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Businesses seeing reward from Grove City loan program

Joan Reckdahl discusses how the city's economic development program has helped local businesses through a corporation loan program. Tribune photo by Ron Adams

GROVE CITY -- A Grove City organization wants people to know that financial assistance is available to businesses interested in setting up shop or expanding here.

The Grove City Economic Development Corporation was established in 1986 with the goal of providing financial support to existing and prospective businesses in Grove City. It began with 48 shareholders who contributed $12,000, and with careful management and judicious lending practices, the corporation's funds have, over the years, grown five-fold to $65,000, according to board members.

Economic Development Corporation President Jerry Reckdahl says the corporation started in an effort to finance a local grocery store.

"We wanted a grocery store in the community. That's why we funded it,'' said Reckdahl. "We needed additional funds to get the store operating. That's why we sold shares and that's how it got started.''

Besides the grocery store, the corporation helped finance other businesses that wanted to get started, including Midwest Metal and Precision Fiberglas. Both companies are still in business. Loans also went to four other businesses; one is no longer in business.

Secretary Joan Reckdahl said her husband did much of collecting but others assisted.

"It was a cooperative effort and we thought it was quite successful at $12,000,'' she said.

She said the corporation is trying to get the word out that the organization has money to lend to people who are interested in expanding or improving or starting a business in Grove City.

The Reckdahls came to Grove City 50 years ago as teachers and planned to stay two years.

"But the reason we really stayed, besides the fact that we're very happy here, is because the people were so good to us. They are just the salt of the earth," she said.

She recalled how they used to know everybody.

"Because we would go to the grocery store and people would be there and we would visit with them, go to the post office and see people,'' she said. "And that's changed so much because we don't have a grocery store in town and a place where shoppers gather.

"And we have lost some of our town's children through open enrollment to nearby schools and that makes us less well-acquainted with people whose children are going elsewhere,'' she said.

Board members say those and other conditions have worked against a little town.

"But I think it still has a lot of wonderful people and it's a vibrant city,'' she said. "We are solid citizens and we work together.''

Bill Peterka, a corporation board member and a member of the Grove City City Council, is glad to hear that almost all of the money has been repaid.

"We have to turn the tide here in town and to get it going the other way, rather than losing businesses and seeing all these vacant spots on the street,'' Peterka said. "We'd like to see a little more development.''

Small towns were set up with the idea that people could ride a horse and buggy seven miles and they would be in town, he said. Now, people think nothing of driving to Willmar or St. Cloud or other places.

"It's no problem at all, so small towns have all suffered. But we want to hang on as best we can,'' Peterka said.

Corporation board member and businessman Bob Simmons would like to assist expanding businesses.

"If there's an existing business out there that's already going and they'd like to move into a bigger building or a better location, I'd like to see something like that,'' he said.

Because funding came from local donors, "we have felt a keen responsibility toward those people and so we don't want to loan out money and lose it,'' said Joan Reckdahl.

"We have an application form and includes some questions about their record and collateral they would offer because we want them to be good loans and we want to have the money come back so it can be a fund that lasts and it can be helping for years,'' she said.

David Little
David Little covers the Willmar City Council, Willmar Municipal Utilities and other city news.
(320) 235-1150