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EDC board seeks stable funding for 2011

WILLMAR -- Board members of the Kandiyohi County and City of Willmar Economic Development Commission want to see the same level of funding for the agency in 2011 as it is receiving this year.

It's still at least five months before the EDC must come up with a proposed budget and tax levy for next year. But the operating board went on record Thursday in support of keeping the EDC's funding stable for another year.

The board's position will be conveyed to the joint powers board, which meets in April.

The final say belongs to Kandiyohi County and the city of Willmar, which each have three representatives on the Economic Development Commission governing board.

But the move Thursday by the operating board sends a signal: Board members don't want to see the agency's funding cut, but they're prepared to hold the line on spending.

"This is no time to be asking for an increase," said Ron Erpelding, a member of the joint operations board.

The EDC has had no budget increase for the past three years. This year's budget is $485,811, of which about 15 percent has been spent so far.

The agency can continue to carry out its programs with flat funding for another year, said Steve Renquist, executive director of the EDC.

"I don't see anything that can't be accommodated in the budget," he said.

But he also warned the board that with three lean years in a row, the Economic Development Commission has not been able to set aside money in its reserve fund and will eventually be forced to tap those reserves.

"We can operate this year and one more year without damaging our reserve structure," he said.

The big concern is whether there will be enough money reserved to allow the EDC to respond if a major opportunity comes up. No large projects are in the offing, however, and Renquist said the reserves are adequate for now.

"If the right thing arrives, we can handle it," said Duane Hultgren, chairman of the operating board.

The board is already looking ahead to the 2011 budget process. In June, the Economic Development Commission will hold a retreat to develop a five-year strategic plan. A second special meeting is scheduled in July to set annual goals and a proposed budget for next year.

Anne Polta

Anne Polta covers health care, business/economic development and general assignment. Her HealthBeat blog can be found at http://healthbeat.areavoices.com. Follow her on Twitter at @AnnePolta.

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