How Lakeville’s Award-Winning Economic Strategy Led to Better Employment Opportunities

-By Julia Steege-Reimann-

Lakeville, Minnesota transforms the economy through engaging residents in planning.

When Lakeville, Minnesota leaders and residents sat down together in 2013 to envision the future of their city, they didn’t know just how successful their plans would become. Five years later when the task force came together again to review their progress, they were excited to see vast improvements in the City’s economy.

“Lakeville’s success in transforming their economy can be attributed to their proactive, systematic, and inclusive approach,” said Matt Fulton, National Engagement Director for Polco.

“One of our main goals has been to seek community involvement from residents, property owners and businesses during the comprehensive planning process,” said Allyn Kuennen, Assistant City Administrator.

The City of Lakeville regularly conducts The National Community Survey (The NCS) to gather feedback from community members. People are much more satisfied with employment opportunities when comparing 2013 to 2018.

For its leadership, Lakeville was awarded the 2019 Voice of the People award for Transformation in Economy. This is the only national award that honors local governments based on feedback from residents. The award is presented by Polco / National Research Center (NRC) and the International City & County Management Association (ICMA). This award acknowledges local governments that make significant improvements on The NCS ratings and that take the best actions on behalf of their communities.

Partnering with the Community Development Agency

The 2013 Lakeville Focus Group identified several economic priorities. One focus was a close partnership with Dakota County Community Development Agency (CDA), an organization that focuses on the economic vitality of communities through housing and community development.

With the CDA, Lakeville greatly increased the amount of affordable housing over the past eight years. They also implemented several redevelopment incentives and grants, senior housing, and remodeling assistance programs.

Additionally, Lakeville partners with the CDA to provide free planning assistance for new and early-stage businesses. 

Accessing Economic Development Tools

In addition to partnering with the CDA, Lakeville has been proactive in using economic development tools to increase the City’s tax base, retain existing jobs, and create new jobs.

Over the past five years, Lakeville has used Tax Increment Financing and State of Minnesota Loan Funds to fund five industrial projects involving four different businesses. These projects have resulted in new private development investment of over $48 million, retention of nearly 500 existing jobs, and the creation of an additional 240 new jobs.

Practicing Fiscal Responsibility

Not only do Lakeville’s city leaders proactively access economic development tools, but they also work hard to be fiscally responsible.

They regularly conduct audits and reports, and focus on maintaining a strong financial profile and reserves. As a result, the City of Lakeville has a high credit rating that allows significantly lower interest rates on bonds used for capital growth projects.

Ultimately this high credit rating enables the City to continue updating streets and utilities, start new projects, and continue City services.

Continuous Improvement

Perhaps what has most enabled Lakeville to transform its economy is its relentless focus on continuous improvement.

Every three years since the mid-1990s, Lakeville completes an economic development strategic planning process to identify the City’s economic development priorities. Progress on these priorities is reported to the Economic Development Commission and City Council. 

In addition to revising the economic development strategic plan every three years, Lakeville is in the process of working with the Planning Commission, City Council, residents, and business owners to develop a long-term 2040 Comprehensive Plan. 

This plan will incorporate goals and strategies for future development and, in some cases, redevelopment. Once approved, the City will work to update its zoning ordinance in alignment with the plan.

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