The Blue Earth Economic Development Authority (EDA) board kicked off their first meeting of the year with fresh ideas to promote Blue Earth far and wide.
At the regularly scheduled meeting held Thursday, Jan. 13, at 7:15 a.m., EDA specialist Amy Schaefer brought forward several innovative promotional ideas for the board’s consideration.
“We haven’t really set what we’re going to do with marketing this year,” Schaefer began. “I’d like to spend our money a little differently this year.”
Schaefer’s first idea involved the medium of television.
“I’ve seen several small communities doing commercials,” she explained. Shaefer noted she has already received interest from Shellie Poetter, director of the Blue Earth Chamber of Commerce, and the Housing Redevelopment Authority (HRA) board.
“The cost of the video shouldn’t be too extreme if we’re working with two other entities,” Schaefer reasoned.
Schaefer has discussed the concept with Flying Buttress Media, who gave her a quote estimate for a 30-second commercial.
“Speaking very generally, a video like the above description can cost between $1,900-$3,500+, depending on different content factors,” Flying Buttress explained in a letter to Schaefer.
Schaefer sought the EDA’s approval to continue exploring the concept of a video.
“I 100 percent think we should explore the options,” EDA board member Jamie Jones said.
“I think it’s a great idea,” EDA board member Bill Rosenau agreed, adding he is curious as to how the commercial would be distributed for viewing purposes.
“I’ll bring some information next month and we can go from there,” Schaefer responded.
Schaefer also introduced the possibility of an advertising service offered by BEVCOMM.
Schaefer offered the possibility of Geofencing, a program that draws a virtual fence around a certain area to create possibilities for targeted advertising within the area.
When individuals travel within the area, they receive targeted notifications advertising area attractions.
“BEVCOMM does a two-to-three week test campaign to figure out the overall cost of a Geofencing campaign,” Schaefer explained. “There are a lot of variables with cost, but the test is at no charge.”
“I think we should do the test campaign, and see if it is worth our money and time to do it (Geofencing),” Schaefer concluded.
“I’d say run the test if it’s at no cost,” EDA board president Lissia Laehn suggested. “Then, we can go from there.”
A third and final marketing idea Schaefer suggested was Connect Magazine, a print publication that has a large audience throughout Southern Minnesota.
“I think it would be valuable to put something in it,” Schaefer noted. “It’s got a big reach.”
She concluded, “I think our marketing dollars need to be spent reaching outside of Blue Earth.”
Schaefer referenced a presentation which she and local VISTA representative, Hanna Haggarty, recently brought before the EDA.
The presentation highlighted projected shortages in the Minnesota workforce, and the vitality of small towns, such as Blue Earth, attracting additional residents.
“We have to be cognizant of catching people who are relocating, or looking for a place to expand their business,” Schaefer added, suggesting her marketing research efforts as a possible solution to the issue.
The EDA board encouraged Schaefer to pursue the marketing strategies she had suggested.
“We have a good marketing budget, and this is a good use of a chunk of that budget,” said city administrator Mary Kennedy. “Let’s dump money into something with a broad reach.”
In other business, the Blue Earth EDA:
• Awarded January’s Business Spotlight of the Month to El Tio Mexican Restaurant.
• Approved a regular yearly donation of $500 to the Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation (SMIF).
• Approved a training program forgivable loan request in the amount of $198.84 from Resia Hayward, a St. Luke’s Lutheran Care Center employee.
Hayward, who currently works as a certified nursing assistant at the care center, wishes to receive additional training as a medication administrator.
• Awarded a forgivable loan to Blue Earth’s Cabin Coffee Company/Brighter Days Cafe, LLC, in the amount of $25,000.
The business’s ownership is in the process of being transferred to Jasmin Sahr, current operating manager at Cabin Coffee. Sahr intends to use the loan to complete unfinished projects at Cabin Coffee and purchase equipment.
• Approved the 2022 EDA Work Plan drafted by Schaefer. Schaefer noted 2022 goals will include new marketing initiatives, rehabilitating the Ag Center space, and resident recruitment.
Schaefer also noted she has finished paperwork to start the process of applying for a new VISTA representative, as Haggarty’s year-long term in Blue Earth ends next week.
• Approved the revised draft of the EDA’s Training Financing Program forgivable loan.
The final draft of the program will offer up to $500 per individual applicant and up to $1,500 per business applicant.
The EDA determined individuals and businesses will be eligible to apply yearly. Schaefer also has implemented a $5,000 yearly cap on the program.
• Heard positive feedback regarding Blue Earth’s newly-formed Workforce Group, which is meeting bi-monthly at the Ag Center on Tuesdays, from noon to 1 p.m. Their next meeting will be held on Jan. 18.