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City gives greater power to economic development authority

The Cloquet Economic Development Authority (EDA) is growing up. On Tuesday, members of the Cloquet City Council voted unanimously to give the EDA the power to operate independently in its official role (defined on the city's website as "attractin...

The Cloquet Economic Development Authority (EDA) is growing up. On Tuesday, members of the Cloquet City Council voted unanimously to give the EDA the power to operate independently in its official role (defined on the city's website as "attracting new businesses to the community, retaining existing businesses, assisting businesses with expansion, and enabling rehabilitation and/or redevelopment of areas within the community").

Since it was created in 1987 to assist the city with economic development efforts on Dunlap Island, the EDA has acted in an advisory capacity to the city. Even when the city broadened the EDA's influence to the full boundaries of the city of Cloquet, it still acted as a recommending body to the council.

However, after Tuesday's vote, the EDA will become a true autonomous governing agency, with many of the same governmental abilities and powers as a city. Its members - the EDA is composed of at least two city council members plus five members from the general public or organizations such as the school district, county or business chamber - can establish economic development districts within the city (after holding a public hearing and giving public notice in the newspaper), acquire property, administer the city's various economic development revolving loan funds, sign contracts for the purpose of economic development, even use eminent domain.

By making the EDA autonomous, it would face fewer state and federal restrictions on money paid back to the city's revolving loan fund, a "critical" difference, City Administrator Brian Fritsinger said.

"Those funds could then be used for broader economic development purposes," he said.

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However, Fritsinger told councilors, while the EDA will have the power to both levy and bond for funds, the final authority for those actions would still rest with the City Council. The EDA will also have to annually submit its budget to the City Council for approval, including an estimate of the amount of money the EDA will need from the city to perform its business that year. Currently the city levies approximately $90,000 each year to be used for EDA staffing and other activities.

No community members spoke during Tuesday's public hearing on the proposed EDA changes, nor did any of the council members present make any comments.

Current EDA board members include Ron Hanson, Shelly Peterson, Ross Peterson, Russ Smith, Mayor Bruce Ahlgren and Councilors Deb Hill and David Bjerkness.

Related Topics: CARLTON COUNTYCLOQUET
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