CANNON FALLS — Bankers, elected officials and othes who helps develop the local economies in Southeast Minnesota were on hand Thursday night to celebrate CEDA, Community and Economic Development Associates, at the Cannon River Winery.
"We, as Minnesotans, what with 'Minnesota nice,' we don't like to brag," said Ron Zeigler, president and CEO of CEDA. "But this is the night to do that."
Those who work with or for CEDA gathered for the CEDA Partnership Celebration.
Zeigler said CEDA now has 50 contracts to work with various government and community organizations to help spur growth and economic development in Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin and even northern Illinois. Many small cities across Southeast Minnesota use CEDA as their economic development agency, helping those communities with grant writing, project development and community planning.
"We have 27 team members, up from six (when the non-profit was founded in 1986)," he said. "These are the people who are boots on the ground."
Zeigler said CEDA's efforts are supported by 45 partner organizations that donate a combined $200,000, about 10 percent of CEDA's operating budget. More than 30 Southeast Minnesota communities are served by CEDA.
On Thursday, the group heard some of the success stories CEDA has worked to develop in recent years. One was Brad and Angie Barber, the founders of Cabin Coffee.
The company, which opened its first store in Clear Lake, Iowa, in 2002, now has 18 stores, three in the Southeast Minnesota towns of Plainview, Chatfield and St. Charles.
Angie Barber explained how Cabin Coffee has worked with CEDA to find towns that are underserved and bring stores to them. Those stores, she said, bring jobs and a gathering place for people, which enhances the community.
"The jobs y'all do to help small businesses start up in communities is incredible," she said.