Garrison, ND: GAIA

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Mission Statement
To create an environment that will aid the retention and expansion of the existing business community and encourage the development and success of businesses.

Economic development in Garrison has been in the hands of the Garrison Area Improvement Association (GAIA) since 1991. The organization is separate from city government, governed by a nine-member board elected by the general membership with an office managed by a full-time coordinator. GAIA is partially funded by Garrison’s City Sales and Use Tax revenues and by proceeds from seven gaming sites that are maintained by the group.

GAIA assists business start-ups and expansions and contributes to community improvement projects. Low interest loans are available from GAIA’s revolving loan pool as well as small marketing grants. GAIA can also partner with other funding sources to secure loans and matching grants. Interest rates usually fall between 3 and 6% with terms from six months to five years. The organization also offers Betterment Grants and Betterment Business Grants to local residents and businesses for improvement and/or enhancement of property. Other services offered by GAIA include assisting with business plans, making contacts with professionals in various business areas, writing resumes, providing information pertaining to the operation of businesses in the state of North Dakota and facilitating projects.

Some of the groups, organizations and agencies that GAIA has worked with include:
North Dakota Department of Commerce
Lewis and Clark Regional Development Council
Minot Area Development Corporation
Small Business Development Center
North Dakota Forestry Service
Otter Tail Power Company
Montana Dakota Utilities
McLean Electric/Touchstone Energy
Center for Technology and Business
Job Services of North Dakota
Bank of North Dakota
Dakota Certified Development Corporation
Service Corps of Retired Executives
Rural Development Council.

Businesses in the Garrison area that are in a start-up or expansion phase or any businesses that are interested in relocating to Garrison are eligible.

Who are we and what do we do?
The mission statement of GAIA is “To create an environment that will aid the retention and expansion of the existing business community and encourage the development and success of businesses.” So the answer is multi-faceted. Perhaps the best way to answer the question is to give examples of some of our past projects.
We have purchased and renovated four buildings for development use. Three were resold and one is still owned as a rental space.
We acquired property on Highway 37, sold one 2-acre lot for development several years ago and have separated the remaining acreage into two out lots. One was granted to Schlehr Utility Construction and the other is available for development.
We co-own the Central Ave Parking Lot with the Chamber of Commerce and the Dickens Festival.
We are in the process of developing 21 lots in a newly rezoned section of town for use as privately owned RV lots. Four still remain available as of Dec. 31, 2009.
We are also currently in the process of surveying, cleaning up and preparing the old city land fill for possible development.
We have granted small amounts of money to area businesses and projects for marketing purposes. Marketing grants are typically on a 50/50 basis up to $1000 per grant disbursed. Other grants are determined on the basis of merit. As of Dec. 31, 2009 over $4400 has been disbursed for marketing grants that are unrelated to other “packaged grants.”
We have developed “Betterment Grant” programs for local residents and business to improve their properties. To date, 33 lots have been cleaned and cleared of blighted and deteriorated structures using these funds and six businesses have enhanced their storefronts or made exterior improvements. Funding for these projects totals $18,500.
We have assisted in writing grant applications for GAIA sponsored projects as well as projects sponsored by other non-profit groups in the area. In 2009 we acted as fiscal agent for JM Grain’s $56,000 APUC grant.
We started, operated and sold the Fezziwig’s Warehouse business.
We assisted K&K Laundry as a start up, subsequently bought them out, operated the business for one year and then re-sold it to Dennis Jeffrey for re-location.
We manage a revolving loan fund (special injections into it come from Sales and Use) that has helped over a dozen local businesses with low interest loans. We have an application that must be submitted to the board for approval. Interest rates fall between 0 and 6 percent with terms from six months to five years. Total loan balance at this time is $93,845.546 and we have 13 clients.
We have assisted many businesses in acquiring low interest loans through other sources such as Minot Area Development Corporation, Lewis and Clark Regional Development Council and the Small Business Administration.
We help defray the expenses for major advertising for Garrison in general and for area events.
We provide jobs for seven people: a Coordinator, a Gaming Manager and five gaming employees.
We were instrumental in the development of the city’s strategic plan and continue to work on its implementation.
We requested and aided the city in the establishment of a Tax Increment Financing District.
We research business opportunities and keep abreast of business trends.
We assist individuals and businesses in writing business plans and provide information regarding the regulations pertaining to the operation of business in the

How is GAIA funded?
Funding for GAIA comes, in part, from the Garrison City Sales and Use Tax revenues, but primarily from the receipts from the seven gaming sites that the organization operates. GAIA maintains an office that is currently staffed by a salaried coordinator. The office operation and all grant programs are paid for from the gaming operations and the coordinators salary is paid from Sale & Use Taxes.

Who governs the group?
A Board of Directors made up of nine local community leaders and business people

How often do they meet?
Every week.

What other groups, agencies and organizations does GAIA work with?
The north Dakota Department of Commerce, Lewis and Clark Regional Development Council,. Minot Area Development Corporation, SBA, Small Business Development Centers, The Service Corps of Retired Executives Association, ND Tourism, ND Forestry Service, Job Services of North Dakota, Dakota Certified Development Corporation, the Bank of North Dakota, USDA, Rural Development Council, The Center for Technology and Business, Otter Tail Power Company, Inc., Montana Dakota Utilities, McLean County Electric Cooperative and many non-profit groups that assist economic development efforts.

Who is eligible for help from GAIA?
Businesses in the Garrison area that are in a start-up or expansion phase or any businesses that are interested in relocating to Garrison are eligible. Business plans that can provide a measure of success or cash flow are required. Every valid business inquiry or request is given fair and equal consideration. Although not all projects have successful results, GAIA will work with its clients until they decide the project will go forward or be abandoned.