Monticello economic development services plan getting additional review

WSB & Associates wants to use its long-term consulting relationship with the city of Monticello to cement an agreement for economic development services.
Council members and EDA commissioners were asked April 22 to review a plan from WSB & Associates for services related to economic development.
Bret Weiss, president of WSB & Associates, Inc., the city’s consulting engineering firm, introduced John Uphoff, an economic development specialist, and Public Engineer Brian Bourassa, a WSB principal, senior project manager and economic development specialist at the start of the joint special meeting.
The city has been evaluating options for economic development since the departure of Economic Development Director Megan Barnett-Livgard in mid-2012. The idea of making a strategic shift in the city’s economic development program occurred last December. Weiss has worked with Monticello since 1988.
The Monticello Economic Development Authority (EDA) exists to direct goals and objectives that attract higher wage level jobs, expanding the city’s tax base.
Weiss, Uphoff and Bourassa told council members and commissioners last week WBS’ economic development service would be aimed at helping the city achieve its goals and objectives.
“Economic development is at the core of what WSB is all about. We want to be more active on the front end,” Weiss said.
The proposed price of WSB’s economic development services package is $4,000 per month with a minimum term of one year.
In proposal documents prepared for the city, WSB stated it’s been in the economic development for 17 years. The company represents more than 35 communities as city engineer and performs services for 90 cities.
“We have become active in local chambers, economic development groups and have developed relationships with many of the larger developers and builders,” Uphoff and Bourassa wrote.
“[The] recent addition of economic development was necessary to complete our team approach to providing full client services. In his meeting introduction, Weiss added: “We’ve been doing this for a long time. We’re trying to change the game.”
Bourassa said an ongoing lack of current data is a chink in the economic development armor of the city.
“You are at a big disadvantage because the Met Council is doing that for its cities,” he said.
The Metropolitan Council or Met Council is the regional governmental agency and metropolitan planning organization in Minnesota serving the Twin Cities seven-county metropolitan area.
The Met Council is granted regional authority powers in state statutes by the Minnesota Legislature.
The legislature entrusts the Met Council and its representatives to maintain public services and oversee growth of the state’s largest metro area.
“Just collecting data won’t get us where we want to be,” Uphoff said. “We need to get data in front of those who need it. There’s a lot of data out there, but it’s in a lot of different places. The key is getting that data collected and organized ahead of time.” Uphoff singled out two organizations as key data collectors.
The Minneapolis-St. Paul Regional Economic Development Partnership (Greater MSP) is a public-private non-profit partnership that currently serves Anoka, Isanti, Ramsey, St. Croix, Washington, Scott, Pierce, Sherburne, Hennepin, Dakota, Chisago, Carver and Wright counties.
The Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) is the state’s principal economic development agency. DEED programs promote business recruitment, expansion, and retention; international trade; workforce development; and community development.
“Those agencies are collecting data, but it’s kind of a scattershot approach,” Uphoff said. WSB wants to take a targeted approach with its new Monticello data collection effort by identifying key market segments.
“We want to make sure we are on the same page as the city council,” Uphoff said. Weiss added Monticello would be the first city to benefit from WSB’s new economic development services approach. “This is a new effort for us,” Weiss said. “The economic development piece [of this concept] is close to my heart. Our goal is having more than one job [going at one time] Nobody is doing this the way we are. It’s all about getting out on the street [and working prospects].”
During the April 22 special meeting, Councilmember Glen Posusta asked WSB representatives how they determined where and when a company would want to expand.
“How do you get potential leads?” Posusta asked. Bourassa replied WSB would accelerate networking with Greater MSP and DEED and prospecting with development-related organizations such as building trade associations.
“We’ll be successful if we can drive those people,” Bourassa said.
City Administrator Jeff O’Neill said the city’s use of WSB for economic development services, even if on a one-year trial basis, would give city staff more capacity to do other things.
“I do like the idea,” added Mayor Clint Herbst. Weiss added: “We’re excited about this. We want to get this right with the first client. You would be that client.”
O’Neill said earlier this week WSB’s proposal will be presented at a workshop prior to the start of the Monticello EDA’s May 8 meeting.
Monticello Industrial & Economic Development Committee (IEDC) and Monticello Chamber of Commerce & Industry representatives will be invited, he said.

Contact Managing Editor Tim Hennagir at tim.hennagir@ecm-inc.com

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