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New Worthington investment group looks to encourage business growth

WORTHINGTON -- The newly created Worthington Investment Network, appropriately acronymed WIN, has one mission: grow the local economy. The private group, consisting of volunteer investors, will primarily pool money to provide new or expanding bus...

WORTHINGTON - The newly created Worthington Investment Network, appropriately acronymed WIN, has one mission: grow the local economy.

 

The private group, consisting of volunteer investors, will primarily pool money to provide new or expanding businesses with a location to lease and potentially purchase.

 

The idea of a private economic development group has been talked about for a long time. Alan Oberloh remembers having discussions about it all the way back to when he was first elected mayor in 2002, but nothing ever materialized. He was tired of talking and hearing about how rural cities such as Hutchinson, Luverne, Austin and Sioux Center, Iowa, boosted economic development in their own unique ways.

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“We’re always hearing, ‘This is how they do it in this town or that town,’” Oberloh said. “I think our goal is to have it so people at some point will say, ‘This is how they do it in Worthington to encourage economic development and economic growth.’”


WIN became an official limited liability partnership last week through the work of Abraham Algadi, executive director at the Worthington Regional Economic Development Corp. (WREDC). Oberloh and Greg Raymo, a Worthington banker with experience dealing with Hutchinson’s economic development agency, are the group’s co-founders.

The group will acquire real estate in Worthington, which could include existing buildings, and lease it to businesses - similar to the model in Sioux Center. As of now, WIN will not attempt to take over the gap financing role of banks and other lending institutions, though Oberloh said the group could lease out expensive equipment if the need is there.

 

WIN plays perfectly with Algadi’s mission to, for the most part, cut out public subsidies from the economic development model.

“The business and economic development culture that for ages has relied and continues to rely on subsidies is really not working any more,” Algadi said. “We need innovative ways, not unlike many communities have done before, in creating a private mechanism of local investors who know the details about existing opportunities and who can put their money where their mouth is.”

While the private sector takes care of providing real estate and covering certain costs, the public side can invest in talent, education and workforce development, Algadi said.

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The minimum investment is set at $10,000 for the time being. WIN will primarily assist businesses in Worthington, though it could assist communities in close proximity to the city as well.

 

“It’s a way of providing an opportunity to somebody who is interested in investing in the community they live,” Oberloh said. “I want to do what I can to grow the community, and I know there’s a lot of other people that are thinking the same way like I do.”

“We’ve done nothing for too long, now it’s time to do something,” he added.

Those interested should contact Oberloh (329-1092) or Algadi (372-5515 or invest@worthington-minnesota.com ) for more information.

 

The economic development group will host an organization meeting in the near future. More information should be available by the time of the WREDC annual meeting on March 14.

 

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The investment group lines up with the WREDC’s recently organized Southwest Minnesota Venture Network that identifies business needs in Worthington, Jackson, Windom, Mountain Lake and Fairmont.

 

Each community has its own needs and its own goals. In Worthington, the network has identified several industries that are under-represented, such as family friendly food and entertainment and child care.

 

“People are leaving town to shop for these things to the tune of $125 million per year,” Algadi said. “We have to address the market’s needs and take advantage of these opportunities.”

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