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home : opinion : editorial May 24, 2016

2/13/2013 9:29:00 AM
Preparing to succeed

The late John Wooden, a hall of fame basketball coach, is famous for saying, "Failure to prepare, is preparing to fail."
Fast Sprayers recently reached an agreement to move to North Windom Industrial Park for one overriding reason - preparation.
The company would not be where it is today without preparation. Owners Verlyn and Nancy Fast started small in 1990 with wintertime production at their farm, west of Mt. Lake.
Over time, Fast Sprayers saw gradual growth. Why? Because the owners were always prepared for it, ready to take the next step.
The Fasts went from a few part-time winter employees to a full-time staff of at least 90. By their own admission, the steady growth has been marked by piecemealing of buildings at the production site.
On a recent morning, Verlyn Fast and General Manager Clay Roll visited with Aaron Backman, executive director of the Windom Economic Development Authority. They explained the company's situation - the expansion needs, the space shortage at the farm, the company's need for utilities and fiber optics.
It was clear Fast and Roll were looking for a new building site. They stressed two critical factors - something close enough so they could keep their quality employees and a site that offered room for expansion, a place where they could eventually put everything under one roof.
Backman took the concerns into account and began formulating a plan. By 2 p.m. that day, he was sending a proposal to Fast and Roll.
Why was Backman able to respond so quickly? Preparation.
The North Windom Industrial Park project has been on the books for a decade. The land, which is located just north of Windom on Highway 71, was purchased in August of 2003 and engineering for the park was completed in 2004 and 2005. For nearly a decade, the engineering report sat idle and the site was cropland.
Windom was struggling to come up with funds needed to turn the North Windom Industrial Park into streets, utilities and buildable lots. During Backman's first term as EDA executive, a billboard was installed at the site. There were also other efforts to market the park.
However, as most developers will attest, it is virtually impossible to attract industry to a site that is undeveloped. Windom's best chance at developing the site occurred in the mid-2000s, when the state offered $500,000 in matching funds to fund the project. Unfortunately, the EDA could not come up with the matching fund.
However, EDA officials knew that such a fund was in the growth stage. The fund, known as the PM Beef fund, stems from the expansion of the PM Beef plant in the early 2000s.
It was a project led by PM Beef and then-Windom EDA Executive Jim King and the EDA board - another group that deserves some credit for its role in the Fast deal. With the help of the State of Minnesota, PM Beef received a low-interest loan for the expansion. In addition to bringing 220 jobs to the Windom plant, the project brought state dollars.
Under the plan, most of PM Beef's loan repayment would ultimately land in a Windom EDA fund. By 2010, that loan was paid off and Windom's fund contained more than $640,000.
So the funding was there, but what about the state matching fund?
Last spring, shortly after Backman was hired (for a second time) as Windom EDA executive, he began applying for state grants. By summer, we learned that the EDA had struck gold with two state grants totalling more than $1.1 million. That figure has since grown to $1.36 million thanks to MnDOT's decision to help fund highway safety improvements involving new turn lanes at the industrial park.
Obviously, this project is about timing as much as it is about preparation. Had Fast Sprayers been looking to expand in the mid-2000s, it's likely the company would have built elsewhere. In that case, Windom would not have been as prepared as it would have hoped.
However, that doesn't change the fact that preparation and long-range planning played a major role in this deal. For a decade, area residents have wondered aloud whether Windom's EDA board was wise to fund the land purchase and engineering study required for North Windom Industrial Park.
Tuesday, when asked whether the current Fast deal would have been possible if not for the fact that the park will be completed in 2013, Backman replied, "I'd have to say probably not."
What's more, we're confident this is far from the last big development Windom will land with the help of the new industrial park.
Backman described the recent agreement as "a happy confluence of both the city and Fast Sprayers being prepared." We could not agree more.
- Rahn Larson

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