MANKATO - It's not a perfect fit, but it could be good fit with some alterations, was the consensus of those who made the Wednesday trip to Mankato to observe the Greater Mankato Growth structure and facilities.
Leaders from the Marshall Area Chamber of Commerce and the Marshall Economic Development Authority have proposed a new structure for the MAC, EDA and the city's Convention and Visitors Bureau in order to work more efficiently and cooperatively for Marshall and the region.
"There are some tools we can take from this," EDA President Dave Edens said of the Mankato model. "I don't see this as a direct fit at this time."
The Mankato model is a private organization which includes the chamber, a private organization, a privately-funded EDA and the city's CVB.
The CVB is housed at the Verizon Wireless convention center, while the chamber and EDA are in a separate building.
While Greater Mankato Growth shares some internal resources, CVB money is CVB money, CVB President Anna Thill said. While the CVB is within the Mankato structure, it works hard to have a separate identity, Thill said.
The city of Mankato does provide $250,000 to Greater Mankato Growth but retains its own city EDA. Greater Mankato growth's budget is $1.5 million,significantly more than that of the combined EDA, CVB and MAC budget.
Interim MAC CEO and President Cal Brink said while the model is not a perfect fit for Marshall, there are pieces the city can use.
Representatives from all three organizations said they'd ask members from their committees to form a steering committee that would determine a proposed structure for a combined Marshall organization. That could be completed in several weeks or at least by December, EDA Director Mark Hanson and Brink said.
CVB board member Steve Klinkhammer said he was impressed by how the Mankato group cooperated to bring people into the city.
That's an area Marshall could improve on, MAC executive board president Mary Maertens, the president and CEO of Avera Marshall Regional Medical Center said, "As a person who runs a large business in Marshall I wish Marshall to be more cohesive in an effort to bring more people to town."
All three organizations could work more cooperatively to do that, Maertens said. "While I say that, I don't think we are at odds, but there is some duplication and some gray zones..." said Maertens
Businesses should not be torn as to which organization they want or need to invest time, money and general support in, Maertens said.
Representatives of Greater Mankato Growth said business and community needs were not being met under existing chamber, CVB and EDA structures. There were also redundancies in services and in support - "we were tieing up some of the same kinds of people in the (separate) organizations," said Tom Riley, the new business development director in Mankato said.
Greater Mankato Growth has programs which help start new businesses in an incubation format. Some of those are housed in the organization's building. The organization also has a talent initiative which focuses on retaining and attracting a workforce, including students at Minnesota State Mankato, said Barb Embacher, the vice president of community development for the organization.
Edens said Lyon County had a position which worked with facilitating the start or expansion of new businesses. That is a service that could be accomplished under a new structure, Edens said.
Greater Mankato has a larger staff than the five total part-time and full-time staff members of the CVB, MAC and EDA. At its core is president and CEO Jonathan Zierdt.
"Jonathan is the link," said Tom Riley, the organization's new business development director.
Some participants in Wednesday's tour said they were concerned about who would be in charge of a proposed structure in Marshall.
Brink and EDA Director Mark Hanson stressed that public money dedicated to the CVB and EDA would be retained by those entities, and MAC money would be retained by MAC and none would become part of one large money pool.