Elements from Brainerd, Baxter and Crow Wing County, as well as regional economic development groups, combined to create the strategy team in the wake of the Potlatch mill closing.
The group has subcommittees and has worked in three main areas -- resources for Potlatch employees, effects on the community and marketing the mill with a community push. Earlier this month the strategy team met for an update.
The strategy team put together a pre-application for a planning grant from the United States Department of Agriculture. In the application is a request for a $100,000 planning grant with 50 percent to come from the USDA and the other 50 percent from a variety of area sources, cities and economic development groups. The grant could also open the door for larger funds to assist in implementing an action plan.
Efforts raised commitments of $20,000 from Potlatch, $10,000 from the Initiative Foundation, $5,000 from Minnesota Power, $5,000 from Brainerd, $5,000 from the Brainerd School District, $5,000 from Crow Wing County and $2,500 from Baxter.
But to say planners, including Sheila Wasnie Haverkamp, Brainerd Lakes Area Development Corp. executive director, and meeting facilitator Lisa Paxton, Brainerd Lakes Area Chambers of Commerce chief executive officer, were shocked at the meeting may be an understatement. They were surprised at the new requirements for the grant application.
At the meeting, Haverkamp read through the preliminary information gathered for the planning grant.
The idea was that grant money should allow the area to look at the market in-depth and help determine what initiatives could be taken to help Potlatch find a buyer and ways to absorb the displaced workers back into the community.
Even if a buyer is found for the mill, expectations are that employee numbers will be well reduced from the 616 workers displaced when Potlatch closed.
There have been several meetings where this grant application was discussed, including those with Gail Leverson, economic development director from Region 5 in attendance. Leverson brought an expert from Chicago to the recent meeting.
But strategy team members were suddenly told at t his meeting they needed to answer the seven questions called the Sampson Seven in order to meet the final hurdles for funding. And those new requirements call for a lot of details and specific outcomes.
Leverson said she's been talking with government grant representatives since spring about the new requirements. But those requirements were apparently not communicated from Region 5 to the strategy team and were a surprise to the those spearheading the grant application.
Several strategy team members volunteers to work on altering the grant application to meet the new requirements and still get the grant application in for upcoming funding decisions.
The Sampson Seven asks: Are the deals market-based? Are they proactive in nature? Do they look over the immediate economic horizon, anticipate economic changes and diversify the economy? Are they maximizing private capital investment? What is the probability of success? Will the projects create an environment where higher paying, lucrative jobs are created? Are taxpayers getting a positive return on their investment?
A bridal store recently relocated from Merrifield to Brainerd. Ronda Jean's Bridals opened at 109 Washington Street in the old Kirby Vacuum store next to Hardee's. Ronda Cool is the owner.
The bridal shop has both new and used wedding gowns, bridesmaids and flowergirl dresses as well as informal dresses, prom dresses, shoes, jewelry and accessories. Wedding gowns, crinolines, bouquets, bridesmaids gowns and flowergirl dresses may be rented or purchased.
Ronda Jean's also accepts wedding- and prom-related clothing on consignment.
Potlatch Corp. officials in Minnesota announced company forestlands in Minnesota meet the highest standards of environmentally responsible forest management. An independent third party verified the company's forest practices on 320,000 acres in Minnesota met the requirements of both the Sustainable Forestry Initiative and the International Standards Organization 14001 Environmental Management System standard.
In Aitkin, a task force has been looking into the possibility of building a community center. That will be one of the discussions at the Aitkin Area Chamber of Commerce's September membership meeting from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Thursday.
Business After Hours in Aitkin will be 5-7 Thursday with the new owners of the Forty Club restaurant. New owner are Molly and Troy Dox.
In Little Falls, new owners are involved in several city businesses. Justin Bieganek, lifelong Little Falls resident, recently became the owner of Taco John's restaurant on LeMieur Street. New touches include competed extensive kitchen updates and there are plans to update and remodel the dining area.
Jeff and Michelle Waldvogel recently purchased Hilmerson Collision Center on Haven Road in Little Falls. The Waldvogels returned to Little Falls after 18 years in Fargo, N.D.
Karina Boitz is the new owner of Fantastic Sams hair salon, on First Avenue in Little Falls. And Toby and Barb Schrupp recently purchased Stanek Photography on Lindbergh Drive in Little Falls.
Kentucky Fried Kitchen recently finished a building on LeMieur Street in Little Falls.
Whether the columned white house behind the Mobil station in north Brainerd should be zoned to allow a business setting passed a planning commission hurdle and is headed for a Brainerd City Council decision in the near future.
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