Reflecting and moving forward key to SCEIC success

Reflecting on the past can be eye-opening. Stevens County Economic Improvement Director Cheryl Kuhn stated at a meeting with state leaders and local representatives. Reflecting back on what the SCEIC has done and asking questions about how they can be of help to businesses in the future, helps keep this county growing.

The meeting was centered around a visit from Colleen Landkamer who is the State Director of the United States Department of Agriculture Rural Development division. She was joined by her staffer Charlie Hildebrand, Cory Becker from Congresswoman Michelle Fischbach’s office, and Ben Lien, from Senator Amy Klobuchar’s office.

Kuhn first held a conference at Dakota Bank where she was joined by SCEIC Board Member and Dacotah Bank President Mike Mahoney and her staffer Tracy Wolter. She presented some statistics representing the work SCEIC has done since that first loan from the USDA in 1996. The initial loan was for $450,000 and since that time they have grown the lending capability to $3.275 million. In total SCEIC has leverage over $17 million to businesses in Stevens County.

“It has been really fun to look back and see the tremendous impact the SCEIC has had in Steven’s County,” Kuhn stated. She had permission from a few of the businesses who have used the SCEIC loan program. She talked about an initial loan to Prairie View Nursery in the 1990s. The business changed hands a few times and each time a new loan was granted. 

Julia’s Place in Hancock is another example of SCEIC loans and how the business has grown to two homes now. “It is a wonderful facility,” Kuhn stated. “It provides senior care through end-of-life care in a home setting that keeps people in the community.”

The group was going to visit three other businesses who have been aided by SCEIC funds and programs. Those were Superior Industries/Westmor, Fresha and Bonanza Bean. Kuhn talked about one of the businesses that have had a huge footprint in Stevens County; Riverview Dairy. She explained that not all of the businesses benefit through funding but also through other SCEIC services.

Landkamer explained a few programs that the USDA RD provides to communities. The REAP program provides solar help for businesses and farmers. The Community Programs that aid libraries, hospitals and other community buildings. They also have programs for Water & Wastewater, housing, businesses, Broadband, and electrical utilities. Landkamer also reviewed energy savings programs which include wind and solar. All together there are over 70 programs for business loans through her department.

Kuhn added that with expansions taking place at Superior and Riverview this year, there will be a huge need for housing with the extra jobs. Landkamer said that everywhere they go people are asking about housing. Unfortunately, in the last legislative session, the funding was cut in half but that can change from year to year. USDA does do low and very low-income housing and also guaranteed loans for housing.

There are several programs to provide technical support for the Latino community. Kuhn said the SCEIC received a grant through MNDEED to assist in the growth of Rural and Latino businesses and looks forward to learning more about the USDA RD programs.

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The USDA has 17 areas of specialized work with Landkamer serving as the director in the Rural Development Department. She stated that Morris is well-known for their work in sustainability and climate-smart choice. She praised Kuhn, the staff, and the SCEIC board for the work they are doing in Stevens County.

“Just think about what you have done,” she stated. “Look at the effect you have made on so many people.”