When Gabby Kinneberg started her new job as the Preston Area Chamber of Commerce and Tourism Director just over three years ago, she never expected it to take her where she is today. On December 14, she added EDA Director to her existing titles. For the rest of December, she will spend time training with Cathy Enerson, the outgoing EDA director. Enerson, who has worked with the Preston EDA as a representative of Community and Economic Development Associates, or CEDA, for 13 years, is happy to pass the reins on to Kinneberg. “She gives 110%. With her hard work and the community support, she will have the opportunity to do great things,” Enerson commented.
Enerson feels that her years spent as a small business owner with a berry farm and real estate career equipped her well for her job with CEDA. “I have been able to relate to and have passion for small businesses,” she explained. In the 13 years that she has been with CEDA, she has worked with five different communities in southeast Minnesota. During her time with Preston, Enerson helped to create the city’s first job fair, first housing summit, first regional development tour, and first spare change round-up, which helped non-profits such as the historical society. She also worked on many other projects which benefited Preston small business owners and the City of Preston. Helping the very first EDA loan client go from manager to business owner is one of her favorite memories from the job. Enerson also was instrumental in the veterans home project. “I vividly remember, in freezing weather, walking side by side at the State Capitol with Don Gildner and Ron Scheevel, just the three of us, believing we could obtain a veterans home in Preston,” she reminisced. “We had the economic data and drive to hold monthly meetings and move the project all the way to the grant queue of the Federal government.” An especially poignant moment for Enerson was when her father, who had served in the military, was laid to rest at the veterans cemetery in Preston.
“I thank the city volunteers, paid staff, local, regional, and state organizations CEDA collaborates with,” Enerson said. “I would like to thank the mayor for believing in the value of an EDA. I would like to thank the Journal for building up the community and supporting small businesses. It takes community collaboration.”
Enerson has enjoyed her years coordinating with the Preston EDA, but recently decided that it was time for a reduction in her hours. She will continue working with the cities of Lanesboro and Eyota. When she announced that she was leaving Preston, the City of Preston had to decide if it wanted to continue contracting with CEDA for an EDA director or fill the position internally. As Gabby Kinneberg already had experience working with the EDA, she was the obvious choice. “I already had that relationship with the business,” she said. The prospect of learning a new role was daunting, but she is ready for the challenge, explaining, “I never want to stop learning.” Kinneberg will continue to serve as Preston’s Chamber and Tourism Director, shifting some of her tourism hours to the EDA position. “I can’t believe I’m starting as the EDA Director in the middle of a pandemic,” she laughed. Her mantra is, “It can only go up from here,” which she adopted when she took on the job as chamber director in April 2017. She only had a short time to plan Trout Days that May and then it rained the whole weekend anyway.
Kinneberg considers the re-branding of Preston one of her biggest accomplishments during her time as the Chamber and Tourism Director. The project involved updating the city logo, creating new signage and welcome banners, and focusing on tourism marketing with partners all over the Midwest. “It’s been a fun part of my job,’” she said. Of course, the veterans home project and turning Preston into a veteran friendly community are also ranked pretty high on her list. “It’s definitely a group effort,” Kinneberg explained. “I couldn’t have done it without supportive board members.”
Some of Kinneberg’s goals as the new EDA director are to focus on entrepreneurship and grow businesses in Preston while adding new ones, create new housing opportunities, and move forward with the veterans home. “Cathy’s done a great job already,” Kinneberg noted. “She’s very versed in real estate whereas I’m a little newer in that realm. My skills will just build off of what Cathy’s were.” Kinneberg is eager to learn more about the real estate and business side of the EDA while utilizing her strengths in marketing and communication. Over the last few years, she shared an office space with Enerson, which has helped her become more familiar with the position of EDA director and the responsibilities it entails.
Although 2020 has been incredibly difficult on businesses in Preston and around the globe, Kinneberg has been encouraged to see them adapting to the times. COVID-19 has been a catalyst for some big changes, such as moving small businesses online for accessibility. “It’s been fun to see them innovate,” she explained, adding that there was a lot of energy in the EDA before COVID hit and she hopes to see that return once the pandemic is over. “We just have to keep positive.”
While Kinneberg works hard and has many skills and talents that help her in her current and new positions, she is careful not to take all of the credit for the work that’s been done and will continue to be done to grow Preston as a community. “You’ve got to have a supportive group and groups that are cohesive together,” she said. “Even though we’re small, I do feel like we’ve made a voice for ourselves.”