SE Minnesota development stakeholders learn more about Zumbrota, Lake City, Goodhue on CEDA bus tour
The tour aimed to help regional leaders and developers understand residential, industrial and commercial development potential in each city.
LAKE CITY — Community representatives, bankers, realtors, commercial developers and other folks in the economic development world set out on Community and Economic Development Associates' regional development tour on Wednesday, learning more about Zumbrota, Goodhue and Lake City.
"We can make some really cool marketing materials to send to people, but it still doesn't have the same impact as actually bringing them through the community and showing off the communities a little bit," said Cris Gastner, CEDA senior vice president.
The bus tour began Wednesday morning in Zumbrota. Kim Simonson, the city's assistant financial director, spoke about Zumbrota's recent projects, such as a new 57-unit apartment building that opened its doors to tenants in July.
"What's really cool about it is the people that are moving in aren't just people that are moving out of their homes," Simonson said. "There's new people all the time; I've met a ton of new people that are moving in there."
Zumbrota's largest employer, Dairy Farmers of America, also embarked on a multi-million dollar expansion within the past two years at its plant in town. The DFA expansion added jobs and increased the city's tax base, Simonson said.
What hasn't changed — yet — is the plant's aroma.
"On a good day with the (plant's) old drying rack, it smells like cheese, like you stuck your face in Kraft macaroni and cheese," Simonson said. "But they have a brand new dryer that's going to be coming online that's going to scrub the air, so we're all really excited about that."
In Lake City, Megan Smith touted about 67 acres of developable land that the city would like to see used for commercial, industrial and compact residential projects. At the moment, the land is on agricultural lease, so the site is filled with rows upon rows of corn.
"There's enough land to accommodate all the edges along Highway 63; (that) would probably be more of our commercial focus," said Smith, Lake City's director of planning and community development. "Some of the edges here along 10th Street ... would be predominantly more light industrial."
Any residential builds on the former Cemstone land would neighbor Lake City's other housing development area around Jewel Golf Club. One hundred and fifty homes have been built so far on the city's 550 home sites around the golf course, "so there's room for development," Smith said.
Smith also pointed out a past community development project along the shores of Lake Pepin.
"It is a two-and-a-half-mile-long riverwalk, which has been widened as part of the Highway 61 project," she said. "It used to just be a sidewalk. Now it's a 10-foot-wide, multi-use trail."
The final city on the tour was Goodhue, home to 1,250 residents. Though it is the smallest city of the three, it has the lowest average age: 29.9. CEDA community and business development specialist Mitch Massman said that low average age comes from families with young children who work from home or commute to nearby cities for work.
"Most of the people that live here travel outside," said Massman, who works with both Goodhue and Pine Island. "A lot of that goes to Rochester as well as Red Wing."
Though residents might leave Goodhue to work, there are still key developments happening in town, such as the restoration project for the Goodhue Depot. It's a project that tells people "who the community of Goodhue is," according to Massman.
"The city owned it for several years," he said of the historic red depot. "What ended up happening was community members stepped up and purchased the building, and they are restoring it back to its natural glory. All of the interior work is being handcrafted to match the original design."
Eventually, the Goodhue Depot will be home to a cafe and coffee shop.
Across town, Massman pointed to the city's involvement in creating the brand new Goodhue Senior Living Complex and expanding the Goodhue Public Schools building. Both of those projects finished this year.
Showing off the communities
For Smith, CEDA's regional tour is an opportunity for small city leaders to support other cities' initiatives.
"There's always been a lot of collaboration and just keeping up with each other," she said. "One of the cool things about today is just having an opportunity to get into some of these towns that not everybody gets to see. ... It's fun to see the parts of a town that you never really had a reason to get off and understand the development potential in those areas."
Gastner said the tour also helps potential investors see how cities are already improving their residential, commercial and recreational spaces.
"When they see a community investing in itself, it's easier for them to put money into that community, too," he said. "I think we, as an organization, strive to have our team push our communities to constantly be prepared to go after whatever is next for them and not necessarily wait for stuff to knock on the door."