Increasing demand for a more focused emphasis on economic development will move into priority for the new year in Pelican Rapids. 

“I’m feeling pressure from the community to address this,” said Joe Clauson, recently elected president of the Pelican Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce. 

There are essentially two apparatuses for economic development in Pelican: The city council acting as an Economic Development Authority; and a separate, privately operated panel, the Economic Development Corporation (EDC.) 

There are economic development funds available, but as Clauson noted, “I don’t see the EDA or the EDC advancing projects.”

“Stagnant” is how Clauson described the progress on the economic development front. 

The bright spot for 2023 is the city council’s move to contract for economic development assistance with a non-profit consulting firm, CEDA (Community and Economic Development Associates).

“I have a lot of high hopes with CEDA,” said Councilman Steve Strand. “I think it will be a good start.”

The city had been moving toward a full-time, on-staff economic development director for several years. But last year, the council moved forward with “contracted” services with CEDA. The non-profit has extensive experience throughout the state, including the nearby city of Frazee—where city officials have been generally very satisfied.

Chamber President Clauson touched on an issue that has percolated for years. Questions have frequently surfaced about the overall effectiveness of the city council acting as an economic development authority. 

Various restructurings of the EDA and the EDC have been explored, with modest success. But many business owners and managers remain impatient with the pace of business, housing, and other economic ventures. 

Despite the concerns, there is good reason for optimism, noted Otter Tail County Commissioner Wayne Johnson, who attended the Jan. 10 council meeting.

The county-wide economic development agency stands ready to assist Pelican Rapids, and county staff are also available to help, said Johnson. “Pelican Rapids is perfectly placed to move forward,” said Johnson. 

One of the first priorities, when CEDA’s contract begins, is to review Pelican’s economic development weaknesses and strengths, and consider options.