In my desire to debunk the rumors I have heard since childhood and find out answers for myself, I decided to take some of them to the Albert Lea Economic Development Agency (ALEDA). I have to admit I was prepared to be met with some resistance. I had heard “they” were not friendly and did not tell the truth. Would they be open or would they be defensive, more importantly would they tell me the truth?
I have to be honest to tell you I prayed all the way to my first meeting with them. I’m sure in my nervousness my fingernails ended up shorter than they had been. Seriously, my nervousness was unnecessary. They were transparent and ready to share as much information as they legally could. They want to get the facts out to the community. I now realize and have had my eyes open to how hard they are fighting for us, harder than many of us realize.
I want to share with you what I learned about the Cabella’s and IBM’s deal and why they were ripped from Albert Lea’s hands. First, let me tell you, they were never ripped from us. They were not taken from us and if I had been those businesses, I would have probably done the same thing they did.
When a site selector contacts the City of Albert Lea or the Chamber of Commerce the job of creating a proposal usually gets handed off to the president of ALEDA, Ryan Nolander, as he is certainly the man who has the experience, resources and talent for bringing proposals to site selectors. The businesses look at the short term costs and the long term costs. If a project costs more in the short term, but less in the long term, often times it is the long term that is the highest consideration.
Often times if it is between Albert Lea and Owatonna, Owatonna wins on sheer geography of their proximity to the cities. They also have highways connecting to Rochester, Mankato and Albert Lea. Reality says they are a serious contender for us. We also contend with Iowa who has different state and federal tax regulations. In general Iowa is more tax friendly to businesses. Many of the taxes businesses face in coming to Albert Lea are not solely our issue, they are an issue across the state. If we want them changed, then they must be changed at the state level, not the local level. Changing state laws as you can imagine is much more complicated.
What our leaders can offer businesses is infrastructure within our community. We offer them a full time fire department which lowers their business insurance. We can offer them water and sewer packages, land, work force and a list of other specifications. These specifications are not the only factors businesses are looking for when they relocate. This is definitely true with both IBM and Cabella’s. Look for the next blog article to learn what really happened.