Retail sales and tourism are the main business activities being developed in Crow Wing County, according to a recent economic development survey.
The Crow Wing County Board approved the Region 5 Development Commission Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy annual report Tuesday, which included the survey results. The survey was administered in February to Region 5 communities, school districts, county boards and economic development organizations.
Gail Leverson, economic development director for Region 5, presented the report and updated the board on its current programs and the needs of the citizens. She said the mission of the economic development program seeks to promote employment and economic development in the counties of Crow Wing, Cass, Wadena, Todd and Morrison by assisting in developing new businesses and expanding the existing business opportunities in the region.
According to survey respondents, retail/service and tourism were at the top of the list of the main types of business activity the county is attempting to develop. The area does have the retail space available for growth, reported Leverson.
The county also has been involved with the regional revolving loan fund that assists in business development. County businesses have already received more than $1 million in these loans. The funds helped create 406 jobs.
The county needs assistance in affordable housing and help with its sewer to assist citizens to find homes and for economic growth, the study found. Affordable housing was also a major need in the other four counties.
Crow Wing County indicated in the survey that it needs assistance with infrastructure improvements, notably with its sewer.
Leverson presented statistics on unemployment rates, income and population because these areas affect economic development.
In 2000, there were 72,713 people in the labor force in the five counties and 4,059 people unemployed, giving the region a 5.6 percent unemployment rate. The state rate is 3.3 percent.
Crow Wing County had an unemployment rate of 4.6 percent or 1,300 people were unemployed last year. The county had the lowest unemployment rate in the five county region. Cass and Morrison counties were the highest with 6.5 percent.
In the last four years, the county has grown in population by 8.9 percent to 55,099, according to the census. Crow Wing County has grown 24.5 percent in the past decade.
Leverson reported that the counties in Region 5 have historically had low per capita incomes. The most recent numbers are from 1998 and show that the average per capita income for Crow Wing County is $22,581 or a 5.9 percent increase from 1997. The income is 22 percent lower compared to the state average.
Todd County ranked second to the lowest in per capita income and Wadena came in fifth from the lowest compared to the 87 counties.
The report found that the estimated per capita income for 1999, shows that Region 5 residents are expected to earn more than $20,000 per resident. The estimation for Crow Wing County is $23,606 compared to the state's $30,742. In the county, the average weekly income is $497.28, according to the Minnesota Workforce Center data for the second quarter of 2000. The state average was $660 per week.
Leverson said there are two projects in the county that made the Region 5 priority list that will be worked on -- the Brainerd Crow Wing County Regional Airport development project and an industrial park expansion.
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