Southern Research and Outreach Center

BEST of Waseca County's spring business summit will focus on implementation of the community's vision project. (County News file photo)

Spring is here, and BEST’s seasonal business summit is right around the corner.

BEST of Waseca County’s spring business summit takes place April 25 at University of Minnesota Southern Research and Outreach Center, located at 35838 120th St. in Waseca.

Registration/check-in starts at 8 a.m.. The program begins at 8:30 and concludes at 1 p.m.

Following the summit’s theme of “Make No Little Plans,” the main topic will be implementation of the Waseca Vision 2030 project.

Other topics include the business climate in Waseca County and community updates, and emerging economic drivers in agriculture, tourism, manufacturing, technology and entrepreneurship.

Prospective attendees must register by April 20 and can do so by calling Waseca Economic Development Coordinator Gary Sandholm at 507-833-9281 or emailing him at [email protected].

“When the plan was rolled out, (project consultants) were encouraging action to be taken within six weeks,” Sandholm said. “That’s where we’re at with the summit.”

The Waseca Vision 2030 process is a collaborative project that has involved community engagement to understand where local people wanted Waseca to end up in the future. Area residents were asked about what their preferred future for Waseca is, and there was a remarkably high level of agreement about one that had the city highly competitive in the region while also growing and retaining talent.

The strategic action plan report outlines “strategic pillars” and action areas to help Waseca work toward its preferred future.

The first pillar involves creating high quality community assets, which could be done by launching programs to attract and retain youth and young professionals, transforming the education system into lifelong learning, updating community aesthetics and infrastructure and anchoring the downtown as the heart of the community.

Another pillar involves expanding and leveraging economic development initiatives, with some action steps including establishing a long-range economic development plan with metrics for success, creating a community marketing and branding initiative, diversifying and intensifying its agricultural sector and expanding its technology, professional and business sectors.

David Beurle of Future iQ, the firm the city hired to help it through the visioning process, said that Waseca is situated in what he called an “arc of innovation,” being close to the metro area as well as to cities like Mankato, Owatonna and Faribault, so that it can tie into a regional story. Feedback from the public engagement process indicated a desire to see Waseca “take a seat at the table” regionally.

The action plan suggests Waseca could work toward this by becoming a “destination location” through the development of parks and a recreation and tourism master plan, the creation of development plans for Maplewood Park and the Northwest Nature Area to transform them into regional attractions and the development of and investment in plans to address water quality issues at Clear Lake.

The final pillar concerns the creation of a vibrant and dynamic community through greater collaboration and cooperation between government entities in addition to encouraging collaboration between organizations and within the community by seeking input on projects as well as fostering entrepreneurship and encouraging innovation.

Reporter Jacob Stark can be reached at 837-5451 or follow him on Twitter @WCNjacob.

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Covering Waseca, Janesville, and New Richland.

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