The City of Rushford is already a full-service community with a thriving business atmosphere, but that hasn’t slowed the Economic Development Authority’s (EDA) push for expanding the potential for existing and new businesses. At the Monday, September 25 meeting, the council reviewed and approved a recommendation from the EDA to enter into an agreement with EsseX Capital, LLC/Community Venture Network.
The professional services firm works with private companies looking to create a new operation within communities, as well as relocation or expansion of existing operations. Additionally, EsseX Capital works directly with communities, trying to match companies’ needs with communities offering opportunities.
The agreement will cost the city $4,250. For its investment, the city will in turn receive detailed summaries, including statistical data, for a minimum of 24 companies within a five-state area, looking to put down roots or relocate. Three times a year, EsseX Capital holds meetings for interested communities and entities to hear short presentations from the companies themselves.
According to City Administrator Tony Chladek, these meetings are multi-faceted are typically packed with more than 60-80 eager communities, EDAs, electric cooperatives, and other similar entities. “I want to be action oriented,” said Chladek. “More importantly, I want a strategy.” Chaldek further indicated his goals are to seek companies that can help support existing Rushford businesses, establishing partnerships that can benefit everyone involved, and to find those opportunities to attract people to the city. “It’s a good experience. Another avenue to do a deal,” he added.
ExxeX Capital essentially serves as a middle man, doing preliminary vetting and information gathering. In many of these instances, the companies already have a prototype or product and financing lined up, and they’re just looking for a community to land in. Chladek indicated he’s particularly interested in bringing existing business owners with him to the EsseX Captial presentation meetings to see if there’s some opportunity that can benefit them directly.
“Basically, it’s a seed you can plant,” said Councilor Terri Benson, who serves on the EDA board. “It’s centralized. We’ve always casted a broad net. This is ‘Here’s the pond. Now, let’s look and see.’ It’s low risk and high potential.”
“Essentially, it’s a Shark Tank, without the sharks,” noted Councilor Mark Honsey.
“It’s a very cost effective way to have them do all the legwork and let us cherry pick,” added Chladek.
“I think we can go into it with an open mind,” suggested Honsey. “We’re looking for anything that can complement our existing businesses.
In other news, the city has set the preliminary maximum levy for 2018 at $938,000. This represents a $71,000 increase from 2017. The increase represents a 29% increase in debt service, while operating expenses are suggested to drop 20.81%, for a net increase of 8.19%.
Councilor Vern Bunke stated he’d suggested some cost saving measures to city staff and questioned whether anyone else on the council had similar ideas.
“I didn’t see any exorbitant areas in the budget,” responded Benson. “It’s in line or less than 2017. I didn’t see anything unreasonable.”
“There’s an inertia that gets put in place,” cautioned Bunke. “We say, ‘We already approved this,’ so maybe… maybe we don’t try as hard. My concern is whether it’s absolutely necessary.”
City Clerk/Treasurer Kathy Zacher indicated that the only increase was debt service and those numbers cannot be reduced. It was noted the city had previously kept the levy flat for five years, from 2011-2015. However, Zacher pointed out that during that time, general fund reserves and other fund reserves were drawn down, which eventually affected the city’s credit rating with Standard & Poor’s.
“We have this conversation every year. I don’t want to put us in a position to tie our hands,” said Mayor Chris Hallum before suggesting the council meet at least twice, prior to certifying the final levy in December to pour over the budget. “That’s the time to do it.”
“I don’t want to just cut to cut either,” cautioned Benson. “If we’re not planning, what are we just pushing down the road?” No dates for the budget meetings were set.
The next regularly scheduled council meeting is Monday, October 9, at 6:30 p.m., at city hall. The public is encouraged to attend.