Even though they've yet to sign a contract with the agency, Spring Grove EDA (Economic Development Authority) board members sat down with CEDA (Community and Economic Development Associates) staffers on March 25. Topics were many and varied but mostly came down to how CEDA will assist the group once all the paperwork is signed.

Ron Zeigler, CEO/president of CEDA, introduced Tom Monson, one of his organization's newest employees. Monson will work "on the ground" (one day every other week) in Spring Grove for the EDA.

Monson said that he grew up in Cannon Falls and recently graduated from Bethel University, where he majored in political science and rhetorical communication studies.

"I am really excited to see what it is that you guys envision for your community," Monson said. "Personally, I don't come in with a particular agenda. I'm here as the EDA's arm to carry out whatever mission it is that you would have me move forward with.... I think Spring Grove has a lot of potential, both in the short and long term.

Another CEDA employee who attended was Rick Howden, who works part-time for Houston County's EDA. He noted that it would be good to have another CEDA staffer to work with in the immediate area, making a coordinated effort.

Ziegler said that the EDA should develop a customized work plan for Monson. He also recommended a business retention/expansion study on the Spring Grove community, along with an updated marketing plan.

"You've got a strong Main Street," Ziegler noted.

By consensus, commissioners agreed to meet with Monson while the CEDA contract goes to city attorney Joe Hammell for review. EDA Chairman Howard Deters said that the according to its bylaws, the EDA has the right to hire organizations to perform services for it. Therefore, approval from the city council to hire CEDA will not be necessary.

EDA votes for historic signs, grants

The board voted unanimously to support a new effort that will place interpretive signs on historic structures throughout Spring Grove. Commissioner JC Nerstad suggested the EDA could offer $100 towards the estimated $400 cost of each historic sign, and members agreed. EDA board members will not qualify for the assistance, but voted to set aside up to $2000 for the program, with buildings throughout the city limits eligible. Several Spring Grove business owners are already interested in adding the signage to their buildings, Nerstad said.

Zeigler suggested using a simple application process to sign up for the assistance. That would also make it easier to keep the signs consistent in appearance, he noted.

Another vote earmarked up to $7500 to continue the EDA's "fix-up fund" program, with a difference.

In 2014, the program will expand beyond Main Street, allowing business owners to make improvements to storefronts throughout Spring Grove. EDA will again provide 50 percent matching grants for up to $2500 per building.

The next board meeting was set for April 22 at 7 p.m. That session will begin with a public hearing on the sale of an EDA lot in the Spring Grove Commercial Park.