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Wanted: Economic developer for region

West Central Telephone Association invited a cross-section of area leaders to a wine and cheese gathering, held at their Sebeka office after business hours. The wine and cheese gathering was a prelude to a presentation by Lee Miller of the Region Five Economic Development Commission and Tony Mayer, WCTA's general manager/CEO outlining a new economic development project initiative. They both emphasized that this project is for the entire region, without regard to county, township or political boundaries. The purpose of the project is to promote the region, attract new business into the area and promote existing businesses, in part by hiring a grant writer/coordinator.

The need for an organized effort was established after a feasibility study in the fall of 2008. Even before the economic downturn for the nation, Wadena County had a low per capita income and had many poverty indicators. A concerted effort in economic development and redevelopment is necessary for reducing poverty and sustaining the community.

To accomplish this, a grant writer/coordinator will be hired to lead the project. The WCTA Board of Directors fully supports this initiative and has pledged $20,000. Other donations are necessary for this project to become a reality. Tony Mayer and Bruce Kinnunen, WCTA's president, plan to visit area businesses and community leaders to further promote the initiative and secure additional funding. Pledges of any amount and volunteers are welcome.

Once adequate funding goals are reached, the donors will meet to organize a board, develop a strategic plan, and hire or contract a grant writer for economic development.

About 40 people were in attendance, and several recognized this as an exciting opportunity for the region. One attendee asked, "How can we not fund this and support it?"

The goal was to have a diverse cross-section of community representation, and was nowhere near all-inclusive of community leaders. Mayer concluded the event by asking attendees to begin spreading the word to other community leaders. If you missed the event for any reason or would like to know more about this project, you are urged to contact Tony Mayer at (218) 837-5151 or e-mail to