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Rugby JDA awarded Main Street grant for economic development plan

By Sue Sitter - | Sep 19, 2020

The Rugby Job Development Authority has received a grant of more than $28,000 for economic development planning from the North Dakota Main Street Initiative.

Copies of the grant award letter were distributed to JDA board members at their regular monthly meeting, held Sept. 9 in the JDA office.

The award letter said the Main Street Initiative had awarded $28,885 for the grant, which required a match of $7,221.25 from the JDA.

“We went through the bidding process that would help us with the plan and that was all approved this year,” JDA Executive Director Liz Heisey told the board.

Andrea Boe of engineering and communications firm AE2S presented a proposal and contract for services to develop and create an economic diversification and strategic plan for the community.

Boe’s letter to Heisey, presented before the JDA, said, ” The Rugby community is at a critical moment in time where workforce development and community health are dependent on taking the next step, being creative and finding the next generation strategies that will work for your unique community.”

Boe also attended the meeting to outline the plan to the board and answer questions.

Boe said the planning process was “divided into phases.”

“As we start this process, the first thing we like to do is the discovery phase,” Boe explained. “You already have a great bunch of data. You’ve done past (city comprehensive) plans – you’re doing a new one shortly. The county has done some planning. It sounds like the school has just finished a strategic plan from what you said. The hospital is going through a strategic plan,” Boe said, describing how the economic development plan could pull from existing data collected from various parts of the community.

Boe said the plan will also use data from geographical surveys and sources.

“And then, we at AE2S just purchased a system called Online Sidewalk,” Boe added. “It’s an economic development tool. It’s pretty dynamic, actually.”

Boe said the Online Sidewalk program “helps to really create the plan in real time.”

“So, it’s a living plan,” Boe noted. “It’s not necessarily a document. It’s a web-based tool. They have data like national data that you would use for economic development planning. You would put your own data into it and create (electronic information) dashboards.”

Board member Jodie Schaan asked Boe if the Rugby JDA would have access to the Online Sidewalk program.

“Yes,” Boe answered.

“Normally, communities do purchase this tool,” Boe said. “I’ve worked with communities that have purchased it. It can be a little spendy for smaller communities. It’s subscription-based, so for our subscription, it’s going to be about $8,000 a year. Some communities do purchase them and you’re welcome to do that, but we have unlimited reporting from it, so we can do unlimited reporting for you.”

The JDA approved the proposal, which said fees “not to exceed $36,091 without written authorization from the client” would be charged for services to create the plan.

Heisey said grant monies from the state would be paid to the JDA once the plan was completed.

In other business, Heisey told the board the JDA was launching a new marketing campaign.

“We’ve been working a lot on marketing our community,” Heisey said. “We’ve been doing a ‘Life is Better in the Center’ marketing campaign. We’ve been advertising a lot on Facebook and the radio has ‘Live in Rugby’ ads that we’ve been running.”

Heisey said the JDA office assistant has been “working on our new sheet that has demographic information – major employers, child care and we’ve been updating our website. Our Facebook marketing campaign that we have is also linked to our website.”

The board also considered and approved a Flex Pace interest buydown proposal for a local business loan. Heisey said the assistance funds would be spread over a 120 month period and amount to approximately $15,000.

The board also approved bills and financials in the monthly treasurer’s report, which Heisey said included “a bill from Advanced Engineering (AE2S) for a study/assessment of available city-owned utilities needed for economic/community development site selection inquiries.” The billed amount was $5,160, paid for by JDA discretionary funds.

Heisey reported an increase in sales tax revenues over September of 2019.

Board member Terry Hoffert asked, “Our sales tax dollars are up higher than we projected? So we should be in pretty good shape going into 2021 because didn’t we put a mill levy on, too, for that?”

“We’re still running a deficit or projected deficit,” Heisey answered. “If sales tax stays the same, and a comparable year at this time was around $260,000; if (revenues are in that range), that would be $20,000 more at the end of the year than what we have projected. So, that would put our ending fund balance around $20,000 more than what we’re planning for. I think we still have around a $70,000 deficit,” she added.

“So the $20,000 more, is that with a mill levy or without a mill levy?” Hoffert asked.

“That’s with the mill levy that we got this year,” Heisey answered. “Next year, potentially – we had $20,000 more this year; we’d have $20,000 more next year, so that would only decrease our deficit. Our beginning fund balance would be higher, but our deficit next year would be $20,000 less. We’d still be running a deficit. It looks like we’ll be running a deficit until we start breaking even on the Chalmers lots.”

“That’s why we’re running a deficit? Because of Chalmers?” asked board member Gary Kraft.

“Yes,” Heisey answered.

“If you remember, we said it would probably be 2023 before we start breaking even,” Rugby Mayor Sue Steinke said.

“After that, when we’d sell a lot, we’d have income coming back into the general fund,” Heisey said.

In other business, Heisey shared information about an upcoming online Main Street summit and a conference hosted in Bismarck by Economic Development North Dakota. Both will take place in early October.

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