Economic Development: Fairfax and Kenyon Move Forward

When the Fairfax share of the CMPAS member refunds were distributed in 2019, Nicholas Johnson, Fairfax’s City Administrator, put those funds right to work improving his community. The money was used to finish paying for a street sweeper, tear down a dilapidated building, and replace the roof on the city’s police/fire/ambulance complex. During the year, Fairfax also completed installing energy-efficient LEDs in all its streetlights.

“The stars really aligned,” Nick commented. “Sometimes economic development means you take care of the little things so that the big things can take care of themselves. To be successful at economic development, you need to keep your city looking bright and fresh.”

Fairfax’s current economic development efforts are focused on working to reopen a grocery store that closed in late 2018. Although it’s too early to proclaim victory, Nick is hoping the revamped property will reopen in early 2020.

Fairfax will also benefit from a new fertilizer plant that opened in 2019. Located just outside Fairfax’s city limits, the $12 million plant will employ Fairfax residents and purchase goods and services from city-based merchants.

“In our economic development work, we prefer an informal collaborative approach, where parties can sit down, discuss opportunities, determine needs, and figure out how to streamline processes,” Nick said. “Whether it’s landing a new business or working to retain existing businesses, we want to hear how we can work together.”

One hundred miles east of Fairfax, the city of Kenyon is putting the finishing touches on its 30-acre business park, slated for availability in 2020. “We plan to be wired and open for business in 2020,” said City Administrator Mark Vahlsing.

“We’ve been trying to create a light-industrial business park for years,” he continued. “What turned the tide was getting a grant from the Minnesota Department of Economic Development in 2019 that covered about 50 percent of the cost of laying down infrastructure like roads, electric lines and substations, and sewers.

The park is located on the northeast side of town. Mark said the ideal types of businesses Kenyon is trying to attract are assembly facilities, warehouses, distribution centers, corporate offices, and telecommunications firms.

“We’re looking to attract businesses that don’t create a lot of pollution or waste, and that don’t require a high level of treated water,” he explained.

“Economic development is the ultimate long game,” Mark commented. “When it works, it’s the overnight sensation that was five years in the making.”


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