Wilkin Co. Board moves forward with economic development firm

The breakdown of settlement fund allocation for Wilkin County. 

The Wilkin County Board heard from Tim Dolan of Decklan Group, an economic development consulting firm, at a Tuesday, Sept. 14 board meeting. The Decklan Group had previously presented to the Wilkin County Economic Development Board at their meeting last week.

The Decklan group was asked to help conceive a plan for moving forward with community development in the county, particularly when it comes to the diversion settlement funds. The county board determined in May the breakdown of the F-M Diversion settlement funds, $500,000 of which would be allocated to the EDA.

“You guys have an incredibly daunting task,” Dolan told the commissioners. “What you guys are dealing with, it’d be a lot to deal with for a county 10 times your size. It’s a substantial thing and you are going to need not just elected and appointed horsepower, you’re going to need some staff horsepower, some expert guidance in developing some of this. It’s very unique.”

Decklan Group was recommended to the county by West Central Initiative, an entity the county had originally approached for help developing guidelines. Dolan said the initial plan was to propose a short-term economic assessment to the county board, but after speaking with the EDA, Decklan Group felt it would be more prudent to have a discussion with the board about their needs.

“The original proposal was essentially going to be an economic development assessment of the county — taking a look at where the county’s at, where the individual cities are at, what policies are in place, what programs are in place for businesses and housing,” Dolan said. “... One of my concerns if we do that assessment, is that at the end of that assessment you’re going to have practical difficulties implementing what we find just from a staffing perspective.”

Commissioner Eric Klindt, also a member of the EDA, said the EDA initially wanted direction setting up guidelines and priorities for their portion of the settlement.

“We were tasked on the EDA side as commissioners to come up with all these ideas on how to handle the funds, and that’s not any of our expertise by any means, and that’s what these guys are good at. And they have a history of helping other areas and public entities with funds and how to grow,” Klindt said.

Dolan asked the board if a 90-120 day assessment was the best option for the board, or if Decklan Group should contract with the county for a longer period of time so they can implement some of the strategies they determine within the assessment period. Klindt said the cost of the services could be paid for through the $500,000 allocated to the EDA, and Dolan said they could structure the contract so that it fits within the constraints of what the settlement funds can be used for.

Commissioner Dennis Larson said some aspects of the F-M Diversion settlement are already in the works, such as housing. Dolan said Decklan Group would be able to assess the programs already in place, like the SVEDA housing development plan. Dolan said they are more than happy to work with the other players, like SVEDA and the RWJPA.

Decklan Group would also have criteria for applications for the funds, so it would take politics out of the decision, Dolan said.

“You guys as elected officials don’t have to decide winners and losers. We develop criteria and then you adopt or change that according to how you think it works, and you have that to make decisions for the community,” Dolan said.

Commissioner Lyle Hovland said he wished they had heard this before they decided the settlement fund breakdown and began some of the processes.

“We kind of got the cart before the horse on a couple things here,” Hovland said.

Klindt said he thought the same thing as Hovland, but it’s better to have it now rather than not at all.

“I really think this is the way to go to help us put the horse in front of the cart,” Klindt said.

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