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EDC defers contribution to Angel Network

ATWATER -- The Kandiyohi County and City of Willmar Economic Development Commission is holding off on a decision whether to help fund the Minnesota Angel Network for a second year, saying it wants more information on how well the organization is meeting its goals.

Members of the joint operations board said Thursday that they want to be sure their investment in the statewide angel network -- $25,000 last year and potentially another $25,000 this year -- is being well-spent.

"It's sizeable money. There's a lot of things we can do with $25,000," said board member Rick Nordin.

The Economic Development Commission took to the road Thursday, holding its meeting in Atwater to give board members a chance to see what the town is doing with business growth and development.

No one from the community showed up for a half-hour listening session that was on the agenda. Instead, EDC board members and staff toured the historic Atwater Hotel, now home to the Atwater city office, the Atwater City Council chambers and public library.

More joint operations board meetings will be held in other Kandiyohi County communities in upcoming months.

Thursday's decision to delay action on a contribution to the Minnesota Angel Network came after lengthy discussion.

The angel network is a relatively young organization, built through public and private-sector partnerships, whose purpose is to vet promising entrepreneurs and help connect them with private investors to obtain start-up capital.

Kandiyohi County has attempted to start its own angel network, but involvement in the state network provides access to a wider pool of potential equity investors and strengthens this as a financing tool for would-be entrepreneurs, said Jean Spaulding, assistant director of the Economic Development Commission.

It also brings a more formal and process-oriented approach to how entrepreneurs and potential projects are evaluated, she said. "If this is important, we've got to get better at it."

The Minnesota Angel Network was getting itself established last year. A second year of funding should help it get "on more solid ground," she said.

But Steve Renquist, executive director of the Economic Development Commission, said he had questions about how much progress the angel network has made in its first year. He recommended deferring another contribution until more information can be gathered.

"I still think they're a great organization with much promise," he said.

Anne Polta

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

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