After more than a decade of existence, the Redwood County Economic Development Authority (EDA) continues to evolve.
That was the sentiment of Lon Walling, current county commissioner and one of the original county EDA board members.
Those changes will continue in 2017 when the administrative role of the authority comes under the auspices of the county administrator’s office.
After working in conjunction with the Redwood Area Development Corporation (RADC), which is currently serving in that administrative role, for a few years, the board has opted to bring the role back in house.
Much of that change has to do with the county board’s strategic plan for economic development and its belief that the most effective and efficient way to operate the county EDA is to have the county do it.
At its meeting Tuesday, the board took the next steps toward taking over that administrative role by discussing its strategy with Bruce Johnson, who currently serves as the EDA board chair.
The board is made up of county board representation along with one representative from each of the five county commissioner districts. The board itself is not going to change.
“What is changing is the administrative portion,” said Priscilla Klabunde, county commissioner.
Sharon Hollatz, county commissioner explained that the county board has adopted a new strategic plan, and it felt the best way to implement the goals of that plan was to have the EDA in house.
“Now we need to start putting that strategic plan in place,” said Hollatz.
Hollatz said one of her hopes is that the move to bring the EDA back in house will mean getting information to members of the board in a timelier manner. That way, she added, more informed decisions can be made about how a project fits into the strategic plan and if the EDA should assist with project funding.
Issues such as workforce retention, housing and childcare are all big-picture topics the board is going to be addressing moving forward in conjunction with the EDA.
Klabunde said the intent is to continue working with entities, such as the RADC, to learn about potential projects, but, in the end, the final decision regarding funding still comes back to the county board.
After all, added Walling, the funding comes from tax dollars.
“We are in uncharted territory going into 2017,” said Walling, who added it is his hope that the EDA working in conjunction with the county board can move forward with the type of roll-up-your-sleeves kind of efforts that is the purpose of the EDA. “I am hoping we are able to have some productive work sessions with the EDA board as the year goes along.”
Jim Salfer, county commissioner admitted he sees challenges ahead in the coming year, as the county works to get the new process settled. That, he added, will likely continue until the county brings someone on board to work specifically with economic development.
According to Vicki Knobloch, the EDA board will operate in a process similar to that of the county’s planning and zoning commission and will meet only on an as needed basis.
What is important, said Johnson, is that the EDA board and county board are on the same page, and he said the strategic plan developed by he commissioners will be a great reference point for the EDA as its work continues.
“We are all in this together,” said Klabunde, adding the important thing to remember is the ultimate outcomes that help the area grow.