Development Corporation has assisted Kenmare businesses for 40 years
Posted 8/12/09 (Wed)
By Caroline Downs
If you’re looking to launch or relocate a business opportunity in Kenmare, you probably want to start with the Kenmare Community Development Corporation.
“We’re here to attract and retain businesses to Kenmare and the surrounding communities,” said Troy Hedberg, current president of the KCDC board of directors.
Hedberg leads a group of business men and women interested in Kenmare’s vitality, including vice president Jerry Essler, treasurer Jamie Livingston, secretary Linda Freeman, Ward County Commissioner and ex-officio member Carroll Erickson of Minot, and directors Andy Mau, Greg Westlake, Jason Brothen, Jim Jorgenson, Laurie Dockter, Roger Ness and Terry Froseth.
The most visible face of the KCDC is executive director Kari Bies, who markets Kenmare around North Dakota and in other states, researches grants to assist new or expanding businesses, and provides marketing, advertising and other types of assistance for new business owners. “A lot of what the KCDC does depends on how proactive our executive director is,” Hedberg said.
Bies noted that the KCDC has received a $4,000 MAGIC Fund grant for each of the past two years to spend on marketing and job creation in Kenmare, a $10,000 Partners in Marketing Grant designated toward trade show display and website and brochure costs, and a nearly $150,000 federal Assistance to Firefighters grant to purchase equipment for the Kenmare Fire Department.
Projects in the works
With northwestern North Dakota currently experiencing a variety of economic opportunities, the Development Corporation has focused on several goals for Kenmare this year, including the creation of an industrial park. “A committee has been formed to research that and try to find the property,” Essler said.
The KCDC is also studying the need for child care in town, and is actively seeking ways to start a new day care facility or expand those currently in operation.
The establishment of a community foundation to benefit local organizations and programs has just been achieved, with the baseline donation of $25,000 contributed equally by the KCDC and Kenmare Vets Club. The North Dakota Community Foundation, which provides administrative services, will also contribute $5,000 to the new fund. Board members Jayette Young, Allan Essler, Alan Scherbenske, Kathy Schumacher, Bryan Quigley, John Steinberger, Jr. and Kari Bies will oversee continued donations and gifts to the Kenmare Area Community Foundation, with the intention to begin awarding local grants by next year.
A fourth goal for the KCDC relates to housing. Hedberg and Jerry Essler said the KCDC is all too aware of the need for more housing in Kenmare. In fact, the KCDC had purchased a group of lots from the Kenmare Park Board along 6th Street on the east side of town for the purpose of developing them. Those lots were sold to KDAK, LLC when that company expressed an interest in building homes there. The first home is nearing completion, with five more sites available for building.
According to Hedberg, the KCDC also hopes to address local housing issues through a pilot program with the North Dakota Association of Rural Electric Cooperatives. The program, still under development by NDAREC, will provide financial assistance for down payments on new construction or newer homes in the community.
“David Sigloh [of Kenmare] sits on [the NDAREC] board,” Hedberg said. “He contacted us about this. These people are coming up with the guidelines for the program.”
“They could see the growth and the expansion in the area,” Essler added. “This is a good place to start.”
goes back to 1966
The Kenmare Development Corporation evolved from an Economic Development Committee that was part of the very active Kenmare Betterment Association.
That organization won first place in the AA classification of the 1966 Community Betterment contest sponsored by the North Dakota Economic Development Commission. Kenmare was named the outstanding city in the 1,000 to 4,999 population class, following the submission of numerous reports and a visit to the community by the team of judges.
In the January 25, 1967, issue of The Kenmare News, the initial meeting of the board of directors for the Kenmare Community Development Corporation was reported, with W.J. Washek named as the president. Lester Hansen was named vice-president, Glenn Dill, secretary, and Mert Coughlin, treasurer.
Other directors included Leroy Sandvik, Vernon L. Hansen, Harold Carlson, E.H. Miller, James Geiger, Lyle Frederickson, Dr. David J. Halliday, K.C. Satterlee and H.L. McLarnon.
The KCDC raised funds initially by selling shares in the corporation, with the understanding that such shares were not intended to directly profit or benefit the shareholders. “Had it not been for those individual contributors and businesses around town, they wouldn’t have got the Development Corporation started,” Essler said.
The organization still offers shares today at $10 apiece, with a minimum four-share purchase available from Jamie Livingston at State Bank and Trust of Kenmare. Approximately 60 shareholders are currently invested in the KCDC’s mission. Other funding for KCDC comes from the local Fund-ITT program based on a local one-cent sales tax, rental revenue and Ward County, specifically related to advertising and the executive director’s salary.
First major project in 1969
Glen Froseth, former publisher of The Kenmare News, reported on one of the KCDC’s first major projects in September 1969, which involved purchasing five acres of land adjacent to U.S. Highway 52 on the southeast edge of Kenmare for the purpose of constructing a building to house Ingerson Manufacturing Co.
“The Development Corporation provided some financial assistance to relocate Ingerson Manufacturing from owner Sid Ingerson’s farm in Flaxton,” Froseth recalled.
The Development Corporation applied for a Small Business Administration loan, while Ingerson himself purchased another five acres on the site. By October, the $30,000 SBA loan was approved, with another $50,000 in financing provided by the State Bank of Kenmare. Construction was underway, and Ingerson intended to employ up to eight people to manufacture motor campers and camping trailers.
Froseth joined the KCDC board soon after and served for nearly 30 years. He talked about the organization’s emphasis when he started. “We worked really hard on business retention, and we helped a lot with remodeling buildings and expanding inventory,” he said. “There wasn’t a lot of new industry at that time, but we focused on a lot of promoting for Kenmare with the Association of Commerce.”
According to Froseth, the KCDC’s participation in a variety of conferences and events around the state raised awareness of the community. “Kenmare wasn’t just another small town in Ward County,” Froseth said. “It was a major town in Ward County and the area.”
He credited State Bank & Trust of Kenmare with broad support for the Development Corporation’s efforts over the years, including interest buy-down programs that assisted business owners still in operation today. He also mentioned the participation in and support for the KCDC by several community leaders, including Leonard Jorgenson, Jim Grueneich, Gil Rauschenberger, Don Harris, Chuck Schulz, Bob Mau and others.
Froseth noted that the KCDC has paid attention to trends and evolving needs in the community. “In more recent years, we focused on providing space,” he said, discussing KCDC’s role in purchasing and remodeling the former J.C. Penney building for use by MTI and other businesses. The Development Corporation also bought the former Gooseneck Implement property that was rented by Schock Auto Sales for a number of years and then sold to Shane Harris for his Modern Woodworks facility.
“Over the years, the Development Corporation has been pretty successful,” Froseth said, “but I think the focus and mission have changed, and probably have to change again. It seems like new industry now demands more from communities in terms of infrastructure, transportation and employees. Now, maybe the Development Corporation has to work toward community betterment and retaining what we have, along with building a work force here.”
Big project first went bad, then turned out good
Hedberg and Essler understand the importance of changing focus. “We’ve done some things that didn’t work out to start with, but now they’re a godsend,” Essler said. He described the modular housing factory supported ten years ago by the KCDC, State Bank & Trust of Kenmare and the Bank of North Dakota. The ground-breaking ceremony featured then-Governor Ed Schafer, along with a host of other state officials.
The plant operated for a few years, but never developed as anticipated or employed the extensive work force that was predicted. “But look how it turned out,” Essler said, referring to the factory’s current use by MW Industries to build a series of workover and drilling rigs sold to the oil industry. “Look at the number of employees up there. Would they be there now had we not started this project in the first place?”
Bringing MTI to Kenmare was another risk taken by the KCDC. Essler smiled as he recalled criticism from some residents when the announcement was made about a telemarketing firm having a presence downtown. “But now, MTI has been a mainstay in our community,” he said, “and it was because we had the facility for them at the time.”
The KCDC continues to own the building used by MTI, and rents the space to several tenants. “That building also houses Eagle Operating, the theater and First District Health Unit,” Essler said, “all opportunities where we have employment.”
“Hopefully, the housing going up across from the Chill-N-Grill will be another success story,” added Hedberg.
Hedberg noted that the Development Corporation’s three major expenditures for the year have gone toward the executive director’s salary, a $10,000 donation toward the fire hall construction project, and the $12,500 contribution to the Kenmare Area Community Foundation. “Very few of our recent projects have been one-business specific,” he said. “They’ve all been community-wide projects.”
“Any business, anything we’re able to attract into the community helps everybody else,” Essler said.
The two men agreed that KCDC works to avoid setting up competitive businesses, but the Development Corporation may choose to step in when a business closes in town. “If we lose a business or service that we feel we really needed, then we’re going to go out there and try to find someone,” Essler said. “Every time you lose a business in a small community, there’s a certain number of people you lose because they came specifically for that business.”
He and Hedberg acknowledged that the overlapping roles of the KCDC with the Association of Commerce and Fund-ITT could cause confusion, especially with some individuals serving in two or all three of the organizations, but they emphasized the KCDC’s specific mission related to attracting or retaining businesses. “We don’t have money to pay for a new sign or sidewalk,” Hedberg said.
The KCDC does not have an account to fund repairs or renovations. “A lot of people come to us for financial help like that,” Essler said. “We can’t do that, but our director can help.”
Bies can connect business owners to the appropriate resources for their needs, usually starting with the Fund-ITT committee. “Kari can help them through that process,” Essler said, “whether it’s Fund-ITT, the Souris Basin Planning Council, or researching other options.”
For more information about the Kenmare Community Development Corporation or to address the board members at one of their monthly meetings about business opportunities in Kenmare, contact Kari Bies by phone at 701-848-6040 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Bies also maintains business hours at her office at Kenmare City Hall every Friday from 9 am to noon, and 1 to 3 pm.