ALEDA functions as one-stop business shop

Published 10:45 am Thursday, March 5, 2015

By Ryan Nolander

In last month’s column I wrote about the history of the Albert Lea Economic Development Agency. This month we’ll look at some of the questions we encounter:


What does ALEDA do?  

When ALEDA was originated during the fall of 2003, it became a one-stop shop for economic development, allowing us to function more seamlessly and utilize the Port Authority and Greater Jobs’ strengths. What does this mean? Well, we have land available to sell to companies, we manage and lease buildings and properties, we do gap financing and deal structuring, we do business retention visits, we market the community to outside contacts and we manage relationships with multiple site selectors and state agencies just to name a few of the things we do. Over the years the two organizations have been a part of developing more than 20 spec buildings and five industrial parks.


What are the differences between the Port Authority and Greater Jobs?

The Port Authority is a governmental nonprofit entity funded by grant, rental and loan income.  It has the power to use tax-increment financing, purchase tax-forfeited property and levy a tax. The Port Authority can only operate within the borders of the city of Albert Lea.

Greater Jobs is a private nonprofit development corporation created back in 1944 and was funded by local businessmen. They created the first community industrial park in the U.S. in the early 1950s. Greater Jobs is important because it can operate anywhere in Freeborn County and beyond.


Where do the Port Authority and Greater Jobs get their funding from?

Both are self-sufficient and generate their own revenue through land sales, leases and good asset management. The Port Authority has the authority to levy a tax to pay for operating expenses; however, the Port Authority does not utilize this authority.


Ryan Nolander

Ryan Nolander

How can there be a Port Authority when Albert Lea has no port?

The Port Authority was created in 1987 in order to have the same development advantages as the other port cities in the state such as Duluth, St. Paul, Red Wing and Winona.


How was the Port Authority organized in the past? 

When it was formed in 1987, the then city manager decided to have the mayor appoint the existing City Council members as the board members, and the city manager would be the executive director. Even though it was structured this way it didn’t mean that the Port Authority was a city department or agency. Also, when it was “housed” under the city usually there was a short meeting once a month before a pre-agenda workshop to approve the minutes and claims for the month, and the Port Authority wasn’t being utilized much because the city manager and council had other things to focus on, like running a good city.


Should the Port Authority be run by the city? 

Contrary to mistaken belief, the Albert Lea Port Authority is actually a political subdivision of the state of Minnesota — in essence it is its own city — and is not considered a department of the city. Per the city’s Code of Ordinances Sec. 2-173.- Legal status: “The port authority shall be a public body politic and corporate and a political subdivision of the state. It shall not be considered a department of the city nor shall the city be liable for its obligations unless assumed by the city in writing.” Other port authorities may have offices within their city hall, but this statute applies to all Minnesota port authorities.


So does the city have input on Port Authority/ALEDA business today?  

Yes. Two city councilors sit on the seven-member board, and the city manager is an ex-officio on the board, so there is a lot of opportunity for city input on ALEDA matters. Also, I attend a development review team meeting every Wednesday morning with city department heads, and I am in communication with the city manager, assistant city manager or the city attorney multiple times each week.

Next month I will continue with more questions we encounter in regards to the organization.


Ryan Nolander is the executive director of the Albert Lea Economic Development Agency.