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EDA finishes year with reminiscing and business activity

The Cook County/Grand Marais Economic Development Authority, the EDA, met on Tuesday, Dec. 8. And as always, there was plenty of discussion of local businesses and business opportunities.

But before the EDA board tackled all that, they spent a little time reminiscing with County Commissioner Heidi Doo-Kirk. EDA Executive Director Mary Somnis invited various government officials to join the Zoom meeting to share memories and well wishes with county board liasion Heidi Doo-Kirk as this was her last EDA meeting. There was a lot of laughter as colleagues and friends shared stories, thanked Doo-Kirk and wished her well as she leaves the county board.

Director Somnis asked those government officials to log in to the Zoom meeting at different times, so as not to violate Open Meeting laws.

Also remembered was Hal Greenwood, the EDA board member who passed away November 19. It was noted that Hal had done a lot of the community, much more than was apparent in his position on the EDA, the Grand Marais Planning Commission and as a founding member of the School District 166 education foundation. EDA board members said he was always working quietly behind the scenes for the benefit of Cook County.

The EDA moved on to regular business after that and distributed $5,000 from its business and housing development fund to Dapple Fern Fibers, a new yarn and fibers shop open now online. Dorothy Broomall and Mary Ellen Ashcroft were at the Zoom meeting to share their plans for an eventual “brick and mortar building.” For now, they are offering items online and working with North House Folk School on taking part in the next Northern Fibers Week.

There was a report on Superior National at Lutsen, with EDA Treasurer Scott Harrison reporting that the golf course did much better than anticipated at the start of the seaon in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. Harrison said the golf course finished with some funds and those were being reinvested in drainage and erosion issues on the older portion of the golf course.
The EDA also made a payment of $25,000 on the $175,000 loan it received for season start-up funds several years ago. The EDA has been paying interest on this loan, but has not had sufficient revenues to pay on the principal until this year.

EDA Director Somnis informed the EDA board that a $25,000 purchase offer for a lot in Cedar Grove Business Park had been withdrawn. Brad Shannon, of the nonprofit organization North Point, has found another location on which to build a youth center. The sale to Northpoint was on hold as language in the EDA covenants was considered by the EDA, the Grand Marais Planning Commission, and the Grand Marais City Council. There were questions on what is allowed in the business park, about the original purpose of the business park, and about what sort of services should be allowed.

NorthPoint had hoped to buy a small lot just off the Gunflint Trail to the west of the Como Oil and Propane lot. The new location has not yet been announced.

Two other lot sales are moving ahead, said Somnis. North Superior Fishery, LLC and Cook County Towing each requested a lot purchase to expand their current area in the business park. North Superior Fishery operates a boat storage company and Cook County Towing has towing equipment and salvaged vehicles. Both companies need more room for operations. The EDA approved the lot purchases and there will be a public hearing via Zoom on December 15 at 4 p.m. Anyone who would like to participate should contact EDA Director Somnis at director@prosperitynorth.com.

The EDA also heard of a possible new option to help fill the ongoing worker shortage on the North Shore. Local business owner and entrepreneur Sarah Hamilton brought a couple of employees from Pine Ridge, South Dakota, an economically depressed area, here for the opportunity to work. Somnis and Hamilton had a brief discussion on whether there would be other workers from Pine Ridge that might be interested in coming to the North Shore. Director Somnis said this is something that will be pursued, as well as the EDA’s and Cook County Chamber’s efforts to fill positions with international students on Visas and from Puerto Rico.

Somnis also encouraged any local businesses that are struggling financially to contact her or Small Business Development Center Representative Pat Campanaro for information on possible assistance. Contact Somnis at her email or call 218-410-0412.

WTIP’s Rhonda Silence learns more about all this in this interview with EDA Executive Director Mary Somnis.