With the new year just around the corner, we can’t help but reflect on the last year. This year was far from normal, but despite the many challenges 2020 presented, we are continually impressed by our team’s ability to find new and creative ways to serve our business community. Keep reading to see some of our biggest achievements and proudest moments of the last year.
The Entrepreneur Initiative Expanded to Support New Businesses
Greater Fergus Falls’ Entrepreneur Initiative aims to help new and early-stage entrepreneurs through free, one-on-one, confidential business coaching. Our team and expert business consultants provide support, including technical assistance, funding, marketing, and more through the Greater Fergus Falls Entrepreneur Lab.
Since its inception, GFF has helped launch 30 new businesses in Fergus Falls, resulting in 95 new jobs. The demand has increased since launching the Entrepreneur Initiative, a targeted approach to startup coaching. Additionally, the Initiative partnered with Rural Ideas Network to serve its 10-mile service area. To learn more about the Entrepreneur Initiative, visit our website.
Supporting Local Businesses Through COVID-19 Relief Efforts
Keeping our businesses up-to-date and in the know about the latest COVID-19 information, guidelines, and financial assistance has been a top priority for our team. Since March, Greater Fergus Falls has dedicated nearly 400 hours to providing direct COVID-19 support to more than 180 businesses in the community. In that time, we have collaborated with local companies to assist with the production of personal protection equipment (PPE).
In 2020, we facilitated partnerships between:
Lake Region Healthcare, Shoretex, and Excel Plastics to produce PPE like plastic face shields and other supplies needed to combat the pandemic.
Cooper’s Office Supply, Excel Plastics, and Ottertail Glass to fulfill the need for acrylic barriers during June’s safe re-opening.
Tattersall Distilling, Du Nord Craft Spirits, and Brother Justus Whiskey to provide 125 gallons of hand sanitizer to Lake Region Healthcare.
Project 2 Fold
As part of our COVID-19 relief efforts, GFF partnered with the Fergus Falls Downtown Riverfront Council (FFDRC) to launch Project 2 Fold. The initiative has raised nearly $17,000, which has been used to support 418 essential workers, individuals, and businesses impacted by the pandemic. Project 2 Fold also provided 469 “back-to-school” packages to kids in the ISD 544 school district. Each package included a haircut, 2 movie tickets, and 2 bowling passes.
Local Manufacturers Experienced Record Growth
At Greater Fergus Falls, we’re all about celebrating local business wins. We’re thrilled to share that three local manufactures hit significant milestones in 2020.
Last year, ShoreMaster joined forces with HydraHoist and has only continued to grow. The company recently announced the acquisition of Neptune Boat Lifts, Inc., a Florida-based saltwater boat lift company. As part of the unification, the company has rebranded under the umbrella title, Waterfront Brands, with each product retaining its brand name. ShoreMaster currently employs 95 people in its corporate headquarters in Fergus Falls.
Big congratulations are in order for Vector Windows! The Fergus Falls location, which employs 160 people, celebrated 25 years in business and had a record year in 2020. Greater Fergus Falls also helped Vector Windows secure additional warehouse space in the old Shopko building earlier this year.
After a rigorous review process, the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC) awarded Aura Fabricators DBE status in 2020. Owner and Greater Fergus Falls Board member Jasmine Sonmor was recently featured by Enterprise magazine in an article highlighting young leaders in manufacturing. In the article, Sonmor shares the origin story behind Aura Fabricators and her desire to support the Fergus Falls community — especially during COVID-19. Since the pandemic began, Sonmor has purchased lunch from a different local restaurant for all 48 employees each week.
Looking Ahead to 2021
Economic development in Fergus Falls has been going strong and our team is excited to see these exciting projects continue to advance in the new year.
Rivers Edge Development
Earlier this year, Rivers Edge Investments purchased the old Shopko building and adjacent city parking lot with a plan to repurpose the site. Phase 1 of the project is scheduled to break ground on a 4-story, mixed-use building in April 2021. The building will feature 7,500 square feet of Class A commercial space on the main level and 33 market-rate apartment units above.
In 2019, Fergus Falls Public Schools purchased the former Target site, which includes 90,000 square feet of commercial property. ISD 544 has since been renovating the property to house the districts’ Early Childhood Program and Children’s Corner childcare center that will serve approximately 160 children. At this time, renovations are anticipated to be completed by late January or February 2021.
Companion Animal Hospital
Having outgrown its existing space, Companion Animal Hospital has purchased a 1.4-acre lot on Western Avenue to expand its facility. The $1.5 million dollar project is expected to break ground next spring. In addition to retaining 14 existing jobs, the expansion will create 4 new full-time positions.
Although 2020 was a challenging year, our team is proud of the accomplishments we and our business community made. While there’s no telling what 2021 will bring, we’re looking forward to continuing to serve you. On behalf of all of us at Greater Fergus Falls, cheers to the new year!