September 6, 2018
A lot has transpired since my July Member Correspondence letter and so I am excited to give this positive report to you concerning the events that have taken place since then. The sections below will cover the topics.
The Dairy Site Although on the mind of many people, due to the efforts of Fourth Ward Councilmember Rod Spidahl, who researched State grant money to be used for potential acquisition costs, the City of Fergus Falls began discussions to acquire the Dairy Property in the late summer of 2015. Rod, working with City staff prepared an initial application for State of Minnesota LCCMR funding that was submitted in early 2016. At this same time, the FFDRC coordinated donations to assist the City with the costs associated with hiring a lobbyist to see the LCCMR grant through. Ultimately, the application was recommended for funding through the LCCMR Commission, approved by the Minnesota Legislature and signed by Governor Dayton as part of the State Budget in May 2016. Since then, the due diligence process has started, stopped and started again.
In the spring of 2017, the Dairy Site Task Force followed by the Dairy Site Negotiation Panel were authorized by City Council resolution to conduct the due diligence and negotiations representing the City and the Port Authority on this matter. Both the Dairy Site Task Force and the Dairy Site Negotiating Panel were chaired by Steve Eriksson on behalf of the FFDRC. Through the Task Force and the Negotiating Panel, extensive due diligence as well as continued negotiations with the property owner, the City and State Agencies was conducted. Because of a quirk in State law, the $600,000 grant that had been approved to cover part of the acquisition costs was in jeopardy, which necessitated a change in plans. The fix seemed simple but was somewhat time consuming in that it required a transfer of the purchase agreement with the City as Purchaser to the Fergus Falls Port Authority as purchaser. This change required another presentation to the LCCMR Board and ultimate approval of funding by the State Legislature; the funding was secured when the Governor signed the Bonding Bill at the end of May 2018. More negotiations between the property owner and the Port brought the price of the property to a level that was deemed economically feasible and on August 1, 2018 the property owner and the Fergus Falls Port Authority entered into an amendment to the purchase agreement for the sale of the property for a purchase price of $175,000. The sale is contingent upon the Port obtaining marketable title and the receipt of a non-association letter from the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA). The non-association letter is documentation from the MPCA showing that the City/Port/LCCMR will not be held responsible under state statute for contamination identified at the site. It is anticipated that the transaction will close in December 2018.
Downtown Chow Down underway
The Downtown Chow Down was created by the FFDRC to bring positive attention to our Downtown and Riverfront areas after a spate of negative information and announced business closings. The concept was to attract customers to Downtown restaurants and hopefully have a spillover effect that would benefit the other Downtown retailers as well. The Chow Down was begun on June 7th and extended for 13 weeks, ending on Thursday August 30th. Our plan was to incentivize people to dine at our downtown restaurants by offering coupons to random individuals including City residents, rural community members, summer visitors and residents of nearby communities. The coupons, with a face value of either $10.00 or $25.00, could be redeemed for part, or all, of a purchase at one of the Downtown participating restaurants; they would be valid on Thursdays from 1:00 P.M. to restaurant closings. With the support of H2M marketing Group, Nelson Automotive, Service Food, the Blandin Foundation, Leighton Broadcasting and the FFDRC the marketing campaign was created and implemented. The Chow Downs featured one of the eight participating Downtown restaurants for the first eight weeks culminating with the Final Chow Down on August 30th. All Chow Downs were live streamed as a Facebook Live video and each of the Videos are available to view on the FFDRC web page (www.ffriver.org) together with the live television broadcasts from KVLY for the July 12th Chow Down.
The final Chow Down was held on August 30th, again as a Facebook Live video that followed four contestants as they traveled to each of the participating restaurants to sample a “chef’s choice” meal from each restaurant. The contest started at 12:00 noon and finished at 8:00 P.M. with Patrick Lundberg winning the prestigious “Golden Chicken Leg” traveling award as he edged out Mike Millard; not far behind were our other contestants Mary Dolan and NeTia Bauman. Congratulations and thank you to all the contestants and thank you to Dan Mohagen for conducting the interviews and Leighton Broadcasting for its live radio broadcasts between each Chow Down. The Chow Down campaign was a lot of fun for those of us watching and I firmly believe that overall the Chow Down was a huge success and has achieved its goals.
Economic Development I reported in the last member correspondence that the City Manager, Andrew Bremseth, requested action from the City Council to begin looking into changing the Fergus Falls economic development model to something closer to the Bemidji model, which is a private 501 (c) (3) corporation. The City Council voted unanimously to support that recommendation and it is now a reality. Check out the Greater Fergus Falls Corp. website for details (https://greaterfergusfalls.com).
At the FFDRC Board meeting: Due to summertime schedules, there was no meeting in July and a short meeting in August. At the August meeting, Kelli Frieler of Leighton Broadcasting was added to the Board of Directors, and so welcome to Kelli and thanks in advance for her efforts. Due to business and family time requirements, Josh Mohagen resigned from the Board but will be available on an on-call basis to help with FFDRC events. The September Board meeting was focused on the future of the FFDRC and interacting with the new Greater Fergus Falls Corp. as well as planning for upcoming events. I will provide a lengthier description of the business plan going forward in the October issue.
Holiday Tree / Art Crawl – December 1st – FFDRC is a sponsor and coordinates the planning committee; the event is being planned now so if you would like to help with the planning and the event please contact NeTia at firstname.lastname@example.org.
That’s all The next Board meeting date – October 2 – 4:00 to 5:00 PM with the location yet to be set. If you have a comment, a concern or an idea of what we can do or do better please email me at email@example.com or call me at 952-513-0158.
Steven L. Eriksson, President
Our Mission: To make the community we live in better by creating a vibrant and prosperous downtown and riverfront area, enhancing the stability and growth of the City.