Marshall officials discuss 2018’s events, and challenges for the future

Photo by Deb Gau Marshall City Administrator Sharon Hanson and Marshall Mayor Bob Byrnes spoke to an audience of area residents and businesspeople Wednesday at SMSU.

MARSHALL — The presentation by Marshall Mayor Bob Byrnes and City Administrator Sharon Hanson had some things in common with the State of the Union Address, speakers said. It was an opportunity to be transparent, and talk about some of Marshall’s successes and challenges over the past year.

“What I don’t expect is for this side of the room to stand when they agree with something the mayor says, and for this side of the room to keep sitting, like the State of the Union,” joked Marshall Area Chamber of Commerce Director Brad Gruhot.

The audience didn’t act like Congress, but Byrnes and Hanson said they were happy for the opportunity to speak to area businesspeople at Marshall’s first “State of the City” event Wednesday.

“I’m really glad to be here, and glad to see this crowd,” Byrnes said, speaking to an audience gathered at the campus of Southwest Minnesota State University.

Byrnes and Hanson started out by reviewing the events of the past year, and later took questions from the audience.

Some of the notable city events of 2018 included reconstruction of Saratoga Street, and development of Commerce Park, a 137-acre expansion of Marshall’s industrial park.

“The whole idea is to have shovel-ready land ready when business and industry needs, and wants to expand,” Byrnes said.

Hanson said there have been some changes at City Hall over the past year, with more planned for the future. Marshall reorganized its building department into the Building — Community Planning Division, and restructured its administrative services division.

“When I talk to contractors now, there’s a better feeling out there about the building inspection department,” and better communication, Hanson said.

Hanson and Byrnes said the city is also continuing to plan for renovations at the city hall building on Main Street.

Hanson and Byrnes said Marshall’s continued good relationships with businesses and employers have been a key strength for the city over the past year.

“As we all know, Marshall is, and always has been, a community that’s all about jobs,” Byrnes said. “We’re blessed in this community to have regional businesses and regional employers.”

Marshall has 20 large employers with more than 100 employees each, Hanson said.

“It’s very important for our community and the surrounding area,” she said.

Hanson said there have been some big economic and business developments in the city over the past year, including the sale of a majority stake of Schwan’s Company to CJ CheilJedang.

“So many great things have happened with our partnership with Schwan’s and we want to continue that forward into 2019,” Hanson said.

Hanson said there have also been other exciting developments for area businesses, like a planned expansion for Action Manufacturing, as well as new retail developments. Over the past year, Marshall has seen the construction of an Aldi supermarket and learned that Hobby Lobby plans to open a location in town.

“Our downtown is also really important,” Hanson said. “Recently the University of Minnesota did a study on retail sales … Even though Marshall has lost some retail, actual retail sales have increased 27 percent, and when we compare ourselves to some other communities like Worthington or Willmar, we actually exceed those communities.”

Not all the notable events of the past year were good ones, Byrnes and Hanson said. For example, 2018 was a record year for the Marshall Fire Department, with more than 200 fire calls. One major fire in November destroyed the Southwest Coaches bus garage.

Hanson said the property owners are rebuilding. While the fire was a tragedy, Marshall and other area fire departments did excellent work together at the scene.

“It was a true success in terms of mutual aid and response,” she said.