When I began my summer internship for the Barnesville Economic Development Authority (EDA), I expected I would stay busy working on various projects. Expecting this did not prepare me for the reality of interaction with city staff, committee members, businesses, and residents I had over the summer while working on the large variety of activities essential to a city’s economic development.
Marketing the City of Barnesville was my main focus over the summer. Marketing a city is a task that involves many players. I began by working to engage realtors in the nearby Fargo, ND-Moorhead, MN metro. I did this through personal visits to their offices and by distributing information on opportunities in Barnesville through email. This enabled me to become more comfortable with interacting with businesses and required me to learn how to use online tools like MailChimp.
I also worked with businesses in Barnesville during my internship. Business After Hours was an event I planned at a wedding venue that recently opened in town. The goal of this event was to bring the local business community closer together and give them the opportunity to connect outside the normal office setting. It can be difficult to get people to attend an event like this in a small town when people aren’t very familiar with the Business After Hours concept. In order to overcome this challenge, I worked on a marketing campaign that would convey information about the event in as many ways as possible. I visited Barnesville’s downtown businesses to personally give them an invitation and explain the event to them. I also targeted businesses through a mailing, an email, and multiple Facebook promotions. Planning this event was one of the first opportunities I have had to take a large event like this from concept to creation, and it was also my first time developing a whole marketing campaign for an event rather than a single marketing piece.
One project where I was able to connect businesses and residents in order to solve a problem was when I created a Facebook group called Barnesville MN Childcare Openings. In the past, parents have noted their difficulties in finding childcare in Barnesville due to the limited options, and childcare providers have noted that they would like the city to do more to help their businesses connect with parents. After brainstorming ways to fix this, I decided to create a Facebook group where parents could post their need for care and providers could post their openings. This was a quick and easily implemented solution that came at no cost to the EDA. The group has been successful thus far as people are regularly joining and both parents and providers have connected through the it.
Writing an award application for a potential award of $15,000 was a task I was very nervous to take on. $15,000 could significantly impact the EDA for a small city like Barnesville, and I had never written an award or grant application before. I wrote the award application for a splash pad that is being built in Barnesville this summer. After researching the past finalists for this award, interviewing my boss about details of the project, and getting feedback on the application from a business owner related to the project, the award application was submitted. The results for the award haven’t been published yet, but being an intern entrusted with a project with so much significance made me feel much more confident in my abilities.
One unexpected part of my internship was the number of meetings economic development staff members are involved with. I have attended multiple meetings for seven different boards during my internship. One project I got to see start with the EDA Board, move to the EDA Business subcommittee, and go back to the EDA Board for final approval was the development of a directional sign for Barnesville’s commercial park. The idea was brought up by several commercial park businesses, the EDA Board directed it to the business committee to develop a plan and recommendation, EDA staff worked with the business committee, several sign companies, and commercial park businesses, and finally the recommendation to purchase a $10,000 sign was brought back and approved by the EDA Board. This has taught me that having efficiently run meetings with the right board members is key to accomplishing anything when working within a city government.
Interning for the Barnesville EDA been a wonderful opportunity of learning and growth for me this summer. I truly appreciate that the Minnesota Economic Development Foundation works to build stronger Minnesota communities by focusing on the people who will be future leaders in these communities.