The Koochiching Economic Development Authority Board Monday discussed the progress of a variety of local projects in the Borderland area.
Child Care Forum
Two sessions earlier this month led by Jeff Andrews of First Children’s Finance drew about 30 people from the area to hear about a local child care shortage. The board noted the sessions drew a lot of positive feedback and were both very informative.
“One of the things that they mentioned was treating child care not as a service, but as a small business,” said Paul Nevanen, KEDA director.
“One of the things we learned there is that some communities are offering folks incentives to start child care services so it is really something that some communities have gotten really original about,” said International Falls Mayor Bob Anderson.
“It’s a huge part of economic development,” added Allen Rasmussen, KEDA Board chairman.
JoAnn Smith, Small Business Development Center consultant with KEDA, is leading the effort, and said she pleased with the feedback from the sessions.
“Progress — it’s great,” she said.
KEDA teamed with local partners to start the initiative in the county. The core team consists of members from KOOTASCA Community Action Inc., Rainy River Community College, Independent School District No. 361, Koochiching County Health and Human Services, and others in which child care has had an effect on personal, business or work environments.
Blandin Broadband Communities Initiative
Those involved with the initiative will attend the Border to Border Broadband Conference in Brainerd this week.
“I’m looking forward to learning more and bringing our story as one of the selected broadband communities,” Nevanen told the board.
The Koochiching Technology Initiative, or KTI, earlier this year applied to the Blandin Foundation to become one of four Blandin Broadband Communities for a two-year period ending in 2020.
Blandin will partner with the initiative to launch specific projects to the benefit of the community, which encompasses Koochiching County. The program also has up to $25,000 in research and $75,000 in grant money available.
County Housing Collaborative
A draft of the Koochiching County Comprehensive Housing Study was sent to those involved by Steve Griesert of Community Partners Research.
“It’s a very large document — a lot of data,” said Nevanen.
Feedback was submitted and a final draft will be in the works.
The collaborative, representing entities which have a stake in addressing housing needs across the county, has through KEDA, hired Community Partners Research, a consulting firm based in Fairbault that has in the last 24 years conducted 325 housing studies for city and counties in Minnesota, and North and South Dakota. The cost of the study was $31,900.
The study includes a plethora of information about the county’s population, households and income, existing housing data, rental housing inventory, and employment and local economic trends.
A lease agreement, with the county, was reviewed and unanimously approved by the board for the VSO to sublease three offices KEDA owns at the Wells Fargo Bank building. The office space will be at a cost of $400 each month.
The board Monday agreed to donate $350 for a section of aluminum bleachers to replace the aging ones at the Koochiching County Fair grounds in Northome.
“The fairgrounds are a really important asset to that community and the whole area,” said Nevanen.
Mike Hanson, representing the Birchdale area, reported that Big Falls closed on its land purchase for recreational projects and Northome is implementing a new apartment building.