Thein: ‘A lot going for it’: DCA business development director sees Austin primed for growth

Mark Thein, a new part-time business development director. Eric Johnson/photodesk@austindailyherald.com

Mark Thein, a new part-time business development director. Eric Johnson/photodesk@austindailyherald.com

City and Development Corporation of Austin leaders see a lot of potential for business development in Austin, and the DCA now has little more help to work toward fulfilling that promise.

The DCA hired Mark Thein in March as part-time business development director. He will consult with and support local businesses and work with private and public partners to attract new businesses and industries to the area while also working to help grow and retain existing businesses.

“For a town of Austin’s size, it really has a lot going for it compared to other communities,” Thein said. “I honestly feel there’s a lot going there.”

Thein, who lives in Winona, has been traveling to Austin since 2014 to coordinate Austin’s Small Business Development Center, a part of the Minnesota Small Business Development Center which provides free, confidential consulting for businesses.

But now Thein will travel to Austin on Mondays and Tuesdays for both SBDC and business development director work.

One of Thein’s key focuses will be working with the city and the Austin Port Authority to develop Austin’s shovel-ready industrial park, Cook Farm, which is located just north of Runnings off of U.S. Highway 218.

“I feel that … the development of the Cook Farm site is critical to economic development in the city of Austin,” Thein said.

DCA President and CEO John Garry said Thein will work to emphasize the potential for a developer to consider Cook Farms. Thein will also partner with the Austin Housing and Redevelopment Authority and the Port Authority Thein to help entrepreneurs and small businesses sustain a vibrant downtown.

“This is how we at DCA compliment what the city, the port authority and the Austin HRA do for economic development and community development,” Garry said.

Thein sees Austin as well positioned for growth, especially since it has transportation access with Interstate 90 and the railroads passing through Austin. Thein said they already hear from several parties interested in Austin.

“There’s lots of interest that we have, not just in the Cook property, but all over the community, which makes it fun to work with,” Thein said.

When it comes to economic development, Thein said the focus is on the labor force and the local economy as the core things business look for, along with available land and the properties.

Thein is also working to form a comprehensive listing of available commercial and industrial properties available around town for interested developers, as Garry said they get a lot of inquiries, especially for properties of about 500 to 1,000 square feet.

“It’s a needed list that no one else really has right now,” he said.

Other business development director responsibilities include assisting companies with gap financing utilizing DCA revolving funds and maintaining an inventory of available land and buildings in the Austin area.

Both Thein and Garry see success from the SBDC work in town, but it’s a different form of development. The SBDC provides confidential one-on-one support to help grow and support existing businesses.

Garry encouraged business people looking to expand or grow to contact Thein to take advantage of his vast experience which dates to 1996 working as an SBDC consultant

“Mark’s really good at sitting down and helping them think through things,” Thein said.

When he first started coming to Austin, Thein said he at first impressed with Austin’s well-established downtown and he also praised Austin’s 18th Avenue Northwest retail corridor.

“What Austin has is a lot of available land,” he said.

With Austin being about 42 miles from Rochester, Thein said it’s in a better position that communities like Winona to benefit from economic development from things like the Destination Medical Center.

Thein has a master’s degree in international business from Saint Mary’s University in Winona and a bachelor of science degree in business administration from Winona State University. In addition to working as a small business consultant, he has also worked as the Planning and Economic Development director for Chatfield, Minnesota, and Business Development coordinator for Southeastern Minnesota Development center in Rushford.

Thein can be contacted at 507-459-3060 or mwjrthein@gmail.com

About the organizations

•Small Business Development Centers (SBDCs) provide the professional expertise and guidance that every small business owner needs to flourish in today’s competitive and ever-changing business world. More information is available at www.mnsbdc.com

•The Development Corporation of Austin (DCA) is a nonprofit economic development organization that promotes economic growth for the Austin, Minnesota area and Greater Mower County. DCA works with public and private sector partners to attract new businesses and industries, as well as to support existing enterprises. DCA activities include business development support, marketing and initiatives to spur additional private investment in the community. For more information, visit www.austindca.org.

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