The Executive Directors of the Northfield Area Chamber of Commerce, the Northfield Economic Development Authority, and the Northfield Enterprise Center engaged the community in a discussion about economic development at today’s Downtown Forum. Kathy Feldbrugge, Charlene Coulombe-Fiore, and Blake Abdella shared information with and took questions from the roomful of attendees.
Kathy started out with a presentation on the Chamber. The group conducts a number of activities for local businesses, including Business Retention and Expansion visits, an on-line listing of available commercial properties, and local retail promotions, and initiatives outside of Northfield, through the Conventions and Visitors Bureau, to promote tourism. Finally, the Chamber advocates on issues important to its members. Kathy stressed that the Chamber seeks to work with other organizations, both private and public.
Charlene picked up on this collaborative effort in her opening remarks, saying that it takes a team effort to succeed at economic development. The EDA is the economic development arm of the City of Northfield and is currently working to increase the tax base and number of jobs through a variety of initiatives and programs. One of their key initiatives this year is assuring an adequate supply of land through greenfield and in-fill development and redevelopment of existing sites. Their programs include the Master Development Fund, serving both major retail districts, the Downtown Revolving Loan Fund, the Shearer Grant Fund, for expanding businesses, and, coming soon, a Toolbox Fund with great flexibility to serve a range of business needs.
Blake said that the NEC focuses on both start-up and existing businesses within or relocating to Northfield. Specifically, they can help with business plans, financing options, and connecting to resources. They also have access to additional expertise through the College Board of Business Consultants and the Experienced Business Advisors Network. Blake said that this year they are going to return to conducting seminars to reach larger audiences on common issues and look forward to working with the Economic Development Partners on some of the offerings.
There were many questions from the audience, including “How can the City Council support your efforts in economic development?” The answer was unanimous, “Make economic development a priority”.