Coon Rapids promoting itself to bankers and realtors

Staff from the city of Coon Rapids have been promoting the city to north metro area bankers and realtors.

A realtors forum took place at the Bunkers Hills Clubhouse June 25 and later the same week, staff hosted the first annual bankers breakfast at the Bunker Hills Clubhouse.

The realtors forum took place in partnership with the St. Paul Area Association of Realtors, into which the former Anoka County Association of Realtors merged a few years ago.

During the three-hour program, staff made presentations on redevelopment and job creation projects in Coon Rapids, street improvements, the proposed park referendum, recreational activities, property values, the rental licensing program and crime free training, code enforcement and home improvement programs.

In addition, Leah Sams, program coordinator, spoke about the new biomedical courses that will be offered to students at Coon Rapids High School the coming school year.

The purpose of the forum was to better inform realtors in the metro area about the different programs that the city offers to benefit both residents and the business community, according to Kristin DeGrande, city neighborhood coordinator, who put together the forum program.

“We wanted to promote Coon Rapids to the realtors who work in the city,” DeGrande said.

And the biomedical program starting at Coon Rapids High School “is a great thing for the community,” she said.

“Coon Rapids High School is one of the first in the state to offer biomedical courses to its students,” DeGrande said.

A handful of other metro cities have hosted similar realtors sessions and DeGrande hopes to make this an annual event in Coon Rapids, she said.

“We wanted to show how we are different from other communities,” DeGrande said.

Some 25 realtors attended, but a scheduling conflict that DeGrande was not aware of before setting the date kept the numbers down, she said.

“The program was well received by the realtors present,” DeGrande said.

The bankers breakfast drew some 30 bankers from across the north metro.

Presentations were made on the city’s Open to Business program and its partnership with the Central Minnesota Development Company, both of which were launched this year, as well as the city’s own economic development resources, including new and expanded tools that came out of the legislative session, according to Marc Nevinski, city community development director.

Open to Business is a city partnership with the Metropolitan Consortium of Community Developers that provides prospective and existing business owners with free one-on-one counseling with Rob Smolund, a business adviser with the consortium.

Smolund has office hours the third Tuesday of each month from 2-4:30 p.m. at the Coon Rapids City Center.

The program offers assistance in financial management, loan packaging, business plan assistance, real estate analysis, marketing assistance, strategic planning, business regulations and professional referrals.

The city’s partnership with the Central Minnesota Development Company provides financing options for projects that achieve the city’s development goals.

Loans available through the partnership are designed to leverage other private financing for projects in the city’s industrial parks and along established commercial corridors and redevelopment areas.

The money can be used for land, buildings, machinery and equipment.

In addition, the partnership offers commercial fix-up funding for building additions, windows, awnings, signs, artwork and exterior finishes on properties in the city’s established business districts.

According to Nevinski, the 2013 Minnesota Legislature pumped money into the Minnesota Investment Fund, which cities like Coon Rapids can tap for economic development projects as the city has done in the past with expansion projects at Steinwall and Biovest.

Over the biennium, $30 million has been allocated to the investment fund, $15 million in each year, Nevinski said.

“That’s a huge amount and the most I have seen in my whole career,” he said.

According to Matt Brown, city community development specialist, there are no projects in the pipeline at this time for which the city might seek Minnesota Investment Fund dollars.

Under the program, the state allows the city to set the terms of the loan that is given to the businesses from the investment fund dollars, Brown said.

The bankers were very receptive to the program and the city is planning similar meetings with brokers and investors, according to Nevinski.

“It was an opportunity to talk about and promote our new business programs to bankers in the area,” Nevinski said.

Peter Bodley is at