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Hubbard County approves economic development strategy

Ryan Zemek, Economic Development Director at the Headwaters Regional Development Commission (HRDC), went through a review of the Comprehensive Economic Development Plan with the Hubbard County Board of Commissioners at the regular board meeting on Tuesday morning.

The HRDC is a regional development planning agency based out of Bemidji which serves the five counties of north central Minnesota, including Hubbard County. According to Zemek, they are a federally designated economic development district, and as such, one of the requirements of this designation is to put together a Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy, which is an overview of what the economic conditions of the region are, what the trends may be, where the demographic and social economic numbers are going and what industries are growing and declining.

To develop the strategy the HRDC spent time gathering data, meeting with a series of businesses, lenders, loan administrators, economic developers and others to gather their data.

Using that data and information they develop the regional economic development projects that should be a priority to the region.

"We also use it internally as our game plan," Zemek said. "How are we going to help serve the region? Where are the areas we're going to focus and prioritize our time on?"

According to Zemek, they used four different cornerstones to focus on and established goals based on those problem areas. One being, Economic Competitiveness, which is growing businesses or new businesses as traditional economic development activities.

"The two big things we saw were that we have a large amount of employment in the retail sectors and the challenge with that is that the majority of those jobs are low paying, part time or seasonal and I think that directly relates to the issues we see with wages of poverty in the region," he said. "The other thing we saw is a significant decline over the last 10 years in the number of businesses in the region. If you compare that with the state as a whole it's pretty comparable."

Zemek attributed the decline to small business owners being pushed out of the marketplace by larger competitors such as Walmart or Amazon. He also said business owners leaving the marketplace by retiring and not having someone take that business on leads to a decline.

The goal for the HRDC would be increasing employment in export based industries such as manufacturing, agriculture and forest and forestry.

The secondary was Human Capital, making sure the businesses have the people they need to stay operational and relevant in the marketplace.

"We simply have more jobs than people willing to take jobs across the region," Zemek said.

The HRDC's goals are increasing the workforce participation rate among 24 to 65 year olds by two percent and increasing the amount of workers in the region with Associate's Degrees.

Third was Community Resources, factors that contribute to individuals wanting to move to the area such as healthcare, parks, natural resources or new attractions and amenities.

"People get an acquired taste for this region by vacationing up here," Zemek said. "It's really how people who aren't from here get to know us and see what a great quality of life we have to offer."

The first goal would be to implement some regional branding that changes the perceptions of people outside of the area and show them that there are a lot of things happening her both socially and economically. The second goal is to really build on the tourism by highlighting the natural resources in the area.

Lastly was Foundational Assets, services such as streets, water, sewer, high speed Internet or housing that are all required to keep an economy on track.

According to Zemek, the housing needs vary so much by different communities in this region. The goal would be to ensure an adequate supply of safe and affordable housing for all income levels and ensuring the region has necessary infrastructure to support economic development.

The Hubbard County Commissioners adopted the resolution approving the Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy as presented.

In other business Hubbard County Commissioners:

-Approved the final payment to Central Specialties, Inc. of Alexandria in the amount of $70,189.10 for work completed on CSAH 4 and CSAH 25 and 169th Ave. and 210th St. paving.

-Reviewed and approved timber appraisals for the 2017 Timber Auction scheduled Jan. 9.

-Approved the Purchase of Service Agreement with the Hubbard County Sheriff's Office and the Lakes Area Dive Team in the amount of $5,000.

-Approved the Purchase of Service Agreement with the Hubbard County Sheriff's Office and the Hubbard County Sheriff's Posse in the amount of $326.

-Approved the purchase of four 2017 Ford Interceptor SUV squad cars from Park Rapids Ford in the amount of $26,040 per car and the purchase and installation of squad equipment for the squad cars in the amount of $53,019.73 all to be paid from the Sheriff's Office budget.

-Approved the resignation of Eligibility Worker, Sheila Rognstad and the re-filling of the vacant position.

-Approved the resignation of Transit Driver Donal Rumpza and the re-filling of the vacant position.

-Approved a six percent increase to the Paul Bunyun Transit Dispatch contract with Heartland Express from $1,550 per month to $1,649 due to the increased number of calls and hours served.

-Approved the 2017 Transportation agreement between Heartland Express and Veterans Services Office.

-Adopted a resolution approving the Capital contract up to the amount of $12,000 for upgrades to the AVL equipment including computer and software for the Heartland Express office and TV monitors for the buses.

-Approved the 2017 legal counsel retainer between the Environmental Services Office and Scott Anderson and his firm for zoning related legal counsel. The retainer amount was raised from $6,000 to $6,800.

-Approved the order with Pictometry for high resolution aerial imagery in the amount of $26,258.67. The first flight will occur in Spring 2017.

-Scheduled a public hearing for Jan. 17 to review and consider county fees throughout varying departments.

-Approved the 2017 Committee List assignments.

-Approved the North Country Community Health Board 2017-2020 Joint Powers Agreement.