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EDA looks at priorities for spending its funds

NEW ULM — The New Ulm Economic Development Authority (EDA) discussed priorities and strategies for spending EDA funds on Tuesday.

In January, the EDA was asked during a special meeting to help fund the RENU Recreation Center because of a funding shortfall.

Board member Daniel Braam said when the request came the EDA had already given Park and Recreation money in September for another project. He was concerned this was a lot of money spent in one specific area for economic development.

“I fear that if we start spending big dollars on some of these projects, we might short change ourselves on other projects,” he said.

Braam suggested creating short-term and long-term planning for community development.

His top development project was completing the Milford Heights. Braam said the project was taking longer than expected but he wanted it finished.

There are eight empty lots remaining in the housing development. Braam suggested building the remaining eight houses. He believed the affordable housing projects could only be completed with gap money to meet the difference between the cost and affordability to buyers.

This would mean selling homes at a loss, but it could complete phase one of Milford Heights and meet some of the needs for single-family housing.

He would also like to see a study on Garden Terrance 3 to meet the need for multi-family housing.

Board member Les Schultz said he would like to focus on the continuing need for daycare. It is an obstacle to recruiting new employees, he said. Workers will not move to New Ulm without access to daycare.

Schultz suggested creating another committee to review the issue and provide assistance to retain those already in the business.

Schultz recently attended a workshop, which floated the idea of promoting New Ulm as a retirement destination. The idea is retirees would move to town based on amenities. The former Marktplatz Mall was suggested as retirement housing. This could in further drive downtown business.

Board member Jessica Janni said the CTE program with the school district and childcare solution would help drive economics and would benefit the city. Janni said as a mother she went through the issue of finding childcare and continues to hear others across Brown County voice concerns about daycare shortage.

Board member Michael Schwartz emphasized the importance of business retention.

“We’re a community that is easy to do business with and that is key to business retention,” he said.

Schwartz also had concerns about the lack of childcare. He suggested creating a place for daycare start-ups to go for training new providers.

Milford is an immediate concern of EDA, while other issues are intermediate concerns. Braam said things like the future of George’s Ballroom or the Marktplatz mall are intermediate concerns where the EDA can have a role.

Schultz said every year, New Ulm youth are asked about how to develop the city and every year they cite a need for housing downtown.

Schultz said there are a lot of second-floor apartments downtown that are not developed because it is too expensive to meet codes, but there is a demand from young people for this type of housing.

City Manager Chris Dalton said strategies for these ideas can come forward as early as next month. He gave a few ideas such as a single-family rehab loan program could help senior fix their homes for resale to younger families.

Tax abatement for downtown apartments could assist with bringing this residence up to code.

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The EDA board recommended the city approve a resolution to apply for a Federal EDA grant on behalf of the school district.

In December, the EDA was asked by District 88 Superintendent Jeff Bertrang to support a joint grant application for a Federal EDA grant. The grant would serve to bring a career and technical education (CTE) center to New Ulm.

Recently, Region 9 informed the EDA the school district cannot be an applicant to the federal EDA. The New Ulm EDA will need to be a co-applicant with Region 9 to get the grant for the school district.

City Manager Chris Dalton said nothing in the grant changes, except the New Ulm EDA, is a co-applicant instead of a participant. The grant would still require a $10,000 matching grant.

The purpose of the CTE center is to retain and add to the skills of New Ulm’s workforce. Students in area high schools and adults will have the ability to learn about skilled trades in the New Ulm area and spend time earning credentials or certification in particular career fields.

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