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Mid-Year Memorandum from the desk of Nort Johnson

Nort Johnson - President/CEO

We've just hit the mid-year mark for 2023 and we are feeling quite enthused about our town and the Faribault Chamber's role in several important projects and efforts. The partnerships and reciprocal support from businesses and institutions in Faribault over the last few years are resulting in BIG outcomes for the betterment of our town and importantly a deliberate advancement toward our Vision 2040.

The Chamber Vision Task Force (VTF) established priorities 5 years ago and set out to make an impact on important pieces of City Vision. In 2018 the Chamber Board of Directors chose to take responsibility for impacting Excellence in Education, Leadership Collaboration around Economic Development, Downtown Revitalization, Gateway Signage, and Event Center. As priorities often shift so have ours. The 2023 priorities still include Excellence in Education, Leadership Collaboration, and Downtown Revitalization, and we've added Housing (specifically home ownership) as well as Early Education / Daycare. Each of these priorities has progressed with the support and partnerships of our members and many others.

We've also been on the periphery of some other important projects including significant support for the Paradise Center for the Arts mortgage payoff and the advancement of the Faribault Foundation's transformation into a modern community foundation. The work being done by the PCA (The Paradise Center for the Arts) and the Foundation will have a significant impact on moving Faribault steadily toward that Vision 2040!

The Chamber has had a more direct role in helping the Faribault Industrial Corporation (FIC) play a big part in moving our town forward. The FIC was established in 1944 with the leadership of Faribault legends Don Ochs, Ruge Fleckenstein, Lucius Smith, Luke Gallagher, and others. The FIC raised funds to assist business and employee growth for the betterment of the Faribault economy and our workforce.  Among many other accomplishments, the FIC played a significant role in the growth of our fantastic industrial base by aiding with the plant development of McQuay's (now Daiken) and Mercury Minnesota as well as the development of the Airtech Industrial Park which hosts Northern Tool, Balchem. Tru Vue, and Westman Diesel. In recent years the FIC has partnered with the Faribault EDA by providing guidance and support as well as funding several “gap” loans to assist with business start-ups and expansions.  In 2018 the FIC Board began deliberating the possibility of taking a proactive approach with the FIC’s resources to enhance Faribault-centric projects.

In 2021 the FIC began a new journey under a management agreement with the Chamber. The FIC has partnered with others to establish and invest in two funds that are already making a big impact on our Vision 2040.  The first fund is under the umbrella of Faribo Downtown Central LLC (FDC).  This fund is responsible for securing 13 buildings in the Historic Downtown, most of which were in significant disrepair.  The footprint of these deteriorating properties is massive and without intervention, Downtown Faribault was facing a major roadblock in its ability to meet the renaissance citizens want as outlined in Community Vision 2040.  Now, in partnership with the Faribault EDA and HRA, Minnesota DEED, and some private investors the renaissance has begun.

The second fund is responsible for the acquisition and redevelopment of the original Faribault Foods plant, now affectionately known as "The Cannery".  The 257,000-square-foot facility is now helping four local industries meet important warehousing needs and providing space for an innovative agricultural start-up.  This fund has allowed several local players to invest Faribault dollars in Faribault projects helping Faribault businesses and industries.  This fund is also seeking to diversify the portfolio with one or two more projects and has room for more qualified investors as it expands.   *Note to members – the Chamber does not invest member dollars in these funds, nor does the Chamber President or his family.  The Chamber is being reimbursed by the FIC for our work on these projects under a contract for services.

Two other priorities under our Vision Task Force have momentum that we're hoping to report action on soon.  Homeownership opportunities will require new construction. To create affordable home ownership for young families, we've been partnering with Yard Homes to develop high-efficiency starter home options.  Our workgroup is penciling out a pilot project through the Chamber Trust right now.  We’ll keep you posted!

On the Daycare and Early Education priority, we've been partnering with the Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation on a study with a hopeful outcome that will provide 24/7 daycare and Early Education programs that will weave nicely into another priority - Kindergarten Readiness.  That brings us right back to our Number One Visionary PriorityExcellence in Education.  Be on the lookout for the next column where we’ll share the incredible progress with our community-wide and growing team addressing education from Cradle to Career including the growing curriculum shared with South Central College and Faribault High School in Health Sciences and Mechanical, Engineering, and Construction Trades.

Thanks so much for your continued support for the hard work being done by the many partners and organizations that are at the table making a difference for our economy and our workforce.  It’s our blessing at the Chamber to help organize these partners and resources to move us steadily toward our shared Vision for 2040.

Nort Johnson - President/CEO


Faribault Area Chamber of Commerce

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