Weber to focus on economic development

by Paul Rignell

Contributing Writer

Sherburne County is putting an economic development specialist in office at the Government Center in a move that officials expect actually will save the county several thousand dollars next year.

County Assessor Dan Weber, who joined the county in Elk River in early 2012, will use his knowledge of property, vacant land and valuation estimates when adding some work of an economic development specialist to his existing roles.

County commissioners approved the move for Weber unanimously Dec. 3. The economic development work will represent no more than 20 percent of Weber’s continuing duties.

“It’s a position that is desperately needed in these times,” Commissioner Bruce Anderson, of Elk River, said after the board meeting. “It’s a very important position to our community, and to the townships, and also for the county. Dan will do a great job.”

For most of the past 10 years, the county has otherwise paid for economic development counsel through outside contractor Economic Development Services Inc. of Minneapolis.

Though Weber’s change in duties became effective Dec. 3, the county will also retain the Minneapolis firm’s services through the end of January.

The board approved an immediate increase in pay level for Weber, including a salary adjustment of 4 percent, which would mean about $3,640 per year. The county recently has paid nearly that much to the outside firm each month.

The county will issue a new request for proposals among outside firms as it intends to supplement Weber’s work on special projects and with technical expertise as needed.

County Administrator Steve Taylor noted there are seven cities, 10 townships and about 90,000 residents in the borders. He said he is aware that most of the cities, except for Clear Lake and Zimmerman, already employ economic development staff.

Having served in his new role for about a month, Taylor said he would like the county and Weber to meet with the cities that have taken initiatives.

“What we don’t want to do is duplicate what the cities are doing,” Taylor said.