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City takes wider view on development

Creating jobs has taken on a new sense of importance as the country tries to wriggle its way out of a recession For the Rosemount Port Authority the answer seems to lie in working with other cities and organizations to make good things happen.

In its 2011 preliminary budget the port authority dedicated $10,000 to the Itasca Project. While it hasn't formally voted to join the project the commission identified money for the cause.

The Itasca Project is an employer-led alliance drawn together by an interest in finding better ways to address regional issues that impact the future economic competitiveness and quality of life. The group, which held its first meeting in 2004, consists of representatives from many of the Fortune 500 companies in the area as well as public servants including the Governor and the mayors of several cities.

City administrator Dwight Johnson said the group has taken an active role in regional issues to help make the overall area more attractive. Most recently the group has decided to hone in on regional economic development.

Currently, the Twin Cities has no regional economic development organization to market the area on a national and global scale. Johnson said the Twin Cities is one of the largest metro areas without a regional economic development entity and its is competing with areas that do, which is a disadvantage.

"In some instances we're not even in the ballgame because of this," said Johnson.

The goal of the Itasca Project is to draw businesses to the area to create jobs. Community development director Kim Lindquist said the city and residents could benefit through a larger tax base and more available jobs if the project succeeds.

Furthermore, Lindquist said because Rosemount has a fair amount of land it could be a good place for incoming businesses to develop.

The Itasca group believes working together can help everyone involved get more out of their investment. It focuses on acting regionally and focusing on the most critical needs of the region.

Johnson said the group consists of mostly business leaders but because cities stand to benefit the group is recruiting local governments including cities and counties to get involved.

Most of the funding for the new organization is coming from the private sector, but they do believe there will be a benefit to the public sector and are asking for voluntary memberships. The cost for Rosemount to join will be the budgeted $10,000.

Kathy Schmidlkofer, the vice president for finance at General Mills, is leading the project. She has been on loan to the Itasca Group for the past year to pursue this project. Recently, she was designated as the transition director for the new economic development organization and will serve in that capacity until a permanent CEO can be hired, according to the staff memo.

Johnson said he's unsure when the issue will come back to the port authority but said the group is hopeful that its membership will make a difference.

Emily Zimmer
Emily Zimmer has worked as a staff writer for the Rosemount Town Pages since 2007. She has a degree in journalism from Minnesota State University, Mankato. Outside of work, Emily enjoys running, reading and gardening. You can follow Emily's gardening adventures at the Areavoices blog East of Weedin'
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