residential and possibly some park land would be created as a transition to the single family areas located further east of this site. The need to identify and help create more industrial or more land for a business park prompted the EDA to study and advance this issue. If Northfield is to sustain a growing economy, one of the essential ingredients will be available land for business growth.

Also, one of the major efforts by the EDA this year is to foster business growth from within the community. Evidence tells us that there are only a few hundred companies at best that are looking for new plant locations each year, and these companies are solicited by thousends of local governments. Succeeding in such a competative environment is highly unlikely. The EDA believes that amore successful approach is to grow businesses from within the community, and to that end the EDA will be establishing a micro enterprise loan/grant program to assist such businesses. Also, the EDA is pursuing the establishment of a business incubator that can be used by growing businesses to help bridge the gap between being a home busness and establishing themselves by leasing or building a building. I look forward to the discussion on this topic.

Government.47.29: Griff Wigley (griff) Tue, 17 Feb

Hi Joel, delighted to have you here… and thanks for the background on your dept and the EDA. I’ll see if I can drag your boss into the discussion, too, at some point. 😉

Government.47.30: Griff Wigley (griff) Tue, 17 Feb

I expect that panelists Ray Cox, Suzannah Ciernia, and Keith Lauver will be able to join us tomorrow, so rather than hold off any longer, this topic is now open for everyone to participate.

Feel free to post your comments and questions, either to individual panelists, the panel as a whole, to other citizens, or to no one in particular.

Government.47.31: Griff Wigley (griff) Wed, 18 Feb

We have a few issues on the table that I’d like to see panelists and citizens address. If anyone has other issues, tho, feel free to post.

* Housing issues as they related to economic development raised by Nancy Gruchow in post:6 and post:19. Should the city use Master Development fund money for the Washington St. house and turn it over to the CAC for temporary housing?

* Support of existing businesses. Ray Cox was critical of the city in his opinion piece re: the Dokmo Abra plan. Dave Machacek’s criticism was implied in his post:25. Are the plans to establish a business incubator and a micro enterprise loan/grant program to assist local businesses, described by Joel West in post:28, enough?

* Plans for a new industrial park southeast of town as described by Joel in post:28. What are the pros and cons of this plan?

Government.47.32: Griff Wigley (griff) Wed, 18 Feb

BTW, I’ve put up a listing of links to the Economic development references mentioned earlier in scattered posts… the LWV position on growth is on a temporary page on the NCO web site.

Government.47.33: Suzannah Ciernia (suzannah) Wed, 18 Feb

Suzannah here. As a busy working mother of two boys (9 + 12) and involved in other volunteer “stuff” I am signing on a little late.

My husband Bob and I moved to Nfld 5 yrs ago from the Boston metro area after considering about 5 different small-medium sized towns in which to locate our publishing business. The search ranged from Spokane to Brattleboro to Charlottesville, and Northfield won. We chose it for many of the reasons inherent in the livable cmty initiative.

We are both active in the league of Women Voters and are committed to citizen involvement in community building in many ways, shapes, and forms.

The forum designed by this collaborative effort of EDA, COC, and LWV seems an excellent way to generate the kinds of discussions we need to happen if we want to ensure that Northfield remains a place where people like to live and work.

I’ll have more to say after catching up on my reading!

Government.47.34: Dave Machacek (davem) Wed, 18 Feb

Griff said in post:31 that I implied criticism on the City’s support of local businesses. That is not exactly so…but I threw it out like that (in post:25) to get some response.

Our experience at Northfield Equipment was, in fact, a very good one. We had a small and old facility on Armstrong Road (the site of the present quasi-private business incubator run by Northfield Development Co.). The facility on Cannon Road went on the market and we financed the purchase with help from the City.

The help from the City was a loan of $150,000 at 5% fixed interest rate. We then took that approval to our bank and the United States Small Business Administration to get further financing. Without that first commitment from the City, we would not have been able purchase the new building. Our business expanded, and we could provide a much better, safer, cleaner work environment to our employees. (And I must also add that this loan has been paid back in full.)

To restate, “sometimes” City support of existing businesses works! It worked in the case of Northfield Equipment, and can work for other businesses and indirectly for everyone in the community.

The charge of the City, as implemented by Council and EDA, must be to evaluate economic development opportunities quickly and efficiently. We as a City have the possibility, if we do our jobs well, to turn my “sometimes” into an “everytime”.

Government.47.35: Griff Wigley (griff) Wed, 18 Feb

Hi Suzannah, glad you were able to squeeze this into to your hectic schedule. I must add that I take a small amount of credit for you and Bob choosing Northfield. I was working at Utne Reader magazine at the time and you phoned the office wondering if anybody knew anything about Northfield. The city paid me a substantial finder’s fee, I might add. 😉

Dave, that’s a great summary of your experience of city support while at Nfld Equipment. Can you be a little parochial and say a little bit about what they might do to support an existing business like ViA?

Government.47.36: Griff Wigley (griff) Thu, 19 Feb

In today’s Strib:

Software firm to open 50-person operation in Duluth

“A Montreal-based information technology services company will announce today that it is opening a Duluth center that will employ about 50 high-tech professionals…”


Could Northfield realistically be in the running for things like this?

Government.47.37: Tracy Hartke (tracy) Thu, 19 Feb

Hello to all of you in Cafe-Land. I’m pleased to see such substantive issues brought to the fore and I’m hoping to see some very profitable discussion take place.

Let me preface my comments by clearly stating my own biases. I’ve been instrumental in founding and/or successfully piloting five organizations through the startup phase over the past five years (two small business, one cooperative, and two nonprofit organization, one of which is Northfield Citizens Online), and am currently in charge of the new growth/new products division of MicroAssist, Inc. as of last month. As this truncated bio indicates, I like to start stuff. I like to grow stuff. I’m good at identifying opportunities and making things happen. Something like 80% of all new jobs created in the last 10-15 years have been in companies employing 50 people or less–in short, small businesses. I believe that this is where more of Northfield’s economic development emphasis should be.

Joel said, in post:28, that there is a very slim chance that Northfield will attract a new industrial plant and that the EDA wishes to focus more on helping to grow businesses from within the community. I believe this emphasis is dead on, but I’m not seeing evidence that this is happening. Vast amounts of time, energy, and money are being spent on projects like the Industrial Land Physical Site Analysis, which many businesses owners in town view as the bureaucratic equivalent of the hamster on the wheel. I understand that city government needs to analyze and evaluate such things, but from the outside it *still* looks like most of the City’s resources are being spent on trying to land “the big one” while effectively overlooking the possibilities in our own backyards.

In post:23, Jim Ashman says he believes that development comes before expansion. While this point of view is valid from a “planning” perspective, I don’t believe this is an entrepreneurial point of view at all. Expansion will happen with or without the EDA and the City of Northfield; ask any business owner how much he/she considers Northfield’s “official” position while making growth or expansion plans and I’ll bet you’ll be told, off the record, that it’s almost completely irrelevant. Business owners will do what is required to grow their businesses in the most beneficial way, and I don’t believe either the City or the EDA are in touch with the factors that go into shaping those decisions.

One of the things that small businesses want and need is access to financing that may be difficult to come by in other ways. Dave Machacek eloquently demonstrated the results of this in post:34. Yes, there’s a risk inherent in that proposal, but there’s also risk in putting tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars into projects like the Kump property (and does everyone remember the Paulina’s fiasco?). One of the problems I’ve heard identified in town is that if a local business isn’t related to the retail or hospitality industries, it’s practically invisible. This is both narrow-minded and short-sighted and must change if Northfield is to grow in a way that develops and enhances its chances of being a truly livable community. [Aside to Griff: Isn’t it time for you to jump in here and promote the “cybervillage” concept? 😉 ]

I suggest that the City and the EDA reevaluate their priorities, and have a roundtable discussion (or a WEB CAFE PANEL…hint, hint) with local business owners (maybe some of the smaller “invisible” ones with 10-15 employees) as to how the City could *really* help. I’ll bet they’d get an earful.

End of rant.

Government.47.38: Evelyn Hoover (ehoover) Thu, 19 Feb

I’ve been following the posting so far and at Griff’s urging have decided to join in.

I have some questions that I’ll throw out there (that’s what we journalists do after all).

What do other cities do to foster economic development, especially cities our size? Do they do anything different from the way the city of Northfield does it? What kinds of success have they enjoyed?

When I worked in the suburbs, I covered the city of Apple Valley for a time and remember they had a business incubator program that as I recall had a tough time getting going. The members of the City Council also had some major debates about whether Apple Valley should try to court businesses located in other Dakota County communities? Overall, it seemed that the city of Apple Valley took a more active role in economic development, but that may have had more to do with timing (the early 90s) and location than anything else.

Government.47.39: Peter Hamlin (hamlin) Thu, 19 Feb

I enjoyed reading Dave Machacek’s account of a successful Northfield project for a local business (post:34) and Tracy Hartke’s suggestion that the city work with small businesses to better understand how they can help (post:37). The cities I would most like to live in (Northfield is one!) are typically relatively strict with issues like zoning, sign ordinances, environmental regulations, and the like. These things can be described as negatives, but, of course, they help make the community a desirable place in which to live and do business. (Perhaps these are some of the things that attracted the Ciernias’ business to town? post:33) I would be interested to hear from the panel about ways that Northfield’s strong favorable character as a place to live can be maintained, even enhanced, by the right kind of business development. What kinds of choices can we make that can strengthen what we residents like so much about this town? Peter Hamlin

Government.47.40: Griff Wigley (griff) Thu, 19 Feb

Welcome Tracy, Evelyn and Peter… the first audience members to chime in!

Tracy mentioned the “cyber-village” concept. Here are a few details and links. [I’m a little out of my moderator role here, putting on my Advocate hat.]

I work in an historic area of downtown St. Paul called Lowertown… the warehouse district that’s been revitalized in the past 10 years. In the past 2 years, the company where I work (a teeny Internet Services Provider – 11 employees) has been instrumental in promoting the concept of a Lowertown Cyber-Village to the downtown St. Paul movers and shakers. It’s been a big success in attracting many small and medium-sized high tech companies to Lowertown. Here are some recent articles on it:

It Takes a Cyber-Village: Tech companies find a haven in St. Paul’s Lowertown (Nov. 23, 1997 Pioneer Press)

Cyber-villages: New City Recovery Formula? Neal Peirce Column, March 9, 1997

Directory of technology-oriented companies in the Lowertown area (compiled by the St. Paul Pioneer Press)

The St. Paul Chamber of Commerce is now forming a Cyber-Village Association, and the Mayor’s office has created a High Tech Council.

Northfield has the many of the same physical attributes that appeal to many technology-oriented companies. It already has a number of high-tech companies that could offer a growing sense of community for others considering moving or expanding. And it now has a decent telecommunications infrastructure, now that ISDN Internet access is available in town… a fact that hardly anyone in town knows about, let alone anyone outside of town who might consider growing a business here.

[Advocate rant off; moderator on]

What would be the pros and cons of a Northfield Cyber-Village?

Government.47.41: Nancy Gruchow (ngruchow) Thu, 19 Feb

My friend Dave Hvistendahl has a couple of projects going in Faribo. He says he calls the city office in Faribo and tells them what he plans to do. They get back to him almost immediately with a list of permits & applications he must make, and set up the appointments for him, and give him a time-line, and set up bank appointments. One phone call to the city, and he knows exactly what he has to do, and when he will be doing it, and with whom. He keeps his appointments and the city officials he is meeting have been fully briefed ahead of time, so no time is wasted. He was able to buy a historic building in downtown, get all his permits and licenses, and have his financing set up, and begin renovating within a couple of weeks. This seems pretty user friendly to me…

Our system, as Joel will tell you, depends on the applicant (that would be Dave, in my example) making the appointments with the building inspectors, the planning commission, the design advisory board. Because of the meeting schedule, Dave would be looking at a couple of months, if he’s lucky, or 4-5 if he isn’t.

(Of course, Dave is still waiting for his general contractor to get going–he should have called Northfield Construction, right Ray?)

Government.47.42: Suzannah Ciernia (suzannah) Thu, 19 Feb

I can think of many reasons why a small software company might see Northfield as a desirable town in which to locate or re-locate. As I mentioned, the “quality of life” amenities are becoming more attractive in this hectic world. (They are primarily what caused us to leave the Boston area and search for that nice small town in the sky). We have doubled in size and employ two other Northfielders who are very happy with being able to live and work in the same town.

The proximity to Hwy 35, big-city events, a fairly good mix of demographics, make Northfield a place to live. Unfortunately, the things Northfield has going for it all make us the next candidate for joining the next “ring” of bedroom communities.

Bob Ciernia here. Suzannah left this sitting on the computer too long and I’ve decided to add my thoughts to the mix.

As has been noted elsewhere, many Northfielders work in the Cities. There is no question that may provide the best of both worlds: livable wages and livable community. However, some “community” must be lost when a significant number of people spend so much of their time elsewhere. The more people who drive through Burnsville, the more people shop at Target and Cub Foods (and the fewer in downtown Northfield). The more people spend two hours a day driving to and from their jobs, the less time and energy there is for them to coach soccer, oversee youth activities, volunteer at church, even get to know their neighbors. (This sounds like a blanket condemnation and, as such, it is inherently unfair. But since no one can be in two places at once and since no one has boundless energy, it is also a realistic assessment of what’s going on.)

The question now becomes: What do we have to do so that people can live and work in Northfield? And, more importantly, what kind of new businesses can we attract to Northfield that would pay LIVABLE wages? What’s the point of having a business that employs 50 new people if 48 of them make $6-8 an hour?

I think there needs to be some discussion of what IS a “livable” wage. $8 an hour translates into $320 a week, or about $16,000 a year. My family couldn’t live on that! If a two-parent household both worked at that rate, they’d still have a hard time. (And how a single parent could be expected to do that is totally beyond me!!)

Let’s do some basic monthly budgeting here for a family of four (and let’s assume we want Mr. & Mrs. Northfield to live in their own home):

Mortgage: $600 (minimum) Property tax: $140 Food: $300 Health insurance (50% employer paid) $200 Insurance (auto, home, term life): $75 Car payment/repair/maintenance: $100 Clothing: $50 Utilities (water, electric, gas, phone): $200

I’m sure you can think of numerous additional “basics” but the ones above total $1665. So, after income taxes, it costs at least $19,980 a year to live. No vacations, no second car, no braces, no Nikes, no church or charitable contributions, no frills.

I think most people would think the budget listed above is hardly extravagent and so the question of a LIVABLE wage takes on additional importance. Without revealing what they themselves make, I’m curious as what people think a livable wage is — and what AFFORDABLE housing means too.

A livable community, in my mind, does not mean everyone lives in $150,000 homes — a figure that must be fairly close to the median cost of homes sold in Northfield in recent months. Where are the low to moderately paid employees of whatever new business comes to town supposed to live?

These are some of the larger issues which cross my mind as I think about the future of Northfield.

Government.47.43: Gordon Kelley (goldgopher) Thu, 19 Feb

Good comments so far, keep them coming.

The new business park south of the Schilling farm was explained to the Planning Commission and generally thought to be a good idea. I think this is a good location for a new business park, it has access to highways and plenty of space for new businesses.

Now, can we fill this business park with some of those businesses, such as the one mentioned in the STRIB today. I am referring to the software firm to add 50 employees in Duluth.

I agree with the comments in Post:39 about desirable places to live. One of the responsibilities of the Planning Commission is to try to balance the need for strict regulation to maintain our quality of life with the other needs of businesses.

Government.47.44: Keith Lauver (klauver) Fri, 20 Feb

Good evening, all! My name is Keith and I’m a technoholic. I rode into town in 1988 as a student at one of the two colleges. I own MicroAssist, a company that’s grown from just me to 10 full-time employees (5 of those in the last 3 months). As someone needing to attract and retain highly skilled employees, Northfield offers many advantages, many of which are described in the posts here. Overall, I have been delighted with the opportunities presented for growing my business in this town. And it’s on that point I’d like to begin: I believe Northfield’s primary objective in achieving a “healthy economy” should be to remove barriers for growth of all types (development and expansion) for all folks (organizations and their employees).

– Jim, I believe the EDA’s (post:23) objectives to more clearly define “development”, “sustainable”, “livable”, “affordable”, and “growth” are an excellent beginning! Hopefully you’re getting ideas from people in this forum like Bob and Suzannah (they have a lot of great ideas- my first commercial space in Northfield was in the building Bob & Suzannah own and I was often privileged to hear Bob’s thoughts on many an issue while his copier kicked out those Life Skills booklets…) But I’d like to see a response to Tracy’s suggestion that much more is needed from the EDA. (post:37)

– Dave, I see your story in post:34 as an example of ways in which financial barriers might be removed. Nancy, I see your note in post:41 as an example of removing beaurocratic and informational barriers.

– As an example from an issue that’s important to me personally, there are significant barriers caused by Northfield’s geographic location that result in less telecommunications infrastructure being available and at higher costs than in areas like the Twin Cities. I’m part of the Northfield Data Cooperative, a group that is encouraging the City to examine ways in which planned development might eliminate some of those barriers. I believe the Cyber-Village that Griff has outlined in post:40 could create attractive forms of growth for Northfield if these technological and efficiency barriers were removed.

I see growth as organic, and do not believe we can effectively predetermine a community with a certain kind of job or business or home. But I do believe that with careful planning we can have in place incentives and structures and people that will support the quality of life we want to enjoy.

I’d like to hear from others (including you lurkers- you know who you are!): What barriers do you see that are preventing the kind of growth you believe would be appropriate in growing a healthy economy in a livably community?

Government.47.45: Keith Lauver (klauver) Fri, 20 Feb

P.S. Griff- are you going to kick me out for posting more than a screen-full? Sorry for the length. I promise to be brief as we continue this discussion. (-:

Government.47.46: George Kinney (georgek) Fri, 20 Feb

Griff tends to talk tough, but if you keep up the ideas, he’s a softy!!

I’m way back at the start — and my apologies for missing the ‘post’ number, but I think it was Mitch who said something to the effect that ‘if you’re not growing, you’re dying’. I’ve heard this a lot in these discussions, and see it as somewhat of a cliche. Does that imply continued expansion? Must growth always occur?

I’m not implying that Northfield shouldn’t grow, as I think it should. I’ve seen the wide-open come-one-come-all growth occur in some of the suburbs to the north, and the ‘continued growth’ phrasing is exactly the same.

I’m in the camp that says we’d like to have a say in how the growth occurs (and occasional stasis is OK too).

Government.47.47: Amy Gage (agage) Fri, 20 Feb

Like Evelyn, I’m a journalist, so I have more questions than answers.

George, maybe a better way to say it is: If you’re not diversifying, you’re dying. We’re encouraged to shop locally, and we should. That ethic was drummed into me as a kid in Mankato, where my attorney dad made sure to patronize his clients’ businesses.

I don’t see the question for retailers as “grow or die,” so much as the seemingly contradictory need both to focus and diversify. Is our main street going to service residents or attract tourists? If the latter, how do we better promote tourism? And why do we always harp on crowded, suburban Stillwater when the dreaded “T” word is mentioned? Why not Lanesboro or Red Wing?

Is it OK to lose a bookstore and a men’s clothing store (essential services) so long as they’re replaced by other businesses, any businesses? As a commuter, I know it’s mighty tempting to shop the Twin Cities during lunch hours or after work, especially if your own main street can’t supply you with business clothes, literature, shoes, makeup.

Livable wages are a particular, personal concern for me. When we look at business growth, we have to look at family wages. I came to Northfield from the Twin Cities in 1993. I took a 35 percent pay cut and had to put my son in full-time day care because my husband no longer could afford to stay home. Back in St. Paul now, I earn more than twice what I did here, with three times the benefits, and my husband is back home with the kids three days per week. Yes, I’m commuting, but our children’s lives have improved.

How “livable” is a community if its households’ adults all have to be employed, earning substandard wages, and its children daily face 10 hours of outside-the-home care? Griff, maybe high-tech jobs are the answer.

Government.47.48: Keith Lauver (klauver) Fri, 20 Feb

Excellent points, Amy and George!

Does anyone know what the average wage is in Northfield? Is a 35% pay cut typical? Has a thorough salary survey been done? Would the Chamber be willing to do one? Of the 6 people I most recently hired, (three from the cities, two from Northfield, and 1 from Owatonna) I was able to give every one of them an increase in salary and offer, I think, good benefits. Must be those high margins in high tech, eh? (-:

Also, does anyone know what the cost of living is in Northfield? Bob Ciernia’s calculation in post:somethingorotherimtoolazytolook seemed like a good guestimate.

It seems to me we need to start with some good empirical data to support the anecdotal evidence.

Government.47.49: Curt Benson (cbenson) Fri, 20 Feb

My business is too modest to inspire much glee in the Growth and Developement Crowd, but I’ll share the story of moving my business to Northfield anyway.

I’m Curt Benson. I own Fab Lab, a plastic fab and machine shop with CAD/CAM CNC capabilities. We also build speciality displays for museums, zoos etc. Right now, I’m working on the “Oddities of the Deep” display for Underwater World at the Mall of America. (Don’t worry, they paid in advance.)

We moved to rural Rice County from Minneapolis about four years ago. We were attracted to the area for family reasons, not business reasons. We wanted the children to go to better schools. We found a great place to build a home by Circle Lake. I naively assumed that I could find shop space in Northfield that fit my needs. I needed 2000 square feet, 3 phase power and a loading dock.

While I commuted to my shop in NE Minneapolis, I looked for space in Northfield. The Chamber was helpful, but nothing was available. I tired of the commute and moved the shop to the old general store building in Dennison. (If you wonder what Dennison is like, recall the movie “It’s A Wonderful Life”. Dennison is analagous to Pottersville, the way the town would have been if the Jimmy Stewart character had never lived.) I endured this for two years, always watching for opportunities in Northfield. Finally, I read that Northfield Equipment was moving. I called Dave Machacek and he put me in touch with Steve Schmidt and Bret Reese who were redeveloping Northfield Equipment’s od Armstrong Facility. I was one of the first tennents there. It’s been perfect for me.

Other thoughts:

Where are the workers? It’s hard for a small business to compete with the Malt-O-Meals for the few decent workers available here.

Jim Ashman, re: post:28. It would have been great for me to find space in a business incubator instead of the circuitous route I took. One caution, other government incubators I’ve heard about try to do too much. e.g. offering fax, copier secretarial services etc. Avoid this approach. Keep costs down. Any serious contender for business success can do these things on their own.

Also, Jim… What kind of homegrown businesses do you anticipate? In my limited experience, small businesses succeed when they find specialized niches to fill. This was easy in Minneapolis. Is it do-able here? Do we have to rely on retail and tourism? The physical distances to larger opportunity pools, not to mention the damned 507 area code, represent real challenges.

Government.47.50: Griff Wigley (griff) Fri, 20 Feb

Welcome, Bob C, Keith, Amy and Curt. Good to have more voices here.

I won’t have more time to comment/moderate till later tonight… but, hey, things are rolling now on their own so carry on.

Government.47.51: Norman Butler (dux) Fri, 20 Feb

SWOT – Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats – to the inevitable development/exapnsion of Northfield (development is planned and therefore sustainable by the community. Expansion is not.. Consider all the small towns and cities throughout the Mid-West and elsewhere who would welcome the chance to debate and decide….not if….but how to plan the future. I think it vital that we all encourage the Council, its councillors and professionals in formulating its Vision Of The Future which addresses all the issues – economic, housing, environment & leisure, etc. But most of all Economic.

The pressure for more housing will build anyway and unless the economic infrastructure is in place, then Northfield will without a doubt become a bedroom community, shopping will occur elsewhere and the downtown will atrophy. There goes the Community so to speak. The only way to hold back and control the housing developers is to require that they wait until the local econmoy can sustain them. In which case more housing will not only be needed to ensure continued growth but will also be most welcome in a planned/phased fashion. The key to a sound local economy is inward investment and a crucial role of the Council, especially the EDA, is to go find it.

This should achievable considering the many Strengths of Northfield: An historic River Town with a relatively well equipped downtown, good schools, two excellent colleges, an educated, multi-talented, multi-cultured population, 40 minutes from a metropolis and its international airport, plenty of walks, parks, bicycle tracks (almost there, I understand?)…the list goes on…Luxury! And surely the envy of many Councils, EDA’s and business people (all this ought to be on the www of course asap…Bring Your Businesses and Families to Northfield!).

Weaknesses – mm, can’t think of any. Opportunities – a booming national economy, especially for small and medium high-tech industries and services, growth in general, planned growth in particular as desirable ends, a new Council who all avow a desire for economic development and sustainable growth — is someone synchronising all these factors, do you think..? Threats – no clear Vision from anyone, especially insofar as it endorses growth, change and development and seeks to answer what, when, how – not if. Remoteness of decision makers and their processes. Oh, and that damping mechanism, call it a virus, in local government in the form of cumbersome and convoluted rules and regulations applicable fifty years ago but hardly relevant now.

Another Council where I once lived answered the same challenges by building a 100 acre Technology Park (local council liaised with higher levels of government) to attract large high tech/research organisations and hooked Nissan. This was followed by a two acre Innovation Centre for small high tech businesses (incubator units), with one centrally located reception area. These were complemented by a number of Acorn Units to attract and grow medium tech companies – low rent, 6 month leases, advice from EDA, Chamber and retired business people (see

The Council could develop a Tourism Strategy as another branch of its economic development programme (it is not a question of local v visitor – attract both!). Northfield welcomes visitors! Stop and look around and be glad that you did! This will encourage retailers, and they need to be encouraged, believe me. To attract inward investment and develop a toursim strategy requires a resolute council and a bigger (?) EDA budget. The people I’m sure are 100% behind you…. Northfield IS a livable community and the debate should not be how to make it so but how to keep it so – and make it better.

By the way, why was that lovely footbridge over the Cannon built – connecting a small carpark and derelict ground on the west bank to the dull backs of buildings on Division? Anybody know?

Government.47.52: Dave Machacek (davem) Fri, 20 Feb

Griff asked me to get parochial in post:35 with respect to what ViA would need from the City. Also there were considerable postings with regard to the software company which located in Duluth (post:36), and how to create a “cyber-village” here in Northfield.

First of all, I’d like to answer these questions directly, but I know that may sound a little like a solicitation on ViA’s behalf. I will try my best to be differentiated, and I still think that my response here will be well founded in fact.

ViA could well become that company in Duluth within a year or two. We have grown in terms of sales (most likely a four-fold increase over last year’s sales), and employees (we are up to about 40 employees now).

The fact is though, ViA has had discussions with the City regarding office space, and was forced to take other actions. The City did not have a development plan in place, and no ability to control and help the construction of a new facility for ViA.

ViA is now housed in three facilities at 320 Division Street, 11 Bridge Square, and, perhaps more importantly, 743 Horizon Court.

Grand Junction, Colorado.

Had a development plan been in place, had space been available, or had the environment been positive for development—10 software jobs of great value would probably be here instead of Grand Junction.

So, to answer Griff, and also to turn around his question a little, the City of Northfield needs a favorable and real development policy in order to keep ViA.

Government.47.53: Jim Ashman (ashmanj) Fri, 20 Feb

I am pleased to read different opinions and perceptions regarding economic development in the City of Northfield. The role and responsibility of the EDA at this time is to establish “definitions”, educate, separate “fact from fiction” voiced in perceptions, and continue to move ahead with our Goals:

* Improve the economic condition of Northfield through appropriate commercial and industrial development, thus creating a higher tax base and further job opportunities, in ways that meet the guidelines of the City’s Comprehensive Plan.

* Undertake the role in planning for appropriate development and preparing sites for private development.

Continually focus on, and achieve success, within the 4 functions that correlate with commercial/industrial development:

o Planner (EDA believes that there is a space shortage for commercial/industrial business, which may affect Northfield’s ability to work with business expansion and overall community growth)

o Developer (EDA believes that obsticles exist for commercial/ industrial development related to soil corrections, clearance, utilities and annexation that require the city to act as a developer)

o Banker (EDA believes that the city must continue to take an active role in financing commercial/industrial projects based on need, but that being a banker must be balanced with other functions)

o Promoter (EDA believes that Northfield provides untapped opportunities for commercial/industrial growth, and that it should take an active role in promotional activities.

Some of the above points have been touched upon in the previous “cafe notes”. All of the above points will be brought to the public in the coming weeks and months. Following the meeting on Saturday, I wish to respond to specific postings on the Cafe.

I want to thank all who are entering the Cafe and I look forward to connecting with each of you to discuss your responses.

Government.47.54: Joel West (joel) Fri, 20 Feb

It seems that the discussion is coming along very well and I have read all the postins with great interest. Tracy’s made some some very good points in her Post:37. I know that it may appear that the City and the EDA are trying to land the “big one” with the Industrial Land Site Analysis and trying see that more industrial land is developed. While having such land would help in case the City chould land a larger business, it will also provided needed space for many small to medium sized business to grow or locate in Northfield.

In my position I am contacted by a varienty of business, both local business looking to expand and other businesses wishing to locate here. During my discussion with these businesses, one recurring item is the lack of commercial/industrial land. This is not to say that there is no such land in Northfield, however, there does not appear to bethe varienty of choices that growing businesses need. In looking to fill the need for industrial land the City is trying to project ahead and fill the need that not only exists now, but also the anticipated needs for the future. The development of industrial land takes time and we must act now in order to assure that the needed land will exist in the future.

The City and the EDA are looking to assist businesses with a multi-pronged approached. Providng land is just one approach. Financing is a second. The City and the EDA do have loan funds that can be utililized and there are other state and federal programs that can also be utilized. With ther 1998 budget the EDA has funding approved to develop what has been called a Sudden Opportunity Grant Program. This program would be designed to provide grants to small growing businesses that need that small $1,000 to $5,000 cash infusion. Also, in the 1998 budget the EDA has set aside funds for the development of a business incubator, which again would help small growing businesses. Obviously, such programs cannot be devlopment overnight, but with the commitment of the City Council, the EDA and many others in this City I know the these programs will be developed and will work effectively for Northfield.

I know that many business decision can and are made without regard to government. However, I do believe that decisions made by businessmen will be easier for the businessmen to make and to the benefit of Northfield if we pursue the programs that I have outlined above. This may also serve to assist companies like Via as described by Dave in his Post:52.

Government.47.55: Carla Johnson (cjohnson) Fri, 20 Feb

Hi. This is Carla Johnson, Director of the Northfield Community Action Center. Griff asked me this morning to join in the dialogue, and most particularly to comment on the HRA purchase of the house on Washington street that will be used for a transitional housing program.

I am also very interested in the issues of affordable housing — that is, housing that addresses the needs of people with varying income levels — and issues of livable wage. The CAC “clientele” are primarily those folks in the community who would be considered “working poor” because the wages they earn from their employment is not adequate to support their individual or family life in Northfield.

Minimum wage jobs, $5.15/hour currently, keep a full time worker with two children (that’s a family of three) BELOW the poverty level set by the federal government, $13,300, because they gross $10,712. I think it was Bob Ciernia who calculated a household budget that required close to $20,000 to sustain it. That’s a net wage of $10/hour…obviously gross is more than that and I don’t have my calculator handy.

What we see at the CAC is many households of folks who live in Northfield, earn $7-8/hour and can’t make it. Something falls through the cracks. Housing is one of the culprits, since you can almost not rent a 2 bedroom apartment in Northfield for less than $600, just about as much as Bob says a mortgage would cost — if there were houses here for that price and if someone could save up downpayment money. Enough on that.

Government.47.56: Carla Johnson (cjohnson) Fri, 20 Feb

I hope folks had a chance to read the Northfield News today to see that the City decided to loan Master Development Funds to the HRA for purchase and rehab of the house on Washington Street that the CAC will lease for transitional housing.

We were pleased for the support of the program, sorry that the HRA didn’t get a grant from the City, but know that there is support for moving forward with this important program that the City needs.

As Griff indicated, the CAC and Three Rivers Community Action out of Zumbrota collaborated on (and have been awarded) a grant through HUD to provide this program in four communities — Northfield (3 units), Faribault (4 units), Montgomery and LeCenter (1 unit each). Over three years, this funding will bring about $470,000 into the area to lease housing units ( probably apartments), provide case management staffing and continue the volunteer housing & hospitatlity congregation component that we’ve been working on with the emergency shelter program.

Folks in the program have to have been homeless to participate. They must intend to settle in Northfield. The program supports their need for transitional housing for up to six months while they become stable and find another place to live. Folks will pay up to 30% of their income into the program, some of which will be held in escrow to help them with damage deposits and first months’ rent. That’s the program in a nutshell.

The house on Washington street will provide two of the three units that we intend to operate. The City and HRA participation demonstrates a strong commitment to the project and will help leverage other funds to keep the program operational. There are no other transitional housing programs in the 20-county SE MN area, so this is a big deal. Once again, Northfield is participating in a cutting edge development, that is about economic development…the development of our human capital, which I think we sometimes overlook.

I want to thank Jim Ashman for the EDA and the HRA for supporting these effort.

Government.47.57: Bruce Wiese (bruce) Fri, 20 Feb

Please no more twenty year plans!!! I can see it now, we are headed towards another committee, commission, team, study group or what ever the lastest word is for inaction in the political arena. This endeavor will be in charge of making sure Northfield is a “Liveable Community” twenty years from now. How many twenty year plans actually come to be? I suspect none!!

In reality I believe no one really has a commitment to a twenty year plan because no one really expects it to happen. I believe a five year plan is acheivable and that is what makes it scarry. The people who make it may actually have to take responsibility for seeing that it happens. Along with this comes the credit for its success and the blame for its failure. True community leaders are willing to take this risk. Leaders, it’s time to stand up and be counted!!

Government.47.58: George Kinney (georgek) Fri, 20 Feb

So — returning to Amy’s question – what DOES happen to the downtown? Having four or five places to get a good cup of coffee in about 2 blocks is pretty nice, but I’d like to get the essentials there as well, and I really don’t consider K Mart as part of Northfield. Will additional small businesses help return the retail to downtown, or do folks give up and drive to Target Greatland? (and stop at the big Cub next door, depriving Petricka’s and More4 of a week’s worth of groceries while saving a few cents per item)

A second, and possibly related question — if the new businesses are to locate in Northfield, will a need develop for improved transportation systems — improvements to 19, 3, and Cedar, possibly improved train connections — and if so, is that somewhat counterproductive to the local retailers? (although the improved roads would also bring the necessary workers to town every day). The improvements to the highways would also bring on a lot of additional population growth — Real Fast.

Government.47.59: Norman Butler (dux) Fri, 20 Feb

As we speak, at State level thay are talking about reintroducing commuter rail services – using the existing rail network – to Rochester, St Cloud, Stillwater…etc. What about the St Paul, Rosemount, Northfield, Faribault line (what chance of a branchline to the airport – feasible or not?) Shouldn’t our Mayor plus Scot Neal and Joel West be despatched forthwith to find out what’s going on in this regard and report back to the full Council and people?

Better by far that future commuters from (and to!) Northfield let the train take the strain instead of battling traffic on H3 and I35. Should such a commuter link be established, then this would be yet another good reason for inward investment to consider Northfield. As for housing and wages, though important and interesting, they are not moot to this debate.

The former is barely within our control and requires good defences (and perhaps an ordinance requiring all new large scale housing developments to include 15% or so percent low-income units – plus sidewalks everywhere!). The housing will come irrespective of what this forum debates and what the council decides.

The latter is totally beyond the control of local government and other concerned groups and individuals. Anyway, an optimistic, well-planned forward looking and therefore healthy local economy will provide the necessary ‘tone’ to encourage local businesses large and small to remunerate generously (act of faith here folks).

al important needs for Northfield business expansion. I’ll just list ’em and take my lumps. 1. Livable wages. For a family, which usually includes one or two children, I use the numbers of $24,000.00 in gross income (this gives Suzannah’s “no frills” existence in Post 42) and 2000 hours per year. That works out to twelve bucks an hour. If both parents work and we assume day care can be had for $6000.00, the amount needed rises to $30,000 or $15,000 each. That amounts to $7.50 per hour.

2. Housing that can be rented or purchased with the gross incomes noted above.

3. A variety of jobs, some requiring the proverbial “Rocket Scientist” and others requiring non-intellectual skills. This need is the reason behind my complaints about the “sign” issue at Dokmo’s. The auto body business would have provided 20 or 25 jobs for the uneducated – the real “legacy” of the school system to our community.

4. Competition for the available workforce!!! I suggest people learn the Northfield history on this issue. It is not awe-inspiring. It is, however, understandable, when you consider the philosophy dominating at the time the history occurred.

If Northfield attends to these four growth will be an enjoyable experience. If Northfield does not attend to these four, growth will, simply not occur.

Government.47.61: Nancy Gruchow (ngruchow) Sun, 22 Feb

The city did a survey a few years ago and discovered that 50% of the employees in Northfield lived in the city. Of the 50% who did not live in the city, about half of them would like to move here. Of course, there are many reasons not to move–kids rooted in the school, relatives nearby, long commutes for spouses, church involvement–but some of the reasons are economic, too.

I received information this week from a local realtor (Jan Stevens) about current housing prices: there are 92 single family homes in the school district (Not just the city) for sale this week, of which the average list price is $179,898. It takes 136 days for them to sell, on an average. there are 9 new family listings–houses built on spec–for sale right now, with an average price of $193,900. It takes 274 days for them to sell, on an average.

My local banking source (Becky Bennet) reveals that a family buying an average price house ($179,898) should probably have an income of $60,000. A person buying the new spec house should have an income of $70,000.

The median (not the average–which is brought down in Northfield by all the college students who earn $5,000 a year or less) income in Rice County is $50,000. Families with the median income can buy a house that costs $142,187 (5% down, 7% interest) or $150,718 (10% down, 7% interest). There are 47 to choose from on the market now, in the school district.

Government.47.62: George Kinney (georgek) Sun, 22 Feb

I’d like to thank the LWV and the panelists for the workshop we were able to attend on Saturday. I think this process is very worthwhile and was ‘enjoyable work’ concerning a topic we are all interested in.

I’d also like to thank Dave Machacek for the ‘history lesson’ concerning the Foundry and the subsequent companies formed due to its existence in town. That lesson is one we can all spend some time pondering when talking of encouraging certain businesses. I think Griff’s example of the synergy that occurs in Lowertown with the workers of the high-tech firms getting together on Friday afternoon to talk is a first cousin to the Foundry/Sheldahl/Ryt Way, etc. example.

Please, Dave — repeat the story here for those who weren’t in attendance. Thanks.

Government.47.63: Griff Wigley (griff) Sun, 22 Feb

More folks chiming in: Glad to have your input – Norman, Carla, and Bill K. Total number of folks attending here has now passed 40. I sent out an announcement to all those with Web Cafe accounts today, inviting them to the discussion… so we should have a few more checking in over the next week.

I’ll echo George’s comments… it was good forum yesterday over at MOM. Seemed like there was about 50-60 people there. The first 1.5 hours were individual panelist presentations; the last half hour was small group discussions (4 groups.)

Anyone have feedback for the forum organizers about the format? They plan to have three more forums on this same topic in the next couple of months. Personally, at the next forums, I’d like to see more interaction among A) the panelists; and B) the audience and the panelists. The audience was invited to submit questions on cards but there wasn’t time to answer these questions.

Anyway, things are more unstructured and freewheeling here so maybe it’s a good complementary arrangement.

Government.47.64: Bruce Morlan (morlan) Mon, 23 Feb

Post:47.61 (current housing situation in Nfld market) and Post:47.55 provide an interesting contrast – annual income of at least $50K needed vs “living wage” at $20-24K.

After I moved here I found out that Nfld was considered the highest cost area outside the Twin Cities (oops). The question I would ask is basically “is it fair to people who work in Nfld (e.g., clerks, restaurants, etc) to have to commute from bedroom communities for the privilege? Is it “fair” for Nfld to use the low-price labor that students represent (I’m guilty on that one)?

There are some advantages to living in a town where the “expected” living wage of the residents is very high. For one, it means that the tax base is high – more money for schools and arts.

Along the same vein, I would rather not see a “heavy industry” (e.g., a large manufacturing facility) come into town. I would much prefer to see a Duluth-like software company. At the same time, I know that we are having a hard time finding programmers, and that apparently other companies in the area are encountering the same difficulties. It boils down to “infrastructure” and collateral opportunities.

Government.47.65: Griff Wigley (griff) Mon, 23 Feb

Ok, time to put my moderator hat back on. I’ve combed thru the posts to date and have selected some comments and questions that I think need still need to be addressed. * The new city staffer due to be hired by mid-year: will that person be dedicated to the EDA or will they relieve Joel of some of his duties so that HE can devote himself to EDA issues? Will the position attempt to solve the problem with speed and assistance highlighted by Nancy in her post:41 where she talked about Dave Hvistendahl’s experience in Faribault? And Norman Butler’s comment in post:51 “Oh, and that damping mechanism, call it a virus, in local government in the form of cumbersome and convoluted rules and regulations applicable fifty years ago but hardly relevant now.” Joel? Jim?

* I’d like some more details on the business incubator. I heard a little more from the panelists on Saturday, for example, that it will open some time in the 3rd Quarter, that there was going to be an educational component to it, ie, management and marketing assistance. Where will the incubator be? Who will run it? Staffed by? Facilities and other components provided? How will decisions be made on who gets assistance/incubated? If there’s a document that someone has in electronic form, I’d be happy to post it. Jim or Joel, can you take this one?

* Is the Cyber-Village idea appropriate for Northfield? If so, who should take the lead on getting a Cyber-Village Association of some kind formed? The Chamber of Commerce? The EDA? Bruce W. and Jim, can you comment on this?

* Evelyn asked in post:38, “What do other cities do to foster economic development, especially cities our size? Do they do anything different from the way the city of Northfield does it? What kinds of success have they enjoyed?” I’d add, which cities are our models? Or which things about which cities do we emulate?

* Peter asked in post:39, “I would be interested to hear from the panel about ways that Northfield’s strong favorable character as a place to live can be maintained, even enhanced, by the right kind of business development. What kinds of choices can we make that can strengthen what we residents like so much about this town? ”

* Mitch said in post:8 re: development, “if we’re not growing, we’re dying.” George wondered about this in post:46; Amy wondered if it shouldn’t be “if we’re not diversifying, we’re dying.” I was at a dinner party over the weekend and several people also wondered about this philosophy and what it exactly means. Anyone? Anyone?

* Do we have a downtown commercial goal? Amy asked in post:47, “Is our main street going to service residents or attract tourists? If the latter, how do we better promote tourism? And why do we always harp on crowded, suburban Stillwater when the dreaded “T” word is mentioned? Why not Lanesboro or Red Wing? Is it OK to lose a bookstore and a men’s clothing store (essential services) so long as they’re replaced by other businesses, any businesses?” Bruce? Jim?

* Keith asked for some empirical data in post:48 “Does anyone know what the average wage is in Northfield? Is a 35% pay cut typical? Has a thorough salary survey been done? Would the Chamber be willing to do one? Also, does anyone know what the cost of living is in Northfield?” Bruce? Mitch?

* Curt asked Jim in post:49 re: the mini-grants of $1,000 and $5,000: “What kind of homegrown businesses do you anticipate??

* Norman stressed the importance of creating a Vision of the Future in post:51. The city did produce a strategic plan called “Shaping the Future” back in 1993 after a year-long community process. Is this document still our guide? Is it a 5 or 20 plan, as Bruce worries about in post:57. Can we get the document posted in convenient format on the city’s web site ASAP? And for that matter, what about the Comprehensive Plan? It would be great if we could have access to both of those. Joel? Jim?

* Norman also said in post:51, “The pressure for more housing will build anyway and unless the economic infrastructure is in place, then Northfield will without a doubt become a bedroom community, shopping will occur elsewhere and the downtown will atrophy. There goes the Community so to speak. The only way to hold back and control the housing developers is to require that they wait until the local economy can sustain them.” He raised the question of an ordinance re: low-income unit requirements in post:59. My question: To what extent has the Council’s adoption of the LWV’s Livable Cities Initiative (policy report) last fall addressed this problem?

* Dave Machacek said in post:52 re: the creation of 10 software jobs in Colorado that could have been created here in Nfld: “The fact is though, ViA has had discussions with the City regarding office space, and was forced to take other actions. The City did not have a development plan in place, and no ability to control and help the construction of a new facility for ViA. Had a development plan been in place, had space been available, or had the environment been positive for development—10 software jobs of great value would probably be here instead of Grand Junction.” I’d like more details about this, Dave. Was this the plan to build an R&D facility on the other side of the footbridge over the Cannon? Joel and Jim: Are Dave’s comments valid criticism from the City’s and EDA’s point of view? If so, what’s been learned? If not, how do you see it instead?

* Transportation! George raised the issue in post:58 “if the new businesses are to locate in Northfield, will a need develop for improved transportation systems — improvements to 19, 3, and Cedar, possibly improved train connections — and if so, is that somewhat counterproductive to the local retailers?” Norman wondered about the commuter rail discussions going on at the state level. “Shouldn’t our Mayor plus Scot Neal and Joel West be dispatched forthwith to find out what’s going on in this regard and report back to the full Council and people?”

* Housing and livable wages. Several people (Nancy, Bruce M, Bill K, Suzannah & Bob, others) addressed these. What more could the Council and HRA and EDA be doing in this area? Was the City’s loaning the money to the HRA for the purchase of the Washington St. house a huge step to address these problems… or just one of many that need to be taken?

I guess that’s enough for now.

Everyone and anyone should feel free to comment on these, as well as any that I may have missed… or raise any other issues.

Government.47.66: Norman Butler (dux) Tue, 24 Feb

Brilliant summary of the discussion thus far, Greg. I’m bouncing up and down on my chair in expectation of the responses! Look around you and in into your and others’ past. Either growth or decay of the city are the only options, and depending on planning and development – especially economic – only strengthening or weakening of Community can result. And who wants Northfield to become a bedroom community (oxymoron there folks)? For good development to occur, I believe it must be Council-led in the form of resolutions from the Council chamber where there is a shared and explicit Vision of the Future.

Government.47.67: Bill Rossman (war) Tue, 24 Feb

Hi-Bill Rossman, local govt official. I hope I have time to make a few comments over the next few days-I’ll at least try. A few of the things I’m trying to encourage council members and staff to do for the next several years is to envision what they believe citizens want Nfld to look like in the next 5, 10, 20 years.

One of the principles of good leadership is that leaders envision the future, then implement procedures in the present that will encourage that future outcome. Economic development in a livable community is one of the challenges we face–in other words, not willy-nilly development, but controlled development that will have a positive (livable) outcome. Many of the ideas advanced so far in this forum seem to be sensitive to the kind of development that will allow us to maintain our city’s character.

I sometimes suggest that its not so important how big you grow, but how you grow big. Not meaning to suggest that Nfld will ever be a “big” city, but that we choose carefully what development takes place to assure that we maintain a “small-town” flavor. It is at least my current belief that people in Nfld and people that consider living in Nfld consider our “character” to be our singlemost important asset. So we should be encouraging industries, retail developments, etc. that fit a model consistent with preserving the character we currently have.

This is just an overall view which I hope our elected officials will embrace. Then what is proposed (whether by private concerns or even the government) can be measured against this standard. It sounds really simple, almost too simple–but our most important contribution to development in Nfld is to develop this “vision”–the details: like Kump, the industrial site on Hwy 3, the systems that will simplify applications for loans, etc. (the bureaucratic stuff), will then fall into place. So far, I believe the EDA, HRA have ascribed to this sort of visioning posture, and that things are going along pretty well. I’d love to comment further on some of the specific issues brought up in this discussion, and will try later.

Government.47.68: Griff Wigley (griff) Tue, 24 Feb

Hizzoner! Good to have you here, Bill… and I’m glad you’ve raised this issue of vision. Can anyone quote the vision statement from the “Shaping Our Future” strategic planning document?

Government.47.69: Carla Johnson (cjohnson) Tue, 24 Feb

What a great discussion so far! A couple comments on the housing/livable wage part of the conversation. The City loan of Master Development Funds to the HRA for purchase and rehab of the Washington street house will help address the gap we currently see between homeless people — often using the programs provided for emergency shelter by the CAC — and stable housing, whether that’s rental or owned.

The house itself will provide two apartment units that the CAC will rent from the HRA — funds coming from the collaborative grant with Three Rivers from HUD. The units will assist people who come into it from a homeless/shelter situation and gives them from 2 – 6 months of focused case management and access to a place to live while they work on stabilizing their lives. Folks will not live in this house permanently. We intend to have three units in town as our part of the program for the next three years. There will be turn-over with some regularity, depending on how much success people have finding other housing.

The regional “Continuum of Care” planning group hopes to prioritize the housing needs from emergency/crisis shelter through to stable home ownership and work to fill gaps. The Transitional Housing Program is one of the first in SE Minnesota.

Government.47.70: Carla Johnson (cjohnson) Tue, 24 Feb

The issue was raised about what could the City/HRA/EDA do about livable wages?

Probably some kind of study would be a good start. Connection with the statewide report from the JobsNOW Coalition about wages and jobs would be informative.

What about looking into a “Livable Wage Ordinance” similar to the one passed in Duluth? My understanding is that any business or organization that receives $25,000 or more from City funding must demonstrate that they pay at least 80% of their workers at least $8.50 an hour.

Maybe this wouldn’t be a problem, because every business or entity receiving City subsidies or support already does this. In that case, it would be a development tool helping new businesses coming to town know what the economic standard for employee wages needs to be.

If this does sound like a problem, then maybe part of a forum could be a discussion of this issue. I guess it’s kind of a no-brainer to me…if people cannot work for wages that support themselves and their families, then someone will have to fill in gaps or provide some kind of safety net. If employers pay livable wages, then folks won’t need as much, if any additional support from social service-type agencies.

I’d be glad to hear what other people think.

I’ve mentioned the “Livable Wage Ordinance” idea to Scott Neal and he believes it’s quite possible for our City to do something like this. How about it Bill. Is that a mayoral stand you’d like to take or work for?

Government.47.71: Jim Ashman (ashmanj) Tue, 24 Feb

First, I want to commend Griff for his continuing effort and encouragement to keep the Cafe “on-line”. Good job, Griff. The meeting on Saturday has fostered many questions, both on the Cafe and from those who attended the meeting. I will be responding this week to all the questions that I can answer, as well as, floating my questions on the web.

The meeting on Saturday was the first of 4 to be held this year. This first session was designed to establish a base of understanding about certain elements of economic growth. The next meetings will include more discussion time about specific topics. Let me respond to Griff’s most recent questions.

Post:65…the plan is underway to prepare for the hiring of a city staffer to support the EDA. Joel West is maintaining his journal of time allotment for EDA activities so a job description can be developed. There are not only his current activities, but the activities required to address future projects. We are identifying those activities and will assign time requirements in the next month. A job description for the new staff position must be prepared before the person is hired. This job description will enable us to select a person who can provide the City with experience in the areas required. Additional staff assistance will aid in many policy/procedure requirements.

I will link to post:51, noting that EDA has been focused on developing policy for today. Each of our action functions (Planning, Developing, Banking and Promoting) are constantly under evaluation for efficiency. I will review these over the week. Items to come:..Business Incubator; Cyber-Village; “other cities” fostering EDA; Micro-assist grants; Labor and wages; and more, so stay tuned.

Government.47.72: Bruce Wiese (bruce) Tue, 24 Feb

Just a few comments on the summary that Griff has provided to the panelists.

Northfield is in need of a single “go to” group for prospective new businesses to contact about locating in our community. The existing requirements are not well defined at best and down right non-user friendly at worst. I look forward to working with the Chamber of Commerce, EDA, NIC, City of Northfield and Northfield citizens in the near future to form such a group.

We must not focus all of our time and energies on recruiting new business. We need to maintain a business climatic that is conducive to the growth and development of existing businesses. Do not misunderstand me, I am not a advocate of trying to “protect” business from competition. Competition is good for business and business is good for the community. Business provides jobs for its citizens and a tax base to maintain its infrastructure.

If we are to have continued economic growth we must identify what today’s business needs to succeed and plan to meet these needs. Viable location alternatives, utilities and a skilled labor force come to mind. But most of all, a community must project its belief that “Business is Good”. The formation of a group to promote existing and new business in Northfield is a step in the direction of a continued strong Northfield community.

Government.47.73: Kathy C (finehoney) Tue, 24 Feb

This forum is incredible! I should have been taking notes from day one! My comments are going to be a representation of my experience of Northfield as a “Livable Community”. I know I represent many other families in similar circumstances. My husband and I moved to town at 22 with 2 children under 3 years, into a two bedroom apartment. Two years later we had three children. We lived in rental apartments with two bedrooms until 3 years ago when my children were, 11, 9, and 7. My husband and I had no bedroom for over 8 years. We were lucky enough to fall into the house we rent now, after 8 years of searching. There is not enough 3 bedroom rentals in Northfield! We made too much money to qualify for Jefferson square, but not enough to get ahead to buy a home in Northfield, and we still don’t. I’m know many other families who have searched unsuccessfully for 3 bedroom rentals or “affordable housing”. Anyone selling a 3+ bedroom house for say around 85,000 in Northfield? I’ll respond later to livable wages. 🙂

Government.47.74: Scott Neal (scott) Wed, 25 Feb

Hello. I’m Scott Neal, City Administrator, subbing for Joel West who is out-of-town at a seminar in The Cities learning the ins and out’s of property aggregation and acquisition for redevelopment. How’s that for timely professional development!

I just went through 75 posts, so I’ve got some thought to share. One is one the new City staff member. The new employee will be a City Planner – Housing Coordinator position. There is an impression that this position is a staff person for the EDA. Wrong impression. One of the benefits of this new position is that Joel West will now be able to cast off his HRA and other housing-related duties to work more closely with the EDA. We will be looking at an Economic Development position for staffing in 1999.

Government.47.75: Griff Wigley (griff) Wed, 25 Feb

Thanks Carla for the background on the City loan of Master Development Funds to the HRA for purchase and rehab of the Washington street house. I’m impressed with this whole project and thrilled that Northfield is part of it. It’s a great example of gov’t and non-governmental agencies (CAC, HRA, the City, Three Rivers Community Action, and HUD) working together to make a difference for the public good.

I’m wondering about other kinds of efforts re: affordable housing.

It’s no secret that Rice County Habitat for Humanity (which built its very first house in Northfield about 5 years ago or so) vowed that they’d never build another house in Northfield again because of how difficult it was to work with the city and the HRA at that time.

What’s changed since then? Who’s working on mending that relationship with Habitat? Carla and/or Nancy, can you comment on this?

I read an article about Burlington, VT where they’re struggling with this same issue. Instead of building publicly owned units or giving landlords/developers big incentives to provide housing for lower-income people, they’re putting money into nonprofits that build and rehabilitate affordable housing.

The houses and condos are OCCUPANT-OWNED BUT PRICE RESTRICTED, ie, when people move out they don’t get to take all the equity with them.

The public subsidies that went into making that house affordable in the first place stay locked into the house. Could we be doing some of that here in Northfield?

Government.47.76: Griff Wigley (griff) Wed, 25 Feb

Welcome Scott… thanks for pinch hitting for Joel. So the new city staff position to be filled yet this year is NOT a new position to support the EDA, but a position to relieve Joel of his housing duties so HE can focus on the EDA. The city will consider an additional staff position for EDA responsibilities for the 1999 budget year.

Jim, is this your understanding? Everything I’ve read from your posts has led me to believe otherwise.

Government.47.77: Griff Wigley (griff) Wed, 25 Feb

Kathy, good to have you chime in here with your story (saga?) in post:73 of trying to find affordable housing for a middle income family. Can you add a little bit about your job situation, ie, do you and/or your husband work in town?

Bruce about your comment in post:72 that Northfield is in need of a single “go to” group for new and expanding businesses to work with. Is this really in the works? Who’s leading the charge and what’s the timeline?

Government.47.78: Griff Wigley (griff) Wed, 25 Feb

I was chatting with Mayor Bill at the Blue Monday this morning and asked him about the Vision Statement that’s part of the “Shaping our Future” strategic planning document. He says he’d like to see it updated and I agree. I have a print copy of the whole document and have contacted the Mpls consultants Hoisington Koegler Group, Inc. to see if they can give us the files so it can be put up on the web.

BTW, in my quick review of this strategic planning document, I think it looks pretty good and could be helpful in this whole discussion, especially since the community-wide forums are going to continue for a few more months.

Government.47.79: Griff Wigley (griff) Wed, 25 Feb

Moderator Notes: * I’ve had a few folks contact me about possibly extending this online forum for a few more days. Since Joel West’s out of town the rest of the week and now Dave Machacek, too, I’ve decided (after lengthy deliberation with my panel of close advisors) to extend this forum until next Monday evening, March 2.

* Participation here continues to increase: we’re up to 49 total people, with 23 different people posting comments.

* Be sure to see today’s Nfld News (Wed, Feb 25) for 1) Rachel Vogt’s article on last Saturday’s F2F forum at MOM; and 2) Evelyn Hoover’s Inside Out commentary titled “Transitional housing is a step toward making city a livable community.” I’ll put up the links to the pieces as soon as they appear on the Nfld News web site.

* Evelyn’s column references and quotes from several of the posts here in this web forum. Nice touch, Evelyn!

[Griff stands on his Soapbox] Collaboration between the Web Cafe and the Nfld News expands the impact of both, IMHO. The conversation here helps to inform the paper’s staff; and the articles and opinion pieces in the paper help to better inform the citizenry.

A forum like this also gives the citizens of this town a greater voice in civic affairs. The city’s leaders can observe the thoughtful participation here as the citizenry tries to better inform itself about complex issues. And the citizens can gain greater respect for the community’s leaders because of their willingness to engage in discussion with them.

Besides, it’s fun, isn’t it?

[Crowd surges forward and knocks Griff off Soapbox so the conversation can continue.]

Government.47.80: Carla Johnson (cjohnson) Wed, 25 Feb

I cannot speak about the Habitat group in other than glowing terms, myself, since they helped the CAC with remodeling of the clothes closet basement last spring in preparation for the food shelf move there.

They are just completing another house in Dundas, so their development efforts are working here.

Allen Cox and Kris Vohs both have affordable housing issues in mind and we chat periodically about projects we might do together.

Government.47.81: Mitch Goldstein (mitch) Thu, 26 Feb

Bill, in Post:67, I couldn’t agree with you more that we need to have vision. But, I encourage you and the council and staff to not just “envision what they believe citizens want Nfld to look like in the next 5, 10, 20 years,” but add to that by asking the community what they want, and by actions instead of only visioning.

A great start would be reviewing current city statutes and regulations to see what might be hindering business development, such as signage ordinances and other ordinances that just might not make sense as we approach the year 2000.

And Bruce, your comments in Post:72 were right on the money. I’ve seen too many business people in the last couple of years (one is too many), consider Northfield for expansion or relocation, only to end up elsewhere because of a lack of space, too high prices, signage ordinances and a feeling of not being wanted.

I think it’s important to figure out how to, not how to not.

Kathy C. Post:73, sorry if you want a house in the $80’s, move somewhere else. Obviously, I don’t want that. We have a great community, but is it an elite community? There was only one house in the $80’s when we moved here two years ago, and it had a dirt-floored cellar!

Finally, a big part of the infrastructure of a growing, livable community is social involvement. I encourage community members to leave their television sets and get involved. There is no end to the number of organizations that can use help. Each time one person gets involved, our web becomes that much stronger and we become much more livable!

Government.47.82: Dan Rogness (rogness) Thu, 26 Feb

Greetings from the past … from Dan Rogness! I thought I posted something a week ago, but it appears that it didn’t get there. Try #2. I’m glad to read about the Strategic Plan being discussed again, especially Jim Ashman’s description of the four functions of the EDA. I and others put alot of time into that Plan, and I’ve always hoped it to be a working document for Northfield. Plans like that one are good because it attempts to address the context of Northfield. Believe me, there are no good “rules” for economic development. North of you in the metro area, nearly 190 cities all have some type of effort to improve their livability. I see a wide range of efforts, some successful and others not so successful. I’ve observed, for example, that many new business locations are based on where the CEO of that company lives … kind of an odd rule don’t you think? Well anyway, before I ramble on further, I’ll make sure this gets posted. P.S. The mayor makes a good neighbor!

Government.47.83: Jane McWilliams (jbm) Thu, 26 Feb

I’ve enjoyed the discussion and think that in a community where so many good heads are at work looking at the issues, we can’t go completely wrong! At a later point, I may get the courage to comment.

However, I thought in the context of the shared concern about housing, I’d mention that the legislature is working on some tangible ways to assist communities with affordable housing. Maybe some of you will want to let Tom Neuville ( or John Tuma ( know how you feel about these:

SF 2265 and HF 2991 provide a one-time $30 million appropriation to the MN Housing Financing Authority. Funds help nonprofit and public agencies to purchase formerly federally assisted housing and ensure long term affordability and the bills provide incentives to owners to keep units affordable.

SF 2327 and HF 2344 provide a one time $40 million allocation for the production of affordable housing. This would create 3,000 new housing units and leverage $200 million in state, local, private sectors funds. As of February 25, all these bills have passed the policy committees.

Looks to me as if the legislature is aware of the problems communities like ours are having. In my opinion, these measures are a good way to put the fruits of the present economic boom to work. What do you think?

Government.47.84: Griff Wigley (griff) Fri, 27 Feb

Thanks for posting those references, Jane. The text of the Senate bill is at:

the text of the House bill is at:

Government.47.85: Griff Wigley (griff) Fri, 27 Feb

Greetings, Dan… good to have your input and perspective here, having left Northfield for Farmington (or was it Rosemount?)… and now in Rochester?

BTW, the Hoisington consultants don’t seem to have the text files for the Shaping Our Future document so I’m hoping Scott Neal can get someone at city hall to type it up so we can post it on the web.

Government.47.86: Griff Wigley (griff) Fri, 27 Feb

Mitch, good to have your comments. I’m curious to know how you and others here feel about the strip mall on Hwy 3, south of the Olympus Athletic Club… stores there include Quality TV and Appliance.

Many people think these kinds of malls are the epitome of poor design. They think these malls rob Northfield of its character, one of its chief assets.

Others think that highways like Hwy 3 are ugly anyway so why not allow for this kind of business expansion since there doesn’t seem to be an easy way to expand downtown.

If we had to do it over again, would we approve it? Would we want to require a different design or just say no? Or would we redouble our efforts to find a way to accommodate these businesses in the downtown area?

Government.47.87: George Kinney (georgek) Fri, 27 Feb

08:00:38 CST (6 lines) How can additional businesses fit into a downtown area that has already reached density?

It seems that these businesses must go elsewhere, but perhaps more care needs to be used in placement and design. I’m sure that with our car culture, businesses put a premium on location along Hwy 3, etc.

Government.47.88: Griff Wigley (griff) Fri, 27 Feb

Good question, George. Here’s another problem: I’ve heard that the city is at capacity for sewage treatment. MOM is reportedly scrambling to reduce their output, not just for cost reasons, but because the city’s system can’t handle more.

If we’re fortunate enough to initially attract one or more significantly-sized industries to the business park, we won’t be prepared to accommodate them until something is done about it, will we?

Government.47.89: Norman Butler (dux) Fri, 27 Feb

Focusing on retail for a second….As a shopkeeper, I find Sunday to be one of my busiest days (together with Saturday), with Monday through Friday being highly variable, though Thursday is reliably dead and does not merit all the effort to stay open until at least 8pm. (I understand that Friday used to be the ‘late night’ some time ago but was changed to Thursday to take into account baseball and the Malls??)

Anyway, Northfield on the weekend, as far as I can see, is abuzz with tourists, visitors, and townspeople (perhaps less of the latter…because the shops are closed?). In Japan, Sunday is the ‘family’ day and the busiest shopping day of the week. Britain in the early nineties saw a transition from most of the shops being closed to all the shops staying open on Sundays (or suffering if they did not). As a consumer, this is great boon for the present-day, hard-pressed individual and family who want to be out and about on Sunday doing things – including shopping for essentials and luxuries. What prospect of Northfield retailers taking on board this consumer trend, with what support from their representatives, and how will the people of Northfield respond?

Government.47.90: Larry DeBoer (dutch2me) Fri, 27 Feb

I don’t know how many of you remember Northfield becoming the butt of jokes for the late night Letterman/Leno Shows in 1993 when the Northfield News headline was picked up….It said, “City plans meeting to plan strategic plan.” We can all laugh that off and ignore it, but we should not ignore the community work, time, involvement plus some $30,000 to pay the consultant group to finalize the “strategic plan”.

Now that we’ve had that plan since 1994, let’s move ahead and develop tactics to get something done before more businesses fail, leave or do not act at all. We must stop poking around looking for problems and petty nuisances in a plan that a good many of our thoughtful citizens have already laid. Any well managed organization knows that action must follow the plan. Or else we fall into the trap that unsuccessful organizations have in common …. Analysis … Analysis…. Analysis ….. Paralysis!

Meanwhile, the Dundas commercial strip keeps getting stronger.

Government.47.91: Griff Wigley (griff) Fri, 27 Feb

Welcome aboard, Larry. I echo your sentiments. I think there’s a lot to like about the strategic plan and I’d really like to see us citizens work with the EDA and Council to update it and promote it to the rest of the town. No word on city hall getting the thing typed up so I can put it on the web, tho.

Government.47.92: Griff Wigley (griff) Fri, 27 Feb

Norman, I think there’s a fair amount of history of trying to organize downtown retailers to stay open Sundays. When Roger Miller and Adam Elg opened the Blue Marble a few years back, I think they contacted all the retailers at that time trying to convince them… but as I recall, with only a moderate amount of success. A common objection was that the owners and managers worked all week including Sat and wanted one weekend day off. Maybe see what the Chamber’s current thinking is on this?

Government.47.93: Amy Gage (agage) Sat, 28 Feb

Oh, the Sunday store thing hits my hot buttons. When I was editor of the News in ’93, I wrote an editorial advocating Sunday shopping (not only for tourists but for us employed moms who can’t shop during the week) and made enemies of many retailers along Division Street.

We can’t talk about “character” and tourism and downtown dying, and then refuse to be open Sundays. It goes with the territory of being a service business. I’ve seen tourists Sunday mornings walking up and down Division, pulling on locked doors. That ought to concern the Chamber — especially when its director trumpets the arrival of businesses like Agora, which has lovely stuff but not at prices that Northfield wages can support.

We’re not a small, sleepy, isolated town any longer. The bike trail will attract tourists. The Twin Cities is growing closer by the day. Division Street retailers had better wake up and take notice.

Government.47.94: Kathy C (finehoney) Sat, 28 Feb

I wish the downtown hours were later. I try to shop Northfield exclusively, and the hours are my biggest hindrance. I can leave Northfield after all the shops are closed, and drive 40 minutes to Burnsville, or Apple Valley and have more than enough time to make necessary purchases. I will be starting a fulltime job this month working 8-5 and I’m concerned that I won’t have enough time to catch the shoppes open. I will have to start supper after work and by the time that is done I fear nothing will be open for my family to shop at downtown. There will be Saturdays, but everyone knows how busy those can be with other activities. Sundays open would be nice, however I wouldn’t want to see shop owners working 7 days a week. I also wouldn’t be available to shoppe until 1:30 because of church and dinner schedules. When I speak in I terms I feel I’m representing a good percentage of other families who must be in similar situations.

Government.47.95: Kathy C (finehoney) Sat, 28 Feb

I don’t have many ideas for solutions, however I feel it’s important to let city officials and other decision makers aware of citizen concerns. I want to touch on some ideas about the “livable wage” discussion. Anyone who has good answers to these concerns will certainly have my vote for president. Most retailers can’t afford to pay much more than minimum wage. I know that there are other employers who wouldn’t make a profit if they paid livable wages. From a business end I understand that livable wages can’t always be paid. That of course causes many people in the community to have substandard pay.

It is not just high school and college students filling these positions. Many of these wage earners are supporting families. Now I agree that some people will never be worth anything you pay them. On the other hand some are worth twice what they are receiving. One of my concerns for the community is that 2 income families lucky enough to find $8-10 an hour jobs will barely make it financially. It would be difficult to qualify and come up with a down payment for a home of 100,000+.

My other concern is the lack of these jobs. I am aware of many single income families who can only find 6-7$ an hour jobs. This is poverty. There are a lot of low paying, but important jobs in the community. I wish there was some sort of program to fill in the gap between what an employee needs to make (a livable wage) and what an employer can afford to pay.

By now you can guess I feel a livable wage is higher than some might consider. I think $10 an hour is a minimum start for a livable wage. I also think single family livable wages would need to be higher. If this can’t happen we need to create more housing that will take 25% of peoples income as full payment for rent. If the rent is reasonable and someone’s wages don’t meet 25% of that rental fee, there should be some sort of help available. This includes larger families who would need more than 2 bedrooms.

Government.47.96: Jane McWilliams (jbm) Sat, 28 Feb

In response to your question about where businesses can go in 47.87, George, how about continuing commercial development southward on Division Street. The not too recent remodeling of the Enfield Building and relocation of Lee Lansing’s nice business there, that part of our commercial area has been strengthened. When the CAC moves out of its site, that could serve as a location of a new or relocated business As time goes on, other property along there might become available and converted as well. I believe it is zoned commercial already.

Government.47.97: Jane McWilliams (jbm) Sat, 28 Feb

Griff, I think Highway South is pretty dismal and when newcomers drive in from the south, they wouldn’t have a clue about what a nice town we live in from the view at that point. The committee that worked to redesign that segment did the best they could, but I don’t think you can ever completely mitigate the effect of a parade of utilitarian-looking businesses and the acres of pavement needed (divided highway and parking lots) to s. Lighting and landscaping help, but only a little. We all need those businesses, and have zoned the city to concentrate the ones that are related to highway-related usage (fast-foods, auto parts, etc.) to “protect” the downtown. Like everything else in life, there are plusses and minuses to that policy.

I am nervous about what will happen with the center section where the DOT insisted on the divided roadway and where there isn’t much space for landscaping. I believe the plan is in the hands of the DOT now and will come back to the council following their review and with their (DOT’s) recommendation. We will have to stay in touch with the council when that project gets under way in order to make the best of it. For the kind of landscaping and lighting necessary to tie it is with the downtown the city will have to pick up the bill, as I understand it. There are a couple of roadway design issues which will need watching, as well.

Government.47.98: Griff Wigley (griff) Sat, 28 Feb

I decided to type up the Strategic Plan (most of it) myself this morning, and put it up on the NCO web site:

There are sections on Vision, SWOTs, Guiding Principles, and the biggie: Strategies and Action Steps for Economic Growth.

Government.47.100: Jim Ashman (ashmanj) Sat, 28 Feb

I tried to load a document for your review and I see it “doesn’t fit so it is readable. I will post portions of it throughout the day, in readable format. I do have a couple of questions for your “posters”.

1. If you think the City of Northfield is prepared and capable for making decisions on certain topics, projects and/or actions before January 1, 1999, please list 3.

2. If you think the City of Northfield can prepare and be capable for making decisions on topics, projects and/or action items in 1999, please list 3.

Government.47.101: Nancy Gruchow (ngruchow) Sat, 28 Feb

The Housing & Redevelopment Authority has a project starting that might help you, Kathy (post:73): it is a down payment assistance project. The HRA will help families find housing by loaning them a downpayment (which doesn’t have to be paid back until the house is eventually sold). You might want to contact Joel at city hall to see if the application forms are done; we reviewed them some time back at the HRA. The project was originally suggested by Paul Hager, when he was mayor.

Habitat for Humanity helps families get into houses which are built by teams of local volunteers, including the families who will own the houses. The HRA is working with Three Rivers Community Action right now on another self-help project. We are trying to find lots with sewer, water, road, etc. so houses can be built by the owners, under supervision and help from 3 Rivers staff. The costs are partially underwritten by grants from the state. This self-help project will result in four families (maybe 5) building and then occupying their houses and owning them for less than buying a ready-made house. The sweat equity will make the house more affordable. So if you have some carpentry skills, Kathy, contact 3 Rivers about the self-help program.

The HRA and 3 Rivers is almost ready to open some 3 bedroom apartments over on Dresden Avenue with rent controlled occupancy. If you’d rather rent, consider living on Dresden.

We are also sponsoring grants to mobile home owners for fixing up their trailers. To get one of those, contact the Dakota County HRA.

We think Northfield needs a variety of options for affordable ownership and rentals. Please send me that Burlington VT info, Griff.

Government.47.102: Griff Wigley (griff) Sat, 28 Feb

Jim, I’ll reformat and repost your note re: the incubator.

Jim Ashman (ashmanj) Sat, 28 Feb

I am loading portions of the EDA White Paper which was initiated May 1995. It is this document and many more since then that are contributing to the fulfillment of this Action Item for 1998. The information on this page is designed to establish “points of thought” which enable the Action Item to progress.


DEFINITION: Multi-tenant building Offers flexibility space Leases at below-market rental rates, including office and management services and financing assistance

GOAL: Leverage entrepreneurial talent and produce successful graduates

PURPOSE: Act as an economical tool for Northfield by converting unrefined entrepreneurial talent into established graduates who contribute to the community

POTENTIAL OBJECTIVES: Job creation Tax base expansion Development of specific sectors (i.e. high tech, research, light manufacturing)

ELEMENTS CRUCIAL TO SUCCESS: Solid tenant base Financial backing Strong community support network

GROWTH IN NORTHFIELD: What are past, current and planned growth objectives?

NORTHFIELD’S ENTREPRENEURIAL POOL: Services Existing businesses Manufacturing Technology Schools

BUSINESS INCUBATOR NEEDS: Labor Financial Housing Legal

BUSINESS INCUBATOR OPTIONS: Build new building Renovate existing building Lease

RECRUIT TENANTS: Service Clubs Graduates of Colleges Chamber of Commerce Schools/Technical Existing businesses

SHORT-TERM LEASES: Opportunity to evaluate space needs as tenant grows

OFFICE SERVICES: Management services: General accounting, marketing, legal, business planning, advisory boards Financial assistance: Help to find government, public and private source

Government.47.104: Susan Hudson (shudson) Sat, 28 Feb

What makes a community “livable”? Businesses, both for shopping and employment, education, affordable housing, transportation, charm, a sense of community and location, location, location. We have alot of these things, but not all. We must, as a community, not as an EDA, City Council, or other body, decide which areas we are lacking in and which areas are our strengths.. Then, our City Council should develop a vision for us all. Next, our EDA, HRA, and other groups should develop an action plan that strengthens the vision. I think our problem is that we have the sequencing of events wrong. We have no focus. A plan made 4 or 5 years ago is no longer vision. It’s hindsight.

Government.47.105: Jim Ashman (ashmanj) Sun, 01 Mar

The term “vision” began at posting 17 and continues throughout the Cafe’. It is vital that this continues because without vision there is no “tomorrow”. The EDA has constantly looked to the future, as well as, today. In 1995 the 4 functions were identified to allow the expansion of our vision. The functions, Developer, Planner, Banker and Promoter, are revisited each meeting. Action Plans were identified last year and revised and continued this year. I will link the functions to the Action Items for your information.

Government.47.106: Jim Ashman (ashmanj) Sun, 01 Mar

The EDA as a “Planner”. Thirty percent of our time is allocated to this effort. The EDA believes that there is a space shortage for commercial and industrial business, which may affect Northfield’s ability to work with business expansion and overall community growth. 1. Industrial property needs are analyzed, including property already zoned and/or serviced for industrial development and potential industrial property outside the city limits. 2. Commercial property needs are analyzed in relationship to redevelopment sites (downtown and highway corridor) 3. Expansion needs are discussed with the City Council 4. An ongoing dialog with the colleges is initiated in order to explore joint community/economic development pursuits 5. Economic growth needs will be identified with other affected parties.. Planning Commission, Chamber of Commerce, Northfield Industrial Corporation.

Government.47.107: Jim Ashman (ashmanj) Sun, 01 Mar

The EDA as a “Developer”. Thirty percent of our time is allocated to this function. The EDA believes that obstacles exist for commercial and industrial development related to soil corrections, clearance, utilities and annexation that require the city to act as a developer. 1. Prime sites for industrial development will be identified and the EDA will either purchase-develop these sites or work as partners with existing property owners. 2. Key sites for commercial redevelopment will be identified and either purchase-prepare these sites or work as partners with existing property owners.

Government.47.108: Jim Ashman (ashmanj) Sun, 01 MarThe EDA as a “Banker”. Twenty percent of our time is allocated to this function. The EDA believes that the city must continue to take an active role in financing commercial and industrial projects based on need, but that being a banker must be balanced with other functions. 1. Loans are provided to eligible owners for building renovation in the downtown area 2. Loans and/or utility connection payments are recommended to eligible businesses for new industrial or commercial projects outside town. 3. Tax increment payments are recommended for eligible development and redevelopment projects 4. Tax increment payments are recommended for public capital improvements

Government.47.109: Jim Ashman (ashmanj) Sun, 01 Mar

The EDA as a “Promoter”. Twenty percent of our time is allocated to this function. The EDA believes that Northfield provides untapped opportunities for commercial and industrial growth, and that it should take an active role in promotional activities. 1. Establish a marketing program for business opportunities in Northfield. 2. Initiate a “quick response team” (key community representatives) to work directly with business prospects and to deal with local issues of existing businesses 3. Initiate a central point of contact for persons interested in commercial and industrial property information 4. Communicate economic information to the media and other organizations on a regular basis in order to promote and educate the public on development needs/activities 5. Coordinate promotional efforts with other organizations by formalizing relationships with the Chamber of Commerce, Industrial Corporation, industries, colleges, etc.

Government.47.110: Griff Wigley (griff) Sun, 01 Mar

[I’ve added links to the Strategic Plan to the header of this topic for easy reference.]

Susan, I’ve added some text at the top of the Vision statement that clarifies the process that was used and it went just like you’re recommending: citizen input via two town meetings, a draft created by a 30-person group, and then a third town meeting for final revisions.

I can verify the process: I went to the meetings!

What I’m not sure about is whether or not the Plan has been actively revised and updated each year since then, as the original Plan recommends. Jim? Joel?

In any case, this web forum, as well as the F2F forums planned for the rest of this year, are one way for us citizens to give some input on what we’d like to see updated.

And Jim Ashman is asking for our specific input in post:100:

1. If you think the City of Northfield is prepared and capable for making decisions on certain topics, projects and/or actions before January 1, 1999, please list 3.

2. If you think the City of Northfield can prepare and be capable for making decisions on topics, projects and/or action items in 1999, please list 3.

Government.47.111: Dan Rogness (rogness) Sun, 01 Mar

Now that I’ve worked in a southern suburb of the Twin Cities for nearly two years, one obvious gap in community “livability” seems to be a lack of interaction. Some suburban neighborhoods have that interaction, but rarely does it occur within the broader community. I think Northfield is far above other cities in that regard … interaction and a corresponding care of people is evident. I think Northfielders tend to search for that greater good, when in fact, you have it much more than many other places. I’ve always been a fan of “incrementalism” anyway, which directs action toward adjustments rather than overhauls. Besides, the political systems tend to work that way, too.

One additional thought about Northfield’s commercial areas … downtown and Hwy. 3. The history is far and deep about restricting commercial development in hopes of protecting the (historic) downtown area. One must never forget the marketplace, however, which tends to find places despite regulations; Kmart is a good example of that. Designs have been getting better in many places, especially those typical strip locations, but it takes time, education, and most of all, more money.

Government.47.112: Griff Wigley (griff) Sun, 01 Mar

Dan, thanks for that observation about the broad community interaction that we tend to take for granted here. You’re right, we have it more than most places, and we keep pursuing it, too… as evidenced in part by the city’s continued funding of NCO and this Web Cafe.

Government.47.113: Griff Wigley (griff) Sun, 01 Mar

Ok, I think we have answers to some of our questions. I’ll take a stab at what “seems to be”:

* The EDA is attempting to solve the “bureaucracy” problem by 1) creating a “quick response team” to respond to potential new businesses as well as existing businesses; and 2) creating a central point of contact for persons interested in commercial and industrial property information. The city is hiring a staffer mid-year to relieve Joel West of some of his duties so he can focus more closely on economic development issues.

* We know the business incubator is in the works for this year. It 1) will be located in a physical (not virtual) building that will lease space to many tenants at below-market rates; 2) will offer consulting services.

* We know a lot more about what’s being done to address the affordable housing shortage in Northfield.

Government.47.114: Griff Wigley (griff) Sun, 01 Mar

We still have many UNANSWERED questions. Panelists and city officials, it would be great if you could answer these before the forum ends tomorrow night:

* We know that the 1994 Strategic Plan is still being referred to but we don’t know if it’s ever been updated as originally planned, nor to what extent the Economic Development strategies and action steps have been implemented. We do know it’s more of a 1-5 year plan, not a 20 year plan.

* We don’t know who will operate and staff the Business Incubator.

* We don’t have any answers about the direction for downtown, nor responses on issues like business turnover, Sunday openings, tourism vs. locally-oriented shops, etc.

* The Cyber-Village Association idea appears dead, or at least in a coma. The Chamber of Commerce would seem to be a natural for this but it may be best for the local high-tech companies to create it themselves.

* We don’t know if Northfield has tried to learn anything from other cities’ efforts to promote economic development. Does Northfield have a NIH mentality (Not Invented Here)?

* We don’t know what the average salary and cost of living is in Nfld.

* We don’t know where the city and the EDA stand regarding Nfld’s inclusion in the commuter rail project being studied by a legislative task force, ie, do they think it’s a good idea or will it make our workforce more “suburban” and undermine the local economy?

* We don’t know if anything’s been learned from the ViA situation, nor whether the city or the EDA accepts their contention that the 10 jobs in Colorado could have ended up here had the city had its act together.

Government.47.115: Griff Wigley (griff) Mon, 02 Mar

This week’s CitiBusiness newspaper features an article about St. Paul’s new hi-tech council. Interesting that much of what they want to do is incubator-related support for small info-tech businesses.

March 2, 1998 St. Paul launches high-tech council Leaders try to create niche to compete with other regions

Government.47.116: Griff Wigley (griff) Mon, 02 Mar

Here’s an interesting article re: creating a high-tech business incubator. It appears that some of the ingredients recommended are missing from the EDA’s proposed incubator:

Developing High-tech Industry using the Technology Center by Tristan K. Bostone

“The technology center combines the best of these small business programs with technical training to create a “all-in-one” high-tech incubation center that, if well-managed, will pay for itself.”

Government.47.117: Nancy Gruchow (ngruchow) Mon, 02 Mar

About downtown businesses: When I had my bookstore downtown, we were open from 9:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. every weeknight, with a bit later on Thursdays; we were open on Saturdays 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.; and Sundays, noon to 4 p.m. I tried to get other stores to be open on weeknights and on Sundays; no luck. I tried to get the Chamber to sponsor evening/Sunday transit buses so that folks without cars or those who preferred not to drive at night could come downtown; no luck. Most nights were dead after 6:30 p.m. Many shoppers know that the malls are open in the evening, and they will go to where lots of stores are open, rather than stop in Northfield for one or two. So my feelings are, the downtown stores need to work together for expanded hours, but they just don’t want to do it.

And some of my own staff would hop in the car to drive to Cub to save 20 cents on a head of lettuce. So long as local workers and residents turn to Burnsville for shopping, our downtown will suffer.

Government.47.118: Gordon Kelley (goldgopher) Mon, 02 Mar

17:27:00 CST (8 lines) I don’t know the answers to all of Griff’s questions, but I’ll respond on one issue. Didn’t Dave from VIA say that they have a facility in Nebraska because they couldn’t find space in Northfield? Is this an opportunity for the free enterprise system? Don’t we have enough space in town for businesses? What is the role of the city gov’t in providing space? I have asked more questions, but my feeling is that this is a good opportunity for someone to build some facilities and lease out space.

Government.47.119: Jim Ashman (ashmanj) Mon, 02 Mar

I want to thank all who have responded to the Cafe’. Many questions and ideas have surfaced and the EDA will answer them in the weeks ahead. There is more to say than can be entered on my system’s time limit. I have printed all postings so all will be addressed through meetings, the Northfield News, the Community Newsletter, the radio. Thank you Griff, you have done an outstanding job. We have just begun.

Government.47.120: Griff Wigley (griff) Tue, 03 Mar

Thanks, Jim.

This forum is officially over but If you or anything of the other panelists want to take a final crack at answering some of those questions in post:114, I’d appreciate it. Otherwise, we’ll save them for next time.

Thanks to all the panelists (especially the newbies!) for taking time out of their busy lives to participate here over the past two weeks. And a tip of my hat to the rest of the citizens here for your civic involvement.

Final stats: 52 people participated, with 27 different people posting comments. I think that’s the highest posting percentage (52%) we’ve ever had.

I’ll keep this topic open for a few more days. Feel free to post your comments about this forum (good, bad, ugly?) and any suggestions about what could be done to improve.

Government.47.121: Peter Hamlin (hamlin) Tue, 03 Mar

Griff, I really enjoyed reading all the comments, and I learned a lot from the forum. My compliments to you for your organized and inclusive responses, for your good research, and for guiding the forum with a perfect balance of serious, frank questioning and good diplomacy! Good work! Thanks much for a very interesting forum!

Government.47.122: George Kinney (georgek) Tue, 03 Mar

Thanks to all the experts for their info (and the willingness to allow us to ask questions), and thank you Griff for another outstanding job of organizing and running the show!

Government.47.123: Griff Wigley (griff) Wed, 04 Mar

Aw, shucks. Thanks, guys.

I hope to have an edited transcript up on the NCO site by Thurs night, just in case Evelyn at the Nfld News wants to do a summary piece on the forum. I’ll also get a decent printout to Joel so if he wants, he can have copies made for all the EDA members.