Cooperation theme of county business summitZUMBROTA -- Economic collaboration between cities and the county and among area businesses was a key message of the Goodhue County's third annual Economic Development Authority summit on Friday.
By: Danielle Killey, The Republican Eagle
ZUMBROTA -- Economic collaboration between cities and the county and among area businesses was a key message of the Goodhue County's third annual Economic Development Authority summit on Friday.
About 30 business owners, city and county officials gathered to discuss ways to improve the business climate of the county and bring in new customers from around the state and country.
Speakers encouraged pooling resources throughout the county, both to share ideas and experiences as well as marketing strategies.
"If you partner up with other businesses, together you have a much greater ability to get new visitors to the area," said Erin Sparks of the Community Economic Development Associates.
Creating a countywide or regional identity would bring more awareness to the area, Sparks said, emphasizing the increasingly national competition for business.
Cris Gastner of CEDA spoke about the importance of fostering a "culture that allows inventors and entrepreneurs to flourish," saying that supporting new and existing small businesses was the key to emerging from the recession successfully.
The group also discussed the potential for the county to have a stronger central role in business, helping new start-ups get off the ground, promoting tourism and historical sites and assisting with employee training programs and permitting processes.
Tourism and hospitality industries were main focuses of the discussion as Sparks presented preliminary results of a survey of those businesses in the county.
Respondents cited taxes, the economy and the frustrating permitting process -- also a priority at the Capitol -- as some of the biggest barriers to starting or expanding businesses.
Still, while the economy did affect businesses in the county, Sparks said most have been stable or have seen an increase in sales in the past year, possibly in part due to residents from Minnesota or nearby states staying local in their vacations to save money.
"From 2008 to 2009 (businesses) were hit pretty hard," she said, "but in 2009 to 2010 they've really seen those numbers bouncing back."