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Deutz outlines proposal for county EDA partnership

MARSHALL — The city of Marshall and Lyon County are talking about the possibility of having an economic development partnership again, about two years after the last partnership ended. At Tuesday’s meeting of the Marshall City Council, council members learned about a framework for a possible partnership, which Marshall EDA Director Lauren Deutz could present to Lyon County commissioners next week.

“You may remember that last fall we had a discussion potentially on a partnership with the county,” said Marshall City Administrator Sharon Hanson. Hanson said the groups had anticipated having county-wide discussion of the idea, before the COVID-19 crisis put the process on hold. “But there has been an emphasis by the County Board to look at an economic development partnership again.”

Deutz’s proposal was for a new city/county partnership called the Lyon County Economic Advancement Partnership (LEAP). The four main areas the partnership would focus on would include business retention and expansion, marketing and recruitment, representation and financial opportunities for area communities, and workforce development.

Last year, the county had been exploring the possibility of hiring its own economic development staff, and the Marshall Area Chamber of Commerce later approached the county about an EDA partnership.

“That started some other conversations,” Deutz said. “This came about because there is currently no one on the county level who is working on EDA projects,” as well as no county budget for marketing.

Lyon County and the city of Marshall were previously in a partnership for economic development and marketing, Discover Southwest Minnesota.

“Some of the reasons we feel that did fail, there was not a lot of county oversight. There was no voting powers from the commissioners,” Deutz said. Engagement with other communities in Lyon County also declined, and the partnership didn’t have a lot of measurable goals, Deutz said. “There was some disagreement that led to the ultimate end of that contract.”

For LEAP, Deutz said she was proposing an organization governed by a board. Board members could include county commissioners and EDA Board members, but they could also possibly include area city officials or EDA directors from area communities.

Deutz outlined some specific goals for each of LEAP’s four target areas, “Because I feel that those measurables are going to be important if this partnership is going to work.” Some of the actions LEAP could take include meeting one-on-one with a few businesses in Lyon County communities every month, grant writing and lobbying, and building connections with higher education like Southwest Minnesota State University and Minnesota West Community and Technical College for workforce development.

“Would this be a good situation where we could have a joint meeting with the county board, city council and chamber?” asked council member Glenn Bayerkohler.

“I think it’s something we could propose,” Deutz said.

“We did have representatives from the chamber, the county, the city and the EDA when we had the initial talks,” Hanson said. But with videoconferencing, a large group meeting might be easier to hold, she said.

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