Economic development boss is major city initiative for year 2022

The new year will launch a new initiative and a position for the city of Pelican Rapids.

“Smokestack-chaser.” 

That is a “slang” description that has sometimes been applied to economic development positions. For the first time ever, Pelican will be hiring one individual to focus entirely on business growth, retention and attraction—plus housing and other needs. 

The city council is gambling more than $100,000 on the position, which alone represents a near 16 percent increase in the city’s annual operating budget. 

In this modern, high tech day and age, there may not be “smokestacks” in the Pelican Rapids future. Industrial or manufacturing businesses are not likely a primary objective. 

More realistic: Small business opportunities, expansions for existing business, and specialty enterprises. Pelican is not likely to see another turkey plant in the neighborhood but, hypothetically, it might attract a business that services turkey processing or growing. 

Pelican’s proximity to the Fargo-Moorhead area, but as a gateway to the lakes and Maplewood State Park, could attract young entrepreneurs and tele-commuting enterprises.

Housing will be a key objective. As it stands, there is a limited inventory of housing available for young families. 

A job description is pending, and posting of the job is anticipated in the next two to three months. 

“The person will need to have experience in connecting the dots between state, federal and county agencies,” said Administrator Don Solga. “We need to find somebody who has familiarity with those networks…we can’t have somebody spinning their wheels in a learning curve….we want that curve to be as short as possible, in order to see a return on our investment.” 

The position requires experience at several levels, from grant-writing to loans and finance—plus old fashioned public relations, and sales skills.

“You can’t expect to bring somebody off the street to come in and build the kind of networks necessary for the position,” said Solga. 

Solga anticipates a formal interview process, with a sub-committee that would likely include a council member or two, members of the community, and possibly some experienced economic development volunteers from the county, regional or even state level. 

Proposed job descriptions will be approved by the council. The position will be posted, and interviews will be scheduled—possibly over a two or three day period, depending on the number of applicants. 

“The more that apply, the better…and the more that apply with a background, the better,” said Solga. 

A firm timeline on the process and the new hire has not yet been determined.