Community and Economic Development Associates (CEDA) CEO and President Ron Zeigler spoke to the Spring Valley Economic Development Authority (EDA) during its meeting on Wednesday, March 12.

"It's going to be an interesting 20 years," Zeigler said of the changes the Destination Mayo Clinic (DMC) may bring to the surrounding areas, including Spring Valley.

While he admits much of the change will be centered in Rochester, Zeigler believes communities need to be prepared in specific areas including housing, transportation systems, business opportunities and tourism.

"Not everyone is going to want to live in Rochester," he explained. The surrounding cities need to be ready for the opportunity for growth, adding a transportation system may be key in attracting new residents to a certain area.

"There are going to be a lot of businesses that are probably going to be spin-offs of the activity happening. A lot of those will happen in Rochester, but we need to be prepared that some of those will want to be in more economical communities rather than Rochester," Zeigler continued.

As for tourism, he told the EDA every year 80 percent of Mayo's 1 million patients are within driving distance to the clinic.

With only an average of 30 percent of a patient's time being spent in the clinic he believes surrounding cities need to capitalize on the remaining 70 percent.

Working with nearby communities to create a day trip through each town or a tourism brochure featuring the attractions in each community may be ways to not only lure in the tourists but bring them in without each city spending an abundance of money in the process.

Most importantly, communities need to find what is unique to them and shine a light on it, he added.

Spring Valley economic development director Cathy Enerson is employed through a contract with CEDA. Ziegler pointed out that the meeting marked her sixth anniversary in that role.

Rochester Cheese

EDA President Dave Phillips briefed the group on the recent meeting he and city administrator Deb Zimmer had with Gary Smith, president of the Rochester Area Economic Development, Inc., and Kevin Kelleher of the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED).

The two asked for the meeting to clarify their position in regards to Rochester Cheese's expansion in Rochester.

"They actually don't have much more information than we do in a lot of ways. The person from the Rochester EDA wanted to make sure we understood that they didn't recruit Rochester Cheese and Rochester Cheese came to them," Phillips explained.

In fact, they admitted the city of Spring Valley offered the company a better deal than they are able to get in Rochester.

The city offered to move the company to a new facility within Spring Valley city limits, using a combination of free land in the new industrial park and tax increment financing after hearing that Rochester Cheese may move jobs out of the area. The company was also offered help to attempt to seek FEMA funding due to the location of the current site residing in a floodplain. The hope was to keep the business in Spring Valley, but those offers were turned down by the company.

To date it seems there are more questions than answers as to why the company chose to move jobs from Spring Valley to Rochester leaving many involved feeling frustrated.

"The most frustrating part is the lack of communication and not knowing why they chose to move even after our offer," concluded Zimmer.

The firm is seeking assistance from DEED and Kelleher said at the meeting they made it clear from the start that Spring Valley needs to be OK with the change.

Zimmer said that at one time there was talk of moving the entire operation to Iowa, so it is better that the company, which is a subsidiary of Swiss Valley Farms, is at least staying in Minnesota. It is also keeping the Spring Valley building in operation, although plans are for just two employees rather than the previous workforce of about 40 people.

"We need to leave the communication chains open since they still own this property. We don't like it, but we can try to leave it on the best note possible," EDA member Steve Himle added.

Other business

• After further review the EDA approved a $31,300 revolving loan for Racks Bar and Grill

During the review process for the restaurant's application the EDA found the current guidelines are quite general, so it will be revising the guidelines for the revolving loan fund to make criteria more specific.

• Mayor Jim Struzyk informed the group the Public Utilities Commission will be addressing the EDA's request to continue participation in the Newly Constructed Housing Incentive during the next PUC meeting.

The next EDA meeting will be held on April 9 at 8:30 a.m.