Getting to know local government Development is focus of GEIDC

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GEIDC members present for a January meeting include, from left, Denise Schneider, Dave Schlueter, Austin Coon, Howard Hubbell and Tom Augustyn. Not pictured are Jim Johnston and Cheryl Meyer. (Press photo by Molly Moser)

By Molly Moser

Editor’s note: In the coming weeks, The Press will feature a series of stories highlighting city boards and committees to educate readers about the workings of local government. This week’s article focuses on GEIDC.

Guttenberg Economic and Industrial Development Committee, commonly known as GEIDC, is an eight-member committee tasked with achieving economic stability and increasing the standard of living for Guttenberg residents through a unified public and private economic development effort.

The nonprofit organization is currently led by President Austin Coon of Fidelity Bank & Trust. Other members include Dave Schlueter, financial manager of Clayton Ridge Schools; Tom Augustyn, assistant vice president of Peoples State Bank; City Manager Denise Schneider; retired government teacher Howard Hubbell; community member Cheryl Meyer; and retired business person Jim Johnston. 

GEIDC administers and makes recommendations on a revolving loan fund, which is intended to provide economic development through community reinvestment. 

Currently, GEIDC owns property south of city hall including the green space and old laundromat building. “Our goal is to liquidate that and develop it in some fashion, whether it be apartments, senior housing, or condos, to increase the tax base,” said Coon. Members have been attending housing study meetings in order to get a sense of what kind of housing is necessary and desirable in the community. 

“We have had some parties that have shown interest in the project,” Coon told The Press. “We are currently working through meetings and coordinating schedules to get a more formal plan together.” While there are no pending offers, Coon says, “I’d like to think that we could get a signed agreement in 60-90 days – we’ve been working on this since September.” Capital gained from the sale of the properties would allow the committee to offer incentives to buyers for subsequent projects. 

Currently, GEIDC’s bylaws are in the process of being updated, and the group is also looking for an eighth member to fill a vacancy. Nominees should be prepared to commit to monthly meetings for a five-year term, and, after appointment by GEIDC members, will need to be approved by the city council. 

While updating bylaws, GEIDC members are also considering Guttenberg’s comprehensive plan goals and aligning the committee’s strategies accordingly. Drafts of the new bylaws include strategies for reducing unemployment; building a skilled, flexible work force; and focusing on retaining and expanding existing local businesses. Fostering local entrepreneurship, maintaining the community’s strength as a tourist attraction, promoting preservation of historic assets, and strengthening the city’s tax base as well as its technology infrastructure are also on GEIDC’s long-term agenda. 

“Going forward, we’d like to create an avenue for business recruitment and development,” said Coon in closing. Promotion of redevelopment of existing vacant, underutilized properties will go hand-in-hand with promoting development-ready sites as GEIDC looks into the future.

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