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Signs of life in Farmington's business climate

City administrator Peter Herlofsky and economic development specialist Tina Hansmeier say it's the city's job to make Farmington as appealing a place as possible for businesses to locate.

Last month, Farmington economic development specialist Tina Hansmeier provided the city's economic development authority with a list of all of the local businesses that had opened and those that closed in.

Hansmeier provides the list to keep city officials apprised of development activity in the community, so we decided to take her reports one step further and visit with her on the subject. She and city administrator Peter Herlofsky sat down with us Tuesday afternoon.

In 2010, 15 news businesses opened and 17 closed. Is this anything to be alarmed by?

Tina: I don't think so. We definitely have new businesses opening in town. That's obviously a positive in that people still want to be in Farmington and many are still being successful in being here. Another point I'd make, that (report) is just our best knowledge of what's happening in the business community. There may be others that have opened in a space in town that might not be especially visible or that we're not aware of. The city doesn't require business licensing for all businesses in the city ... so only if we're seeing them or they're contacting us, we're not going to know that. On the other side, there may be others that were here that have closed.

Do you have any knowledge of new projects in the works right now? Or new businesses?

Tina: There are several that have opened or are opening soon. There's one main inquiry that is, from what I understand, close to opening a store in Farmington. I don't know the intricacies of a lease deal or anything like that. We are getting a lot of calls here and there, but a lot of times that is done in the private sector and we hear about it when they open.

From the looks of your report on major economic development activities from January, it looked like you had quite a few businesses that had relocated or opened in existing buildings. Is that not one of the goals for the Farmington business climate? To fill those vacant buildings?

Tina: It's always a positive they're full and there's more open businesses versus available space.

Peter: The more traffic we can create downtown the better. I keep bringing up the license center, which we hope will create an additional role in that attraction. We love to see full storefronts.

How do input sessions like this Grow Farmington project set for this week help in attracting businesses to town?

Peter: Awareness.

Tina: I think it creates a really big message in that it shows the business community, the EDA, the residents and the community at large really working together for creating a common vision and a goal to work toward. It kind of brings that community togetherness. It heightens that awareness and shows that we all want to work together.

Peter: That's right. It just creates a little more sense of people wanting to work together. What's really nice is that it's not just downtown Farmington showing up for these. It's citywide.

How much of a role does the city of Farmington really have in attracting new businesses to town?

Peter: Image. Substance. It shows the city cares. We want to make sure people know we care. Part of the thing with our current businesses is that we want them to say that this is a good place to be. Those are the people who can help us.... The city's role is to, if nothing else, be a sounding board. To help the community accomplish what it wishes to.

Tina: The businesses and different stores, they know their market, where they want to be and when they want to be there.... How much does the city have in attracting a business? Some, as Peter indicated, but they know when they want to be here.

Peter: We have the ideal setting for commercial development in our downtown. The trend is away from the big, fancy mall to the destination-type shop.... The new model is to have mixed uses, just like we have in downtown. But there also is a setting now where people are encouraged to walk from one location to another, rather than drive from one location to another. This is really the opportunity, now, for the niche market. The downtown here offers a unique setting that other cities try to create now.... The opportunity right now is for success.

Do you think the economic climate is changing for the better?

Tina: I think, across the board, all the things we're hearing are that things are looking up. With the different initiatives we have here, aligning our goals, creating our vision for what does Farmington want to see here, I think we're going in the right direction as a city to see the climate improve.

Michelle Leonard

Michelle Leonard joined the Woodbury Bulletin staff in November, 2014, after 14 years covering news for the Bulletin's sister publication, the Farmington Rosemount Independent Town Pages.  Michelle earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Mass Communications: News-Editorial from Mankato State University in 1991. She is an active member of the American Legion Auxiliary Clifford Larson Unit 189 of Farmington, and served as the 2014-15 Third District President to the American Legion Auxiliary Department of Minnesota. Michelle is also the volunteer coordinator for the Minnesota Newspaper Museum which is open annually during the Minnesota State Fair. She has earned Minnesota Newspaper Association awards in Investigative Reporting, Local News Coverage, Feature Photography and Column Writing. 

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