Category Archives: Block Heads

NDDC Hosts Gathering with Senator DeKruif and Representative Woodard

The NDDC hosted a Block Head Gathering of Commercial Property Owners and our new legislators, Al DeKruif and Kelby Woodard.  There was only one topic on the agenda: Commercial Property Taxes.

The NDDC summarized the recent history of commercial property taxes in Northfield.  Since 2000, commercial property taxes have increased by double-digit percentages annually.  During this same period, rental rates have remained flat or, in many cases, even declined.  As a result, with rising commercial property taxes, each year there are fewer dollars available for basic operations and maintenance, much less money for building improvements.  In fact, commercial buildings have gone from producing positive cash flow to a point where the owners are now forced to draw down savings to pay their property tax bills.  Several property owners shared their personal stories with the legislators. Continue reading NDDC Hosts Gathering with Senator DeKruif and Representative Woodard

Block Heads Talk Technology Topics

BlockHeadsTalkTechnology.jpgThis morning’s NDDC Block Head Gathering focused on technology topics. The subjects had been requested by the attendees at the previous meeting.

Jordan Bechdol, a St. Olaf College student and College Board of Business Consultants volunteer, presented his recommendation for a business networking tool. The tool was an idea that came out of the NDDC-Chamber-EDA Retail Support Strategies work last year. With retailers confined to their stores on the same schedule, face-to-face interactions are difficult. Communications about a snow removal contractor, City awning regulations, or a promotional opportunity will soon be possible at any time.

Craig Dunton, director of the St. Olaf College phone company, talked about the services that they could offer downtown businesses. With the Carleton College and St. Olaf College fiber backbone, the speeds exceed anything else available in the area. The “pipe” is installed along Washington and Water Streets and is easily accessed. A number of downtown business are already connected and praise its speed, service and price.

Melissa Reeder, City of Northfield IT Director, gave a brief update on the City’s current Fiber Optic Feasibility Study. The City’s goal it to pursue potential partnerships with existing providers to achieve a wider distribution of capabilities throughout the city. There will be an Open House on the topic next Thursday, November 6th, 7:00 p.m. at City Hall.

As a follow up on other topics raised at the previous Block Head Gathering, the NDDC is featuring two special guests at next Tuesday’s (November 4th) Downtown Forum. Scott Taylor and Chad Oudekerk, professors at South Central College, will share their ideas for increasing sales through smart management and technology use.

Block Heads Discuss Business Expansion

BlockHeadsGather.jpgThe NDDC’s Block Head Gathering this morning was both a good time and a productive session. Over thirty downtown building and business owners met this morning at J. Grundy’s Rueb-N-Stein to discuss issues of interest.

The group shared stories of life during the summer construction projects. Several attendees suggested that a portion of the project’s budget should address adverse impacts on businesses. EDA President Rick Estenson and City of Northfield Interim Economic Development Director Jody Gunderson said that currently the resources aren’t available but that the idea could be further explored. Both suggested that the balance between the EDA’s efforts on supporting existing businesses and recruiting future businesses in the pursuit of greater overall economic vitality is being evaluated.

A number of participants offered their experiences with “Back Door Business”, including Jerry Bilek of Monkey Read, Linda Schneewind of digs and Kathy Collison of Glass Garden Beads. These are sources of income other than sales out the front door of the retail shop and include internet sales, special services and product manufacturing. Scott Taylor, Small Business Instructor from South Central College in Faribault, said that retailers now work to generate 20 to 40% of their income from these alternative lines. Several of the attendees noted that their back door business now accounts for between 20 and 50% of their income.

Blake Abdella of the Northfield Enterprise Center told the group that he and his College Board of Business Consultants and Experienced Business Advisors were available to work with people on business plans. He, along with Jody Gunderson and Rick Estenson, are ready to work with businesses on structuring private and public financing.

A number of potential future topics were raised, including the Outside Dining Ordinance, the Downtown Code of Conduct, ideas for a Holiday Sales Boost, accessing St. Olaf’s Fiber Backbone, and an on-line Main Street Market. The group agreed to gather again in mid-November.

Block Heads Address Key Initiatives

NDDC Vice President Joe Grundhoefer (J. Grundy’s Rueb-N-Stein) is pictured here welcoming the couple of dozen building and business owners that enjoyed the coffee, doughnuts and conversation at this morning’s Block Head Gathering.

The topics included the proposed outside dining ordinances, the pedestrian crossing sign program and downtown crime reduction initiatives. The doughnuts included raised glazed and chocolate covered cake.
Continue reading Block Heads Address Key Initiatives