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Valued St. James Community Members and Stakeholders,
We understand your concern with the recent retail closures that the community has experienced- we all feel that pain with you. I first want to assure you that staff has been in contact with Shopko to see what we can do about keeping the store open. We are excited to welcome Lewis Drug to St. James to provide the community with pharmacy services!
The changing state of retail is a nation-wide issue, as I’m sure you all are aware of and are concerned about. There is no secret sauce when it comes to a solution- only incremental improvements on multiple levels. I encourage you to take stock of all of the improvements that have happened in our community in recent years- thanks to the hard work of many residents, existing business owners, and organizations. From over 20 million dollars in infrastructure investments; to additional recreation opportunities like the dog park, bike trails, and having watersports for rent; to a large expansion of DODA USA in the industrial park, a new business Tri-County Seed in the industrial park; and the EDA building a 20,000 square foot industrial building on blind faith and successfully selling it to Great River Energy- which relocated 4 jobs from Mankato and retained 4 jobs; to a new baseball grandstand and art throughout town; to many businesses making improvements and renovations to their facilities. Thank you to each and every one of you that continues to invest in St. James and to those who shop locally to support our existing businesses. (For information on all of these investments, see our recent investment slideshow here.)
The economic development authority (EDA) has not sat idle during these changing times and has already been working on putting together a retail development committee. This will be a joint committee between the Chamber of Commerce and the EDA, working with the U of M extension office. Stay tuned for a community meeting in the near future where you will have the opportunity to share your constructive ideas and provide support for different programs that may come out of the meeting. There will most likely also be community wide surveys on wants/needs for retail where you will also have an opportunity to voice your opinion.
Another exciting project is happening in downtown St. James. The City and County have been working together on solutions for the old Polos building. The building was returned to the County due to tax forfeiture and we are partnering on best solutions for that building. We are working with Southwest Minnesota Housing Partnership on an effort called Partnership Art to bring in artists to creatively engage the community around potential uses for the building and seek investors. Other outcomes may come out of this process as well that can be tied into the retail development committee.
Region 9 development commission and the Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation are also partnering on an effort called the Prosperity Initiative. See below for more details on that:
SMIF is seeking 15 businesses to participate in a 2019 Prosperity Initiative cohort. The program provides directed, culturally sensitive programming, while also creating a unified and coordinated resource structure, informing partners of best practices and creating opportunities for minority populations to network and access the business community. All resources are free for participating businesses. Eligible participants include minorities, women, veterans, persons with disabilities and/or low-income business owners in SMIF’s 20-county region.
The EDA provides different business and housing incentives, which can be found on our City website here. If you are interested in starting a business or participating in the Prosperity Initiative, stop by City Hall and see our EDA Director, Jamie.
To stay up to date on the happenings of the retail development committee and the EDA, watch the Discover St. James blog and Facebook page for economic development updates.
Thank you for your passion for the community and we look forward to working with you!
Mayor Gary Sturm