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Murray County EDA plan focuses on development

SLAYTON -- Ralph Knapp, president of the Murray County Economic Development Authority (EDA), presented an action plan for economic development for 2006-2007 to the Murray County Commissioners on Tuesday morning, along with EDA Director Heidi Winter.

The action plan has four focus areas: business and industry development, tourism, community development and EDA board/director.

In business and industry development, the EDA's objectives include involving Fulda and Murray County Central students in new venture development.

"About 70 percent of new growth comes from within in smaller communities," Knapp told the commissioners.

A second objective is to encourage business development and other enterprises that impact the agricultural community and to target specific opportunities for recruitment or development of value added businesses.

In the area of tourism, the EDA has several objectives for 2006 and beyond. The first is to promote "birding" in Murray County.

"Birding is huge," Knapp said. "I think we can turn that into some profit."

The EDA will continue to collaborate with other counties on construction of the Casey Jones Trail while working to develop other spur trails within Murray County. It also hopes to organize and market a "day tour" of Murray County.

A celebration for Murray County's 150th year as a territory will be planned for 2007.

"Murray County was established as a territory one year before Minnesota became a state," Knapp said.

In the area of community development, Knapp said the EDA wants to explore the feasibility of a county-wide Chamber of Commerce.

"We have kind of a dream here," he said. "It is a little bit ahead of its time."

Other objectives include establishing a county-wide inventory of infrastructure and identifying housing needs and development potential in Murray County.

The EDA board has many objectives for the next two years, including enhancing the Murray County Web site, participating in regional marketing efforts, assessing overnight housing and hospitality needs for both business and tourism activities and establishing a presence in the MCC and Fulda school districts by possibly adding a Murray County history segment to the school curriculums.

Winter has also been assigned the task of collaborating with the EDA committees as well as other Murray County departments to review and evaluate the need for a newly designed Murray County logo.

"(Winter) has fulfilled our needs for a director well," Knapp told the commissioners. "She has been very active in quite a few things."

Knapp reminded the commissioners the Murray County EDA had just passed its five-year mark, having been formed on Dec. 7, 2000. He handed out an achievement report that chronicles some of the EDA's accomplishments in five years.

The report included:

l The revolving loan fund had disbursed $228,000, which Knapp called a "hefty amount," funding 14 projects that created or maintained 42 jobs in Murray County.

l After the Lake Wilson Fire Hall explosion, which occurred two years ago today, the Murray County EDA assisted the City of Lake Wilson by making a $100,000 disbursement from the revolving loan fund to Lake Wilson for disaster recovery efforts, to be paid back in 10 annual payments of $15,000. The EDA also provided technical assistance in writing a grant to the Minnesota Ag Board for the Schmitz Grain Elevator project.

l Murray County applied for and was awarded 72 acres in Job Opportunity Building Zones (JOBZ) in October 2003. The acres are located in Slayton, Chandler and Lake Wilson. Murray County currently has two JOBZ deals -- one in Lake Wilson and another in Chandler.