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Todd, Wadena county organizations offer business grants and resources

A Todd Wadena Development Summit highlighted energy savings, clean energy options, application support, lending options and business retirement plans.

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Lending options are available through local organizations.
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WADENA — Did you know utility companies offer business grants and loans? What about organizations who offer resources for small businesses?

A host of resources are available with local organizations, as shared during the second annual Todd Wadena Development Summit. The summit featured the Region 5 Development Commission, Todd-Wadena Electric Cooperative (TWEC), Minnesota Power, Clean Energy Resource Teams (CERTs), Todd County Development Corporation (TCDC) and The Economic Alliance.

The virtual summit, with about 40 participants on March 17, highlighted energy savings, clean energy options, application support, lending options and business retirement plans.

The programs in Wadena and Todd counties support local community members and businesses with state and federal funding that they want to bring to the area. Their message: We are glad to work with you.

“There can be like the best programs to help people in the world but if people don’t know about them, (the programs are) useless. And we don’t want these things to be the best kept secrets,” said Katie Heppner, Economic Alliance executive director. “We want people applying for financing, applying for programs, adapting clean energy, all these things but sometimes it might not seem accessible.”

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As a local partner, Region 5 executive director Cheryal Hills said they work to “address regional, critical issues” from welcoming communities to military connected programs, energy and environment planning, broadband initiatives, and Safe Routes to School planning. Upcoming projects will include applications tied with the federal infrastructure bill.

TWEC offers several grant opportunities for members and non-members with the goal of partnership, as member services manager Allison Uselman said. For example, Salo Manufacturing of Menahga received a revolving economic development loan to expand their location. The loan also supported jobs in the area. The loan is a minimum of $10,000 with the maximum determined by the loan committee.

Business expansion incentives, conservation improvement and energy savings are also offered through Minnesota Power . Regional development representative Claire Peterlin said the conservation improvement program focuses on energy efficiency for all customers on lighting, controls, air handling and trying out energy saving products.

Heppner said the property assessed clean energy program is helpful. The program is available with CERTs as an option for commercial properties on energy efficiency, renewable energy and electric vehicle infrastructure projects. The program is a loan which is paid on property assessments, and the project savings cover the assessment.

The turbine has been out of commission now for many months but was back in action this week.

Central CERTs coordinator Melissa Birch recommends people start with energy efficiency projects since every $1 spent here will save $3-5 in renewable energy projects.

In considering solar, Birch added these questions: Do I have a good site? Is the roof in good condition? Do I own the building? Does my business pay federal income taxes? Solar costs have decreased over the last 20 years, though Birch said they are being impacted by supply chain and inflation.

“We like to see no-brainers in terms of financials,” Birch said about a Rural Energy for America grant for farms and small businesses.

Solar for Schools is designed to provide incentives for installation of solar energy systems on Minnesota public K-12 schools as well as state colleges and universities, according to a Minnesota Department of Commerce news release. The grants cover 25 to 95% of the project cost.

On the small business side, retirement planning, business plan development and property searching are some of the TCDC services . Executive director Rick Utech said their focuses also include broadband, child care and housing.

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“There are quite a number of programs out there that people can tap, and it’s amazing that if you have a good project, if you do your homework and have a good business plan, there is help out there for you,” Utech said about lending options.

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Small business services like retirement planning, business plan development and property searching are offered with local organizations.
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The Economic Alliance also supports businesses to help them begin, expand and remain in the area. The Alliance is separate from the Wadena Development Authority , which works specifically in the city of Wadena. The Alliance serves Wadena County. Their fee services include strategic planning, grant writing and meeting facilitation.

“If we didn’t already know it before the pandemic, small businesses are just the bedrock of our rural communities and doing what we can to help new entrepreneurs start a new business or just help an existing business stay afloat or even expand,” Heppner said.

You can visit the organizations’ websites or call their office for more information to see if they have an available resource.

“It offers people kind of like a one stop shop to learn about a bunch of different programs and resources to help them either make improvements to their commercial property or start a business or grow their business,” Heppner said about the summit.

The next development summit is planned for March 2023.

Rebecca Mitchell started as a Digital Content Producer for the Post Bulletin in August 2022. She specializes in enhancing online articles as well as education, feature and health reporting.
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