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SWMn NWIa Venture Network aims to stimulate economic development

JACKSON -- About 90 people with interest in stimulating regional economic development convened Thursday at the Intivity Center for a new networking opportunity.

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Community Venture Network owner Justin Erickson (right, foreground) listens to SWMn NWIa Venture Network panelist (far left) John Francis as fellow panelists (from left) Tom Ryan, Eric Tweten, Rick Brimacomb and Pat Hart look on Thursday in Jackson. (Ryan McGaughey/The Globe)

JACKSON - About 90 people with interest in stimulating regional economic development convened Thursday at the Intivity Center for a new networking opportunity.

 

The get-together was being billed as a meeting of the SWMn NWIa Venture Network, whose goal is to connect entrepreneurs, inventors and researchers with investors, available technical resources and economic development professionals. Abraham Algadi, executive director of the Worthington Regional Economic Development Corp, is helping coordinate the network.

 

“It has become very clear that living in a technological age ... in order for us to cater to that cadre of new folks, they need things to do,” Algadi said Thursday. “Communities need amenities that can help them grow.”

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That theme - the need to add new and appealing amenities to the area’s rural communities - was echoed throughout Thursday’s program.

 

AGCO Director of Operation Eric Fisher, whose company hosted the event, told attendees that AGCO currently has about 900 people employed on its campus. Though the company is now starting to come out of a “super trough” that has lasted nearly three years, employee recruitment and retention is always a concern.

“Just over 25 percent of our employees travel from over 30 miles or more (from Jackson),” Fisher said. It’s really important for businesses like us … if we’re going to grow, we’re going to need more amenities within that close distance.

 

“When you look at these things, I think it’s awesome that everyone is here today to discuss this,” he added.

 

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Justin Erickson, who owns Community Venture Network out of Bloomington, explained that he works with communities across an eight-state area in the Midwest.

 

“I was here in Jackson about five months ago and a discussion of retail development came up,” Erickson said. “For a long time, the consensus belief was ‘if you build it, they will come.’

 

“To an extent, that has been true, but it also requires a little more prodding and facilitating,” Erickson noted of rural communities. “The question for us is, how we can take this geographical territory … and start to get in front of some folks that are experts in economic development.”

 

If Thursday’s program is any indication, Erickson’s stated goal is already being accomplished. A five-man panel convened following lunch included: John Francis, often known as “Johnny Franchise” for his work in the franchise industry; Tom Ryan, a developer with Oppidan, headquartered in Excelsior; Eric Tweten, who has executive experience in hotel and restaurant development, consulting to profitability and operational excellence; Pat Hart, who specializes in commercial and residential real estate deals for Meyer Real Estate Group of Roseville; and Rick Brimacomb, co-founder of the Sherpa Partners venture capital fund, as well as founder of Club Entrepreneur and The Network Connect.

 

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Clayton Lewis, president of the Jackson Economic Development Corp., offered a rationale why an effort was made to reach out to the five panelists.

 

“Every time we turn around, we hear young kids don’t want to live here because there’s not anything to,” said Lewis, explaining that a common desire is to have businesses and franchises often only available in larger communities. “A lot of people want a lot of things they have to travel 40, 50, 60 miles to get.”

 

“Our hope is that this will not be a flash in the pan,” said Algadi, who has often referenced the networking effort as “Shark Tank,” after the popular television series. “Our hope is that what will be emerging out of this will be a network that will drive the process … for local leaders to place a higher priority on economic development in the broadest sense of the word.”

 

Algadi welcomes feedback, and can be reached at 372-5515 or invest@worthington-minnesota.com .  

Ryan McGaughey arrived in Worthington in April 2001 as sports editor of The Daily Globe, and first joined Forum Communications Co. upon his hiring as a sports reporter at The Dickinson (North Dakota) Press in November 1998. McGaughey became news editor in Worthington in November 2002 and editor in August 2006.
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