Interning with the City of Jordan has given me a much deeper understanding of day-to-day work in local government, and the intersection of planning and economic development. Coming into my position with a background in solar development, I had particular interest in pursuing initiatives that would help the city pursue sustainability in a meaningful and actionable way. One of the first projects that I worked on with the city, and which recently came to fruition was pursuing bronze designation in the SolSmart Program. SolSmart is a national program in which municipalities take steps to make it faster, easier and more affordable for their residents to pursue solar. In true economic development terms, this bronze designation will signal to residents, solar installers and developers that Jordan is “open for solar business.” In December, I helped Jordan take the final steps in this process and became a bronze designated city, which will hopefully serve as a model for other local governments in Southwest Minnesota who are considering joining the program.
During my time in Jordan, I have also assisted with a variety of projects that fall under the umbrella of economic development. One of the main focuses in the City of Jordan is to revitalize and promote businesses in the downtown district. This is an issue facing many towns in the rural-urban fringe, and will likely be a challenge that I will grapple with as a practicing planner. In order to help promote local businesses, I helped create a directory and map of current local businesses. I have also helped to create local events, such as a recurring ladies night out which the city helps to organize and promote. The city is in a unique position in that it can help to organize local businesses behind a common goal, which would be a difficult task for any one business to tackle. Finally, I worked on a project to create a community profile document for Jordan. This document highlights the demographic and geographic profile of Jordan, and the unique aspects of the city that may be exciting to both potential home-buyers and developers. This document can be used as a tool to bring to meetings with developers or businesses interested in expanding to Jordan to give an idea of what type of amenities can be found in Jordan, what the market may look like on a hyper-local level, and what incentives may be in place at the city level to incentivize development.
As a planning intern, not all of my duties have centered directly on economic development. However, through this internship, I have developed an understanding and appreciation for the interconnected nature of planning and economic development activities. For example, as a planner it may fall into my wheelhouse to inspect and approve applications for façade improvements. However, given that the city has an incentive grant program for façade improvements, this is also a powerful economic development tool to improve the appearance of the downtown and to incentivize businesses to invest financially in their properties. Because of this internship, I will always be aware of the intersection between planning and economic development, and the ways that they work together to create a thriving community.