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Backman will return to Windom as EDA director

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WINDOM -- Aaron Backman will be returning to a familiar place when he begins his role as Windom's Economic Development Authority director at the end of the month.

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The city's search for an EDA director started in January, when Windom city council members accepted Mark Hanson's resignation, said Windom city administrator, Steve Nasby.

Council members shortlisted three finalists, including Betsy Herding and Mitch Voehl, off the 21 applicants.

They reached a unanimous vote Tuesday during their council meeting for Backman's hiring.

Backman was previously hired as the EDA executive director in Windom from 2007 to 2010, but left for a similar position in Ramsey.

"I'm very excited about the opportunity to work with the City of Windom again," he said during a phone interview Thursday. "I'm very pleased and honored to be considered for that position."

As the EDA director in Windom, his responsibilities will focus on coordinating and promoting economic development activities for both new and existing businesses with two primary goals in mind -- to grow the city's tax base and to enhance job creation.

"Windom is a net importer of people that work there," he said. "On a daily basis, there are more people who come in from various counties to work then those who leave."

Several priorities he has set for himself include reconnecting with businesses he was once familiar with.

"Businesses transition and evolve so there's a need to reconnect with them," he said.

Another goal Backman has is to help spur expansion of major employers in the city.

"We have two large employers -- Toro and PM Beef," he said. "I don't only see the opportunity for manufacturing sectors to expand but also service and retail sectors."

Population-wise, Ramsey is about five times larger than Windom, but Backman strongly believes community size does not dictate much.

"It's the vision of the community that is important," he said. "Small cities have a very strong sense of community."

Backman comes with 17 years of experience in the economic development field in Minnesota and North Dakota.

One of his more notable accomplishments, he said was leading the effort to recruit Medtronic to Mounds View when he was the economic development coordinator there.

"That's the CRDM (Cardiac Rhythm Disease Management) campus," he explained. "It was a fun project to work on. There are about 4,100 people working at that campus."

Backman enjoys working in economic development.

"I've always been impressed with people who are creative business people . (They) definitely have better knowledge of their products than I do," he said. "I feel that I can be a liaison between the government and the private sector to help them grow because usually there's something holding them back."

Backman earned a bachelor's degree in geography and history from Augustana College, Rock Island, Ill.

He then pursued a master's degree in public administration with a focus on economic development from the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities.

His first day at the city of Windom will be March 26.

Daily Globe Reporter Ana Anthony may be reached at 376-7321.

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