Otsego businesses gather

by Paul Rignell
Contributing writer

Otsego area business representatives gathered at City Hall the morning of June 6 for the latest in a series of business forums that have been coordinated by city leaders and the I-94 West Chamber of Commerce.

Lori Johnson, Otsego city administrator, shared that the City Council has set goals for 2012 of expanding the commercial and industrial tax base, reviewing city services, and defining and managing a city identity. She said it would be great if Otsego could come up with a logo as universally known as the red bull’s-eye that people connect with Target Stores, including the Super Target store which opened in October 2008 in the city.

“It’s been a really good location for us, with sales increasing year to year,” said Super Target executive team leader David Bury, seated among Otsego business leaders who met at City Hall. “There’s huge room for growth and development right off that interchange (90th Street N.E. and Highway 101).”

City leaders asked the business leaders if they had any issues to raise during their hour together.

Jason Warehime, president of Metro Appliance Recycling, which expanded last summer to a total of 11,000 square feet of operating space on 60th Street N.E., said he spoke not for himself but for other businesses when questioning whether Otsego’s sign policy is fair for all. He said other business owners have been offended when they are prohibited from utilizing temporary, roadside, black signs with neon lettering to attract attention while noticing that the city has used such signs itself.

Mayor Jessica Stockamp recognized what Warehime was asking, and stressed that the city has not used those signs but rather has allowed them for the annual Otsego Festival, scheduled this year for Sept. 15 at Prairie Park (behind City Hall).

Johnson said she wanted to see city leaders and business leaders form a sign subcommittee, to review the city code and approach the Planning Commission with any recommendations.

“Signage is one of those issues that never goes away. It’s always changing and evolving. It’s good for planners,” said City Planner Dan Licht.

The forum participants agreed that a policy review would be prudent. City Council Member Vern Heidner said that the Target bull’s-eye might be visible from Highway 101, while motorists driving 65 to 70 mph may be unaware of several other nearby businesses there. “There’s a lot of issues along 101 that really need to be looked at,” Heidner said.

Johnson and Rhonda Baack, the I-94 West Chamber president, said they look forward to more good discussion from these forums. “It’s a perfect fit,” Johnson said. “We serve different needs, but we’re hoping that together we can help businesses be successful.”

“I tell them to come to these meetings,” said Warehime. “That’s where they’re going to be seen and be heard.”

“We want to be welcoming to businesses, a resource to businesses, with marketing opportunities and networking opportunities,” said Baack. “Our goal is to help bring a large group of business folks here each time. We think it’s important to be visible.”

The time, date and location have not been set for the next Otsego Business Forum this summer, but Johnson is open to adding new business leaders to an email list (call City Hall at 763-441-4414), as is Baack (call the I-94 West Chamber office at 763-428-2921).