Economic development: City of Farmington makes plans to draw in business
Bringing new business into the community is often easier said than done, but a renewed commitment by the city of Farmington may make that process a little easier.
Later this month, the Farmington Economic Development Authority is expected to review a new Business Attraction Plan that lays out steps to bringing new business into the community. The plan is set to go into motion by July 1, hopefully resulting in the attraction of new businesses to community.
Farmington city planner Lee Smick has been working with the EDA to draw up the steps that will go into motion this summer. Ultimately, Smick said, the idea is to actively market Farmington to brokers before the end of the year, and help to find the right fit space-wise for any new business that might be interested in locating in Farmington.
Farmington Business Association president Clyde Rath likes the sound of that. While he acknowledges that Farmington is well suited for small- to medium-sized businesses, "it's not set up for smaller retail spaces," he said.
"I constantly hear that from people," Rath said. "I just talked with someone who recently moved to Farmington, and it was a quandary to move here because they couldn't find space. They did find a spot, but that was their biggest challenge. Even though we have a few buildings that are vacant, they're not suitable for the types of businesses we want to come here."
Part of the new Business Attraction Plan includes finding more space for commercial and industrial construction, Smick said.
"That means having infrastructure in and ready for hookup, or being 'shovel-ready' when those opportunities come along. Those discussions about where that can happen will be a big part of the Business Attraction Team," she said.
The Business Attraction Team is something new to the process, but it will provide valuable insight along the way. The membership of the team is still coming together, but it will include two EDA members, one representative from the Farmington School District, two people from Farmington's existing business community, and Smick.
Under Smick's timeline, the team will start meeting in March and will work on marketing plans, come up with projects to direct interest to existing businesses, and so on.
"I see this as a group that will meet monthly for the purpose of business attraction or if a new business is looking at the community, how will we get them to come here. We don't want to lose people anymore," Smick said.
Within the Business Attraction Team's initiatives is the creation of a "predevelopment review team" which will be made up of city staff, the Metropolitan Consortium of Community Developers, the Farmington Business Association and the Farmington School District. That group will become a reference point for any new business brokers who are considering Farmington, as a sort of "one stop shop" when it comes to getting information about everything from building permits to fire safety requirements to financing.
"I have seen people get so frustrated going here and there. We want them to be able to sit down and have all of their questions answered within a one hour period," Smick said.
Talk it up
Smick would like to see the EDA and the city of Farmington try some new methods to attract potential businesses. For instance, she's heard that some companies are having a hard time finding employees who have the training they need to do certain jobs, so she'd like to have the Business Attraction Team look at developing partnerships with Dakota County Technical College or other institutions. Those partnerships could result in bringing more skilled workers to the community.
A new project coming to Farmington called Open to Business provides reference and funding for people who may be looking to open a new business, but it also opens doors to promoting Farmington at a county, regional and state level, Smick said.
"We need to get outside of our borders and start talking to people and letting them know that we have opportunities for them here in Farmington," she said.