Column: Changes will hopefully bring more prosperity to the community

Published 12:00 am Sunday, October 26, 2003

Change &045; whether you fear it or embrace &045; it is a fact of life. Albert Lea is changing and with change will come positive opportunities for all of us!

This week the City Council took a courageous step and voted to change the current City Manager’s position. Prior to this our City Manger wore two, often conflicting hats.

Fifty percent of his time was spent managing the daily operations of our city and fifty percent managing the Port Authority.

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With this change we will now have the opportunity to have a full time City Manager and a full time Port Authority executive director.

We are investing in our community and committing resources to economic development, something that’s been talked about for a very long time in Albert Lea.

With our city manager’s expertise and experience we are positioning ourselves for success for future developments and projects.

What is the Port Authority? It began in Albert Lea in 1987 while our past Mayor Bob Haukoos was a member of the House of Representatives. Legislation was passed allowing Albert Lea to form a Port Authority.

Since then, Paul Sparks,

has been instrumental in developing assets in excess of $8 million, making our Port Authority the 6th largest in the state of Minnesota! Those assets include developed and undeveloped industrial land, several farms that are rented out, buildings that are leased, and several hundred thousand dollars in liquid funds.

The seven members of the City Council direct the Port Authority. Plans are being worked on to develop a new board of directors that will include at least two City Council members as well as qualified community members.

The City Council will approve all members nominated to the board.

Larson Allen Weishair & Company audits the Port Authority each year and an annual report is available to the public each year.

Greater Jobs Inc. is a private entity, not a city entity, and yet the Port Authority works very closely with their board in the area of economic development.

Greater Jobs Inc. was started in the mid 1940s by a group of individuals in Albert Lea who wanted to create jobs for the returning serviceman during the World War II years.

The Port Authority and Greater Jobs Inc. have some significant differences in how they function and actually what they can and cannot do:

Port Authority: owns land and buildings; can tax with council approval; can make loans; limited to city of Albert Lea; can receive state grants/funds; can purchase tax-forfeited property; tax-increment financing; bonding; property tax breaks.

Greater Jobs: Private corporation; membership available to all county residents; serves all of Freeborn County; no taxing authority or ability; Venture Capital opportunity; borrow money quickly and easily; not subject to open meeting law and disclosure.

In conclusion, your City Council members and myself are doing our best to make some changes that we hope will have a positive impact on our community for the future. Those changes have been difficult and yet we have had the courage to make them.

Rudy Guiliani in his book, &uot;Leadership,&uot; which he wrote after the Sept. 11 tragedy hit his city writes that &uot;Leadership works both ways: it is a privilege, but it carries responsibilities &045; from imposing a structure suitable to an organization’s purpose, to forming a team of people who bring out the best in each other, to taking the right, unexpected risks.

A leader must develop strong beliefs, articulate and act on those beliefs, and be held accountable for the results.&uot;

We don’t know what the future holds, but we hope and pray that the future of Albert Lea will be bright for all of us.

We hope that the changes we are making will bring more prosperity to our community.

That is what we believe and what we acted on this past week.

(Jean Eaton is the mayor of Albert Lea.)