Tough economic times may be passing, but restaurants, retail and other small businesses in Red Wing - new and long-standing - still could use an extra boost, City Council President Lisa Bayley said. And that will be a focus for the city in 2014.
“Economic development is by far the highest on the list,” Bayley said of her priorities for the new year.
Also on the list is making a decision on the city’s incinerator, participating in nuclear waste storage discussions and planning for major upcoming construction projects, among other work, said Bayley, who is in her second year leading the council as president.
The city can help with economic development by taking actions such as streamlining zoning codes and providing tax incentives, she said. It can also point to loan and support opportunities through the Port Authority and Housing and Redevelopment Authority.
Council members decided last year to contribute $50,000 to Red Wing Downtown Main Street as it hires a director and plans to work on the city’s Downtown Action Plan. The money will go through the Port Authority.
“We want to give them as much opportunity to succeed as possible,” Bayley said of Downtown Main Street.
The port and DTMS will coordinate, but the city will be checking in and looking for periodic updates.
“We’ve asked for benchmarks,” she said. “To the extent that we’re asking for results, we’re going to be involved.”
Bayley said this will be a year for Red Wing, especially downtown and in the Old West Main Street area, to focus on re-building and revitalizing its economy and business climate.
“There are some exciting things going on,” Bayley said.
The incinerator also will be a major issue for the city this year, Bayley said. The council decided to close the incinerator temporarily last summer, but will have to make a more final decision in the coming months on the operation’s future.
“We have to get it figured out this year,” Bayley said.
The city has been contracting with Northern States Power to burn its garbage, but “this is definitely a temporary situation,” she said.
Bayley said the city is “looking at a huge bill” if it decides to re-open the facility due to refurbishments needed in the next few years, but it also would be costly to close it down permanently.
“You can’t just shut the door,” she said.
Nuclear waste storage talks also will be important to the city, Bayley said. A lot of activity is happening at the state and national level, including with environmental impact studies.
Bayley said another focus for her in 2014 is boards and commissions. She said she will work with the mayor to fill empty slots and wants to increase communication among the commissions and boards and the council.
Getting more people to participate on the boards and commissions helps them understand more how the city works and can prepare some people to step up as council and other leadership openings appear, Bayley said.
The city also will be focusing on plans for major construction projects coming up in the area, including Highway 61 and the bridge to Wisconsin.
“In the end it’s all very good news,” Bayley said, as the major construction projects also come with significant funding from state and federal entities. “But it’s definitely going to involve disruption.”
Bayley said in 2014 the city will look for public participation, especially from affected businesses, in the design and planning process.
“Essentially all of 2014 is planning and coordinating,” she said.