A Helpful Guide Through the Development Maze
If you’ve been following our series of articles about how development happens in Superior, you may be thinking “how in the world can I put all of the pieces together?” The Development Association (DA) serves as a valued guide, advisor, mentor and counselor to those attempting to start or grow a business in Superior and Douglas County.
The DA has been supporting and assisting development for over fifty years, and is a non-profit, public/private organization devoted to implementing development initiatives that help our community prosper. A 501(c)(6) corporation, the DA works in partnership with local government and community organizations to build the Superior-Douglas County area as an economic center.
“We’re ready to help you successfully navigate through the details of starting your business, providing sound advice and solid expertise every step of the way.” – from the DA website.
Community Partner Support & Guidance
Led by Jim Caesar, the DA has well over one hundred member companies, along with the City of Superior, who fund its mission at varying levels. The fourteen member board of directors is drawn from local business owners, economic development professionals, bankers and government representatives.
The DA strives for partnership with other development and governmental organizations, with a client driven approach. The work of business is the focus and motivation for everything that the DA is involved in.
The City of Superior is a major contributor to the DA at $86,829 in 2016, with Douglas County contributing $50,000. About two dozen other businesses contribute each year between $1000 and $10,000 each, with the remainder of the membership contributing between $300 and $500 per year. Total membership income was $82,860 last year.
With an annual operating budget of $238,970 in 2016, the DA has the resources to work towards it development goals.
Development Association 2016 Board of Directors
The Mission of the Development Association
The mission of the DA is to help businesses grow, a mission that is apparent in its website name, www.wegrowbiz.
Their DA website breaks down its mission into four distinct categories:
- Starting a new business – provides counseling, education and access to loan opportunities
- Business recruitment – offers professional assistance via needs assessment and other sources
- Entrepreneurs – assists new businesses through its Business & Culinary Incubator
- Retention & Expansion – takes proactive steps to help existing businesses grow
Mr. Caesar shares that many of the services of the DA are in the nature of referrals where they connect businesses with the appropriate resources needed to make their project a reality. Nonetheless, he asserts that the DA is very adept at helping with capital campaign planning, facility and building targeting, financial planning, networking within the community, and in educational opportunities.
On occasion, a project may not be able to obtain adequate financing through traditional sources such as bankds or credit unions, In those instances, bridge loans may be required to complete a new business creation or expansion.
In these circumstances, resources such as the Douglas County Revolving Loan Fund (DCRLF) may be called into play. Since 1986, the DCRLF has loaned or granted over $4.5 million to over 75 businesses and/or organizations.
In that last two years alone, the DA has assisted 15 businesses in this manner. This loan fund provides gap financing, incentive financing and equity enhancements for industrial projects. Repayments and interest earned allowed the loan fund to revolve several times over.
The DA manages the fund for Douglas County. Its responsibilities regarding the fund include
- ensuring that loan portfolio customers are current on loan payments,
- providing technical and financing assistance to new applicants,
- keeping loan and meeting records,
- developing loan contracts,
- collateral security filings and other pertinent information pertaining to the loan fund.
Educational & Guidance Services
Navigating local regulations, finding and negotiating leases for business facilities, and legal and/or financing concerns can be daunting to a prospective business owner. The DA can help the budding entrepreneur find their way through these challenges.
Mr. Caesar discussed how his organization refers new businesses to Andy Donahue at the Small Business Development Center at UW-Superior to build or bolster their business plans. He is also able to put them in touch with the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) and the Northwest Regional Planning Commission (NWRPC) in hopes of obtaining economic grants.
The DA can also advise new businesses on marketing materials, and how to apply for loans from the Douglas County Revolving Loan Fund. Mr. Caesar estimates that helping new businesses at this stage occupies about 25% of his time.
A major effort of the DA is recruiting new businesses to open up shop in the Superior-Douglas County area, one that Mr. Caesar devotes about 40% of his time on. Recruitment can be done locally as well as a national basis.
One organization that the DA has courted in recent times is the International Council of Shopping Centers, which holds its annual convention each year in May. Given recent departures in Superior of both Target and K-Mart, this is a logical group for the DA to seek out new business for our community.
A local business recruited to Superior is Clover Valley Farms. Although started outside of Duluth, this company is making artisanal vinegars in Superior thanks to assistance from the DA. In need of a facility to do their vinegar infusing, bottling and packaging, Clover Valley Farms was able to find a home in the Superior Business Center thanks to the DA.
According to Cindy Hale, Clover Valley Farms owner, “The DA hooked us up with business consultants who could teach us how to manage our time, when to do what to keep on track and not get overwhelmed. The DA paid for the initial consult. Now the DA has connected us to consultants who are helping us with marketing.”
She went on to say that the “DA also provided us with a line of working capital, through the Douglas County Revolving Loan Fund.”
Business & Culinary Incubator
The DA sometimes refers new businesses to the Superior Business Center (SBC) which is a business incubator facility located in Superior at 1423 North 8th Street. The SBC was first established in 1989 in order to encourage the creation of new, viable businesses, it serves as an ideal start facility for new entrepreneurs who require affordable leased space.
The SBC offers a food service kitchen for manufacturing purposes, warehouse space, and small cubicles and office suites designed to permit a new business to do business in a professional manner. After a period of time, these businesses generally graduate out of the SBC into privately owned spaces in the area.
Business Retention & Expansion
Mr. Caesar spends about a third of his time working on retaining existing businesses in Superior and Douglas County, and encouraging others to expand here. Much of this work is done by keeping his ear to the ground, networking throughout the community, and checking in from time to time with various businesses in town.
By being proactive in these efforts, the DA is better able to assist businesses that may be in need of technical assistance, license or permit & zoning information. He may also be able to help with financial assistance or incentives by directing businesses to various organizations that can provide grants and loans.
Community Connections Helpful
As is common with other development minded groups and organizations, the DA has close ties to other community entities that help it work towards its mission. These groups include:
The Superior-Douglas County Chamber of Commerce – an advocate for the business concerns of its members in our area.
Superior BID – the Superior Business Improvement District represents owners within its boundaries in Superior with the purpose of sustaining, promoting, and enhancing a vibrant commercial business district for the greater good of the community.
Positively Superior – a magazine that shares success stories of Superior’s business community that is comprised of economic development partners including the City of Superior, Douglas County, the Chamber of Commerce, the Superior BID, the Development Association, UW-Superior, WITC, and the School District of Superior.
APEX (Area Partnership for Economic Expansion) – an economic and business development organization providing regional assets and tools to support growth in northeast Mnnnesota and northwest Wisconsin.
The NORTHSPAN Group – a private, nonprofit business and community development consulting firm located in Duluth, Minnesota that offers business & community development consulting services to clients in the Upper Midwest.
Northland Connection – a program of The Northspan Group that provides economic development data and analysis to recruit, expand and retain business across the region.
NORTHFORCE – a collaborative initiative overseen by APEX and The Northspan Group, aimed at connecting talent with opportunities in northeast Minnesota and northwest Wisconsin
Entrepreneur Fund – an entrepreneurial fund established in 1989 to stimulate growth of business in northeastern Minnesota and northwester Wisconsin.
The Development Association can be reached here:
Explore Superior Economic Development Series
Business Incubator Hatches Superior Opportunities, August 21st
Why Develop In Superior? – August 18th
Earth Rider Brewery Construction – August 16th
What’s Happening at The Cedar Lounge? – August 14th
Important Economic Development Concepts – August 8th
Video Tour of Empire Block, August 7th
Superior-Douglas County Chamber of Commerce, July 1st
Superior Business Improvement District, June 30th
The Development Association “Grows Biz!”, June 29th
City Planning & Economic Development, June 27th
Small Business Development Center, June 26th
How Development Happens in Superior, June 23rd
Youth Movement Changing Superior, June 22nd