A strong foundation bolsters Albert Lea

Published 9:02 am Friday, August 22, 2008

Tough economic times have been a constant focus in the daily news. Decisions to close retail chains are being made in corporate offices across America as they face nationwide losses. Individuals are facing the challenges of rising prices and uncertain housing trends.

However, in spite of news about the economy and a few stores closing, Albert Lea has remained stable with a steady real estate and employment market, and several companies are expanding and hiring additional employees.

My objective is to see the city of Albert Lea address current economic challenges by pressing forward with community marketing efforts. I want you to know that we are continuing to meet with individuals and companies interested in doing residential and retail/commercial projects in Albert Lea.

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The city, economic development agency, and chamber of commerce persist in their efforts to bring new development to town as well as to assist our existing companies with expansion and growth.

The Convention and Visitors Bureau markets annual events and activities such as the Big Island Rendezvous, Eddie Cochran Weekend, and the Pelican Breeze II cruise. Our goal is to increase and broaden our tax base to be able to accommodate the increasing costs of sustaining and growing our community. Change is constant — doing nothing has economic costs that only escalate with time.

Although new housing permits are down, alterations and remodeling permits are up in 2008. The Albert Lea Medical Center has completed the clinic expansion and is now moving ahead with plans to build a new Fountain Centers treatment facility. Albert Lea Select Foods has recently applied for a permit in excess of $900,000 to expand their building. We also have Flying J on track with the construction of their travel plaza near the Interstate 35 interchange.

A senior housing complex is well under way on Washington Avenue and two other companies have looked at sites for other housing projects. Artspace Projects Inc. will begin the artist market survey in November and we anticipate a successful outcome to that. Another developer has expressed interest in a mixed-use project in the downtown. It is exciting to know that Albert Lea is of such interest to commercial and real estate developers around the country.

The city made the investment in a new comprehensive plan to focus our vision and direct our development and selection of opportunities.

We have a five-year capital improvements plan that prepares us for growth and changes to infrastructure and city services, and, at the same time, anticipates future spending for maintenance and improvements. The city has cultivated partnerships with state officials that are vital to their awareness of the needs and opportunities in our community. We value our connections to current developers, and we also work hard to attract new developers to the area.

Remember, tough times never last — tough people do! As your mayor, I want you to know that we are building a strong foundation to face the future.

Randy Erdman is the mayor of Albert Lea and his column appears monthly. He is also a political candidate seeking re-election.