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Cass County Board: Commissioners receive updates on economic development initiatives

Cass County courthouse, Walker MN

WALKER—Cass County Economic Development Executive Director Mike Paulus updated the county board Tuesday, Nov. 6, on projects the nonprofit has undertaken in the last year.

A program they named "Side Hustle" was designed to encourage a person who has $46,000 or less annual income and an existing hobby or side business to expand that hobby or side business into something that could generate $500 or more per month.

Five of 11 qualified candidates continue to work with the EDC toward that goal, Paulus said.

The EDC recognized Reeds Outdoor Family Outfitters with its Legacy Business Award this year. This is the first year this award was made.

The EDC provided 648 hours of professional consultation and technical assistance to 65 clients registered for services throughout the county.

Of those 65, 32 were existing Cass County businesses looking for assistance with growth strategy, succession planning, operating efficiency, utilization of revolving loan funds or marketing and business plans.

Nine clients were considering buying an existing Cass County business. Two completed business ownership transfers. Four are still pending. Three sales did not go through.

Four of the nine potential purchasers were from Cass County. Five were people from outside Minnesota who want to move to Cass County.

Nineteen of 21 people wanting to start a new business are already county residents. Four have opened their new businesses and four are still in the process.

Cass EDC has a $580,000 revolving loan fund with $252,677 currently available to lend.

The EDC is actively seeking housing developers for the Walker and Pine River areas.

Paulus showed the board an advertising flyer the EDC prepared to try to promote a health care campus on part of the 55-acres the county owns on the former Ah-Gwah-Ching site.

The county purchased the site from the state for $1 with the expectation it eventually will become a county government building site. The county now sees such construction as further in the distant future and not requiring as large an area as 55 acres.

The county finished demolishing the old Ah-Gwah-Ching buildings in 2008 and the area sat as a grassy lawn ready for development since then. Walker city utilities were extended to the site.

Essentia Health at one time considered building a critical access hospital or other health care services at the site, but withdrew their plan as the recession hit.

Paulus can be contacted by calling 218-831-9147. The EDC office is located in the historic courthouse building lower level.

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