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Report: Food, health, clothing drive retail demand in New Ulm

NEW ULM — The New Ulm Economic Development Authority (EDA) received an initial report from Retail Strategies, Tuesday.

Retail Strategies is a consulting group that researches the retail space in a community and assists with attracting retail businesses to fill vacancies in town.

The presentation began with a list of trends in retail, including the continued impact of Millennials and growth in e-commerce and restaurants.

Retail Strategies collected data on the New Ulm region to determine how far individuals are coming to shop New Ulm and the estimated drawing power of the city’s trade area. New Ulm’s trade area includes the area from Springfield to Nicollet and Winthrop to St. James. It includes over 44,000 people.

City Manager Chris Dalton said this is a good number for retailers to look at, and it could entice them to open a store in New Ulm.

According to Retail Strategies, food service and drinking establishments have the highest potential for growth. It was estimated New Ulm could see an additional $24 million from new restaurants.

Health and personal care stores are the second-highest demand, at $22 million. Clothing and clothing accessories stores are third.

Retail Strategies is working on the recruitment phase, which includes creating marketing flyers, city sites and conference recruitment for New Ulm.

“They have had contact with a couple of retailers that seem interested in coming to New Ulm, but it is still in the early stages,” Dalton said.

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The EDA approved a new grant program for small businesses, called the Small Business Incentive Grant. Dalton said this is a grant and not a loan. The grant is designed to support new small businesses in New Ulm with their start-up expenses during their first year of operation. The grant would reimburse for eligible expenses up to $10,000 per business.

The program categorizes a small business as any business with fewer than 10 employees, including the owner. Non-profits are not eligible. The only in-home business eligible for the grant is a daycare. Other than a daycare, the business must be located in a commercial or industrial storefront with an individual address. Shared suites are not eligible. The business must be open for three months before applying, but cannot be open longer than one year.

Dalton recommends allocating $50,000 for this program to fund up to five businesses a year. He believed at least three applicants a year could be expected.

The board unanimously approved the program.

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The EDA accepted a $9,000 bid for a lot in Milford Heights First Addition. The price for this lot was set at $20,000.

Milford Heights is a tax increment financing (TIF) district. Once a house is constructed, the EDA collects property taxes to make payments to the TIF district. The EDA collects no property tax revenue on an empty lot.

The board understood that if it accepts this bid, the remaining lots would likely need to be sold at $9,000.

Housing Coordinator Heather Bregel said it was two years since a lot was sold in the addition.

“As it continues forward, it is only costing us money,” Board member Daniel Braam said. “Every time we sell a lot, at least we eliminate the cost.”

Board president Charlie Schmitz said the sale would trigger interest in future sales.

Braam made the motion to approve the lot sale. The motion was unanimously approved.

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