DCA annual meeting highlights progress

More than 70 members and guests of Development Corporation of Austin (DCA) attended the 2016 annual meeting on May 17 at the Hormel Historic Home.

The meeting featured highlights from 2015, appointments to the DCA Board of Directors and keynote speaker Jeff Rossate, executive director for the for the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) Office of Business Development.

“One of the most exciting events from 2015 was the launch of a new commercialization initiative, Austin Community Growth Ventures (ACGV),” reported John Garry, DCA president and CEO. “ACGV is a 501c3 organization funded by the Hormel Foundation. Its initial goal is to help local researchers at The Hormel Institute develop discoveries and ideas into a patentable product or process.”

Another significant achievement in 2015 was the sale of DCA’s industrial building along Interstate 90. Reichel Foods acquired the 54,200-square-foot facility to use as a distribution center, resulting in 14 jobs to the Dexter area. DCA also expanded services to small businesses through the Small Business Development Center and made upgrades to the organization’s Web site.

Three new members were elected to DCA’s Board of Directors including Doug Nuckolls, president of First Farmers and Merchants Bank, Chris Holt, president and CEO at Cooperative Response Center and Scott Fox, owner of Fox Electric.

Rossate provided an overview of Minnesota’s healthy economy. Nonfarm employment was 2.87 million in December 2015, up from 2.83 million the prior year. Minnesota’s unemployment rate, 3.7 percent in April, remains lower than U.S. unemployment at 5.0 percent. The state’s strongest sectors include healthcare, technology and manufacturing.

Job growth has been 1.5 percent over the last four quarters. However, available talent, at all levels, remains a challenge, especially in rural areas. Minnesota has had 98,000 open positions, seemingly unchanged, the past six months.

Rossate also stressed the need for a community to respond quickly to inquiries from companies looking for potential business sites. Austin has a competitive edge in attracting business startups, expansions or relocations by claiming one of 30 statewide certified shovel-ready sites.

Shovel-ready sites give a community an advantage because the most time-consuming technical and regulatory aspects of development are already complete.

“The annual meeting provides an opportunity to meet face-to-face with our members and contributors and celebrate our partnership,” said Garry. “Their annual support is the cornerstone DCA’s work. With contributions of $77,500 in 2015, member financial support has almost doubled since 2011.”

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