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Economic development panel gets to funding question

RED WING — After five educational meetings, important financial questions have started to pop up for a group of people charged with discussing economic development in Red Wing.

The learning process is picking up for the members of the Blue Ribbon Panel, who have been meeting since December, said city council president Mike Schultz.

"The mayor has put together a great group of people," Schultz said. "They're working hard. I believe they need our support."

While Schultz and the city council affirmed their support of the panel and its goal with words, nothing tangible has been provided. Funding of up to $10,000 was discussed but was ultimately shot down Monday night. The city has only $20,000 remaining in its 2010 contingency fund.

Funding changes panel?


Some also wondered if city funding would change the fundamental nature of the panel, which was specifically set up as an independent body outside the realm of government. Panel co-chairman Scott Wordelman scoffs at that notion.

"To me, it's immaterial," said Wordelman, president and CEO of Fairview Red Wing Health Services. "It is what it is. You've got to do this right. If you want to do this right, it has to be funded. We want to make sure this work has credibility. Whatever the panel ultimately recommends will be independent."

Mayor John Howe had three goals in mind when he created the panel: Assess Red Wing's economic development, create a strategy to position the city for the future and determine how best to communicate such plans to the community. The panel has since added a fourth goal: Assess and improve the quality of life in Red Wing.

Further discussions

The city has requested a rough budget outline from the Blue Ribbon Panel before deciding whether to supply any funding. The 16-member panel met Wednesday night to discuss that issue, after listening to guest speaker Bill Blazer, president of the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce.

With the dwindling contingency fund in mind, council member Lisa Bayley suggested a matching program of public and private money. Panel member Carolyn Hedin responded that some of her colleagues would be interested in contributing funds, but Wordelman said Wednesday that he'd prefer to have the city's financial backing.

"My concern is, as co-chair, we think this is clearly a city issue," he said. "It's not something the citizens are going to do out of their own pockets."

The issue will be addressed again in upcoming council meetings.

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