One year ago, the Stewartville, Minnesota Economic Development Authority (EDA) was awarded a $9,000 Incentive Grant from the Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation (SMIF) to implement a brand-new business incubation program in that city. The program allowed new businesses to lease eligible, vacant properties within the industrial and commercial districts of Stewartville, with decreasing rates of rental assistance offered to these businesses for eighteen months. This incentive was meant to lower barriers to starting a business in the city and to encourage the creation and launch of new, for-profit businesses.
This grant was primarily authored by Joya Stetson, a business development specialist with Community and Economic Development Associates (CEDA) who serves the Stewartville EDA.
Recipients of rental assistance through the program were also required to attend entrepreneurial education classes, which were primarily designed and taught by CEDA. These courses were also open to any other existing business owners in the community, free of charge.
One year later, the Stewartville EDA is still offering the business incubation program in the community. Over the past twelve months, the EDA has admitted one new business into the program, Thrivent Financial, allowing the business to create two new jobs in the city.
Local Thrivent Financial owners Nick Johnson and Nic Hale found the program extremely beneficial to grow their business.
“Our team has been humbled by the tremendous support we have received from the City of Stewartville. We have received education and funding, which helps at a business level, but also gives us encouragement and great motivation to serve this great town. …The community members and its elected leaders have given us a great head start on that dream, and for that, we are extremely grateful,” said Johnson.
About twenty-nine different local entrepreneurs also participated in the education classes offered.
Over the next year, the Stewartville EDA will continue to evaluate and assess the impact of the program for the local entrepreneurial community. The incubation program has continued financial support for the program from SMIF and technical assistance from CEDA to continue the educational classes and rental assistance. Now, the EDA is seeking ways to market this unique business development opportunity to the entrepreneurial community, particularly those seeking to grow their business in Stewartville.