The Business Pillar provides a guide for facilitating commercial activity throughout the County, while recognizing opportunities for entrepreneurship and economic development initiatives at the local and regional level. Stearns County’s commitment to this Pillar is further embodied in the following statement and goals.

Pillar Statement

Stearns County will invest in economic development strategies that are rooted in our shared values, skills, and identity. This will require a balanced economy that supports our existing businesses, while attracting new business that encourages entrepreneurship, innovation, and creativity.

Business Framework

The Comprehensive Plan continues to recognize agricultural activities as a cornerstone to the County’s economy and identity. However, the County will need to adapt to changing markets, socioeconomic trends, and agricultural practices in order to maintain the County’s rural economies. The County’s agricultural production is a potential source of economic growth, but is also at risk due to the volatility of commodity markets, changing agricultural practices, and land use conflicts between agricultural and non-agricultural development.

The Agricultural Pillar and Emerging Trends sections of this Plan has recognized some of these trends and challenges. Examples include:

  • Aging: As farmers age, farms tend to switch hands to larger corporations as future generations are choosing not to take over the farm.
  • Land Sales: The character and intensity of the agricultural landscape may change over time as farmers are choosing to sell their land to larger operations.
  • Flexibility: Rural residents and farmers are looking for greater flexibility to do more with their land to achieve economic prosperity, as farming becomes more difficult from a financial perspective.

To help address these trends, the Business Pillar has established policy areas to strengthen the rural economy.

  • Increase the County’s regional prosperity by being globally competitive and a business-friendly region.
  • Increase the value of County economic production by ensuring that operations sustain natural resources.
  • Acknowledge tourism’s economic value and the prospective contribution of this industry to both the diversity of the County economic base and the potential for growth.
  • Enhance the ability of local retail and commercial business to sustain small cities and rural townsites.
  • Continue to promote and encourage multi- jurisdictional partnerships and public-private partnerships that advance economic development opportunities.
  • Support opportunities for rural businesses that are compatible with agricultural environments and residential neighborhoods.
Looking Beyond Agriculture: The Comprehensive Plan recognizes the County’s economic diversity expands well beyond the agricultural sector. The urban areas also play a pivotal role in the County’s economic diversity, serving as activity hubs for commerce and jobs. Much of this planning is done through partnerships that bring together cities, townships, local Chambers of Commerce, Economic Development Authorities (EDAs), educational institutions, and private investors/businesses. Therefore, it is important to recognize planning for the County’s economic prosperity falls well beyond this Plan. One should look to the various planning documents at the local and regional level to help inform future economic development decisions (e.g., local comprehensive plans).

Focus Areas

Next Steps

The Comprehensive Plan can be implemented in a number of ways. On a daily basis, the document is used by County staff to review applications. The County Board, as well as other advisory commissions use the Plan when making decisions. It is used by residents and developers to understand the County’s intentions for the use of land, infrastructure needs, and planned park and open space improvements.

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