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Rushford moving forward with business incubator plans

By Kirsten Zoellner

Fri, May 2nd, 2014
Posted in Rushford Government

While the Business Incubator Plan is still in draft stages, the city and Economic Development Authority (EDA) are moving forward in seeking grant funding to get the ball rolling. At the Monday, April 28 council meeting, EDA chairman Tom Driscoll took the council through the plans and what’s needed from the city. If the grant is approved, the EDA is also seeking to dedicate matching funds from the EDA.

The plan will be available for entrepreneurs, both in the community and outside, as well as existing businesses. “It’s a tool that we can use,” noted Driscoll. “Instead of waiting for businesses to drop out of the sky, we can get them homegrown from the talent pool in southeast Minnesota. It’s a culture we tend to create.”

Approved businesses would be taken through training and get financing, including EDA gap financing if needed. Should they graduate to a facility or need a larger facility, EDA would receive a percentage, enable self-funding of the incubator plan down the road. “We’ve been hatching this plan since the Business Retention and Expansion was done,” added Driscoll. “It’s an aggressive way to develop business, help startups, and bolster the tax base. The pieces of the puzzle fit in together.”

The once a year grant opportunity is behind the push for council approval. The approval is strictly for submission and the EDA will not be committed to taking the grant. “If we don’t get started, we never will,” added Driscoll. “We’ve laid little foundation blocks to continually make progress and move forward.”

Through this plan, the risk to the EDA is less as they lead businesses through a set regimen, allowing the EDA to set the business parameters instead of the businesses themselves. Additionally, this plan would increase the city’s reputation as a business incubator, creating a draw to the city.

“This opens up the potential to reach out,” added City Administrator Steve Sarvi. “A very little success will go a long way.” Several universities are interested in the plan as a way to study the business culture and provide training. “They have students that have ideas and it provides a place to go. It they can create here, why not stay and build here.”

The plan will eventually become a self-sustaining project. Additional funding and revenue streams may include grants, low-interest loans, state and federal dollars, SMIF funding, rents on buildings, royalties or other reimbursements. One goal of the plan is to secure staff, more specifically a director, for the incubator plan and to work with partners finding more funding opportunities.

“I’m excited about this opportunity,” enthused Mayor Chris Hallum.

“We need to create our own jobs in our communities, this is moving forward,” continued Sarvi.

Also at the meeting, the council unanimously approved a cooperative effort between Barr Engineering and Otomo Engineering to conduct surveys of properties related to interior flooding areas. The $33,459 reports will answer questions the city has as to what will be needed to address the problem, why it’s needed, and the methodology to correct it.

The FEMA interior flood maps aren’t new and were taken in 2008 as part of a DNR fly-over survey for the watershed. The interior maps will be included in new maps and this could create problems for residents in those areas, including the need for flood insurance, despite the levee system seeing costly recertification. Most importantly, the reports will lend modeling and documentation proof to FEMA that will likely lead to adjustments in the official maps.

“The community not only suffered from flood, but then this alphabet soup descended on us and we went through the work,” noted Sarvi. “Now, FEMA and the Corps saying are there’s more. After a while, it’s like ‘Enough.’”

In other news, the city has approved a rate modification in response to extra water usage earlier this winter and spring to avoid frozen pipes. Looking at a variety of methods, including flat rates, no assistance, full assistance, and percentages, the city moved forward with adjusting rates for the first quarter. The flat rate currently applies to the first 3,000 gallons used in the first quarter. Typically, average usage is 8,000 gallons, but the excess water drove the average usage to 16,000 gallons. At least one residence used 126,000 gallons and some didn’t meet the 3,000 due to solidly frozen pipes, some of which have only thawed as of last week.

The rate modification calls for keeping the flat rate for the first 3,000 gallons, then, that number in half for the next 8,000. The city will forgive anything over 16,000 gallons, with the understanding of what they were using it for. Citizens were to have notified the city if they were running excess water to keep pipes from freezing to be eligible for assistance. “We’re willing to work with people,” noted Sarvi. “We expect there will be some issues as the moves forward.”

Jumps for Hope will be returning to Rushford Saturday, June 21. The event is designed to raise funds used to help local families who are dealing with the impact of cancer. The tandem skydives are $279 if registered and paid in full by June 14 or $299 after June 14. Registration is open on Facebook at

https://www.facebook.com/WestsideSkydive/app_570456996408466. Participants may nominate a family to be a recipient. To do so, contact @jumpsforhope.com and share their story. Be sure to include your name and contact information. Nominations should be received by May 31, 2014.

Two days of jumping may be held if the participation numbers are high, with excess jumpers being backed into Friday. A minimum number of jumpers, likely 75, would be required for the excess Friday jump day. “We’d prefer people register sooner, rather than later,” noted Alana Wilson, founder of Jumps for Hope.

The next regularly scheduled council meeting is Monday, May 12, at 6:30 p.m., at city hall. The public is encouraged to attend.

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