January 1, 2019
Due to the efforts of a small group of dedicated volunteers, the FFDRC was incorporated as a 501 (C)(3) non-profit corporation in October of 2015. The organization has come a long way in the three years since; with a growth in membership and volunteer leaders our focus was clarified. 2018 was a pivotal year because the FFDRC changed from reacting to negative events and an apparent negative community attitude to being pro-active and seeing a positive mood in the community. On January 10, the FFDRC will have a Board retreat to plan our operations for the balance of the year and beyond. One of the topics that will be discussed at the retreat is the budget for 2019 together with confirming the plan for long-term financial stability. Prior to 2018 the FFDRC relied on three methods of funding; they were contributions from local private trusts, donations and member dues. In 2018 Grants from Charitable Foundations and an Annual Raffle were added. Going forward, the intention is to rely less on local private trusts and increase our fund-raising effort through an annual raffle, silent auction and donations. However, the member dues remain an extremely important component not only for the funding brought in, but because a growing membership provides the encouragement of knowing that there is support for our Mission and efforts. The Member Dues structure and rates will remain unchanged for 2019 and soon you will receive an invoice and request to update your contact information. I am hopeful that you will continue to support FFDRC as a Member in good standing by returning your updated membership form with payment and perhaps you can recruit another member as well.
Following is a short description of our 2018 accomplishments:
The Dairy Site
Starting in 2015 the FFDRC, together with City/Port Authority staff, began the process to acquire the 29-acre Dairy Site, a shuttered industrial property prominently located on the Otter Tail River a mere three blocks from Union Avenue. The buildings have been stripped of equipment and infrastructure and are in disrepair. They are a blight on the City and have been for nearly 20 years. After a start, stop and then another start and five continuations, the Fergus Falls Port Authority closed on the purchase of the Dairy Site on December 31, 2018. Demolition and site cleanup is anticipated to occur in 2020. At the conclusion of the demo/cleanup process will be the creation of the River Buffer (an area of approximately 11 acres) to be used for recreational purposes and river access; the remainder (an area of approximately 18 acres) will be set aside to generate future property tax dollars when it is re-developed into a higher use. More details will be forthcoming in a separate letter but feel free to contact me if you have questions.
Over the River Holiday Festival
December 1st was the date of the Over the River Holiday Festival that saw a tremendous crowd in Downtown Fergus Falls ready to participate in the variety of activities that were available, to have fun, shop and eat. Over the River Holiday Festival (“Over the River”) is the new name for the “Tree Lighting Event” that took place last year after many years of hiatus; it will now become an annual festival benefitting the community and kicking off the holiday season. The date coincided with the Holiday Art Crawl sponsored by The Kaddatz Gallery and Springboard for the Arts as well as the Dance & Dessert Fundraiser sponsored by A Center for The Arts. Over the River started at 12:00 noon and continued throughout the day, ending around 7:00 P.M. with a dramatic fireworks display following the 6:30 P.M. tree lighting at Wright Park. Although hampered by cold windy weather, musical performances took place throughout the day. They included a performance by the 204th Army Brass Band Quintet from Fort Snelling, Hillcrest Worship Team and Front & Center Singers. Other activities such as horse carriage rides, photos with Santa and his sleigh, Pedi Cab rides and Festival of Lights on Lincoln Avenue made the entire day fun and positive. A special thanks to those who made donations of money or volunteered their time to make this event successful. Planning for Over the River will start in March of 2019 so if you have an idea we should include, would like to sponsor an activity or help plan the event please contact NeTia at email@example.com.
“Strong Towns” presentation
As part of our effort to help all of us understand the basis for a vibrant City with a strong economic base and a positive future, FFDRC with support from Greater Fergus Falls Corp. arranged for nationally recognized speaker Chuck Marohn to bring his “Strong Towns” presentation to Fergus Falls on December 6th. The program was held at A Center for the Arts starting at 5:30 PM and ending shortly after 7:00 P.M. Approximately 100 people attended the presentation, which is the largest crowd to attend any of the four informational programs held as part of our Open Board meetings. Everyone I spoke with said they enjoyed the presentation and came away with a better understanding of how communities can be financially strong and vibrant.
Fund Raising for FFDRC
A decision was made by the Board to create an annual fundraiser as a method to bolster FFDRC revenues and to rely less on requests from local private trusts. Our objective is to have readily available cash on hand that will enable us to support projects or events that come up quickly or were not part of our long-term planning. To that end, FFDRC began a fundraising raffle and silent auction with the winners being announced at the conclusion of the Strong Towns presentation.
Downtown Chow Down
Concerned with the announcement of the closure of several businesses and two Downtown restaurants, FFDRC launched the Downtown Chow Down marketing campaign to promote Downtown restaurants with hopes of crossover benefits to Downtown retailers. The three-month promotion started in June and centered on a “Chow Down” each Thursday at one of the eight participating restaurants. The Chow Down featured a live Facebook video broadcast at the restaurant at a pre-scheduled time. A Charitable Grant, donations from local businesses and pro-bono work by H2M Marketing and Leighton Broadcasting allowed the FFDRC to distribute $10 and $25 coupons redeemable at Downtown restaurants for purchases; in all $5,250 in coupons were made available.
Shop, Move’n Groove
SMG is a Chamber event that FFDRC helped to promote as the event coincided with the Downtown Chow Down at the Viking Café. The FFDRC coordinated presentations for the taping of five video segments that were played live on Fargo TV station KVLY during the Valley Today show. Videos featured The Bric, Viking Café – twice, Shop Move’n Groove and Downtown Chow Down. FFDRC, through a member donation, was also a sponsor of the live music on Lincoln Avenue provided by A Center for the Arts.
Art on Lincoln
The FFDRC, through a member donation, sponsored the bluegrass music concert provided by A Center for the Arts on Lincoln Avenue that followed Art on Lincoln.
Mayor to Mayor
The third of the FFDRC Mayor to Mayor series took place at our Open Board meeting held on May 1st. The event featured Bemidji Mayor Rita Albrecht and Greater Bemidji representative Tiffany Fettig. The presentation by Mayor Albrecht and Ms. Fettig was an overview of economic development conducted by Greater Bemidji, which is a 501 (c) (3) non-profit organization. Bemidji is a rural community of similar size that has prospered, in part, through its successful economic development strategies.
The FFDRC assisted downtown businesses with a Lincoln Avenue beautification project by identifying sources for $3,000 of funding to pay for an upgrade to the hanging flower pots that adorn Lincoln Avenue during the summer months. The decorations, coordinated through the efforts of Bernadette Erickson of Sears Hometown Store, required a replacement pot that would allow the live plants to survive infrequent watering during the summer months.
The FFDRC has located its offices in the Economic Development Center at 128 East Lincoln Avenue – suite A, which is the headquarters of Greater Fergus Falls Corp. The FFDRC together with Greater Fergus Falls Corp. established the Fergus Falls SCORE office as an affiliate of the St. Cloud Score office and is also located in the suite. The SCORE Association, supported by SBA, is a nonprofit association of thousands of volunteer business counselors throughout the U.S. and its territories. SCORE members are trained to serve as counselors, advisors and mentors to aspiring entrepreneurs and business owners.
The FFDRC complements Greater Fergus Falls Corp. by helping with smaller downtown economic development projects and promotes events that benefit the City.
FFDRC Board meeting and more:
The next Board meeting will be a retreat held at West Central Initiative from 12:00 to 3:00 P.M. The retreat will be a planning session to develop a strategy for ongoing operations during 2019 and beyond. If you are not a Board Member but would like to attend, please contact NeTia Bauman at firstname.lastname@example.org to reserve a space as seating is limited. We are always seeking volunteers to help in a variety of ways, so if you would like to help with our Mission and meet a lot of really great people we would welcome your participation; again contact NeTia at email@example.com.
Finally, the FFDRC has been able to move forward and do great things because we have a great group of Board Members, a talented and tireless administrator and non-Board volunteers that have taken time out of their schedules to help advance our Mission. I am very proud of all of them for their efforts, to work with them and to be able to call them friends.
Thank you to 2019 Board Members:
Steve Rufer, Steve Schoeneck, Sue Wilken, Shawna Shale, Eric Price, Jim Danner, Laurie Mullin, Wayne Hurley, Richard Smestad, Dan Mohagen, Dan Altenbernd, Chris McConn, Bob Worner, Jeff Stanislawski, Kelli Frieler, Kati Schroeder, Tom Kingston And administrator NeTia Bauman.
If you have a comment, a concern or an idea of what we can do or do better please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or call me at 952-513-0158.
Take care and have a Happy New Year,
Steven L. Eriksson, President