Marshall EDA link to remain

By Seth Schmidt

The Tracy Economic Development Authority will continue its relationship with Discover Southwest Minnesota and the Marshall Area Chamber of Commerce.
On Monday, the Tracy City Council accepted a recommendation from the EDA board that Tracy continue to contract with Marshall for its economic development coordinator. The EDA recommends that the position continue to be 32-hours a week.
EDA board members have spent several meetings this summer reviewing the economic development director position. A June 24 council directive asked the EDA to review the current arrangement, and consider terminating the contract effective August 1. Council members questioned whether Tracy was getting sufficient value with the collaborative arrangement with Marshall. The EDA responded by recommending that the Marshall-Tracy contract be continued at least until Nov. 1, while options were reviewed.
Cal Brink, executive director of Discover Southwest Minnesota, subsequently announced that Tara Onken, the current Tracy EDA director, is being promoted as director of the Marshall Economic Development Authority. Councilman Tony Peterson, who also serves on the EDA board, said Monday that he feels continuing the contract with the Marshall Chamber “is the best option going forward.…We want to try this for a year” and then reevaluate.
He said that a detailed job description and clearly defined expectations drafted by the EDA board will make sure “everyone is working off the same set of music.”
Mayor Steve Ferrazzano, who also serves on the EDA, expressed the opinion that with the new job description, the EDA director would be able to “focus on main objectives rather than putting out fires.”
Peterson said the public should be aware that “any growth that the EDA generates isn’t going to happen overnight.” But he felt the EDA is making progress.
The City of Tracy now pays the Marshall Chamber $4,000 a month for EDA director services, with the EDA person spending about three days a week in Tracy and one day in Marshall. The individual is an employee of the Marshall Chamber, which picks up all fringe benefit expenses.
The Marshall Chamber would be responsible for hiring a successor to Onken.
How much Tracy would pay the Marshall Chamber for the position still needs to be negotiated. But Tracy officials feel that the expense will be less than if the new person were a City of Tracy employee, and that collaborating with the Marshall Chamber on economic development issues will benefit Tracy.