Despite pandemic Montevideo sees growth in 2021

Jessica Stölen-Jacobson
Montevideo American-News

Despite all of the challenges presented to cities throughout the United States because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the City of Montevideo is working on several advancements in 2021, bringing growth to the community. Just this year, projects worked on by City Staff have helped facilitate the construction of the Thunder Hawk Apartments currently underway, the expansion of Wildwood Montessori School this year to provide more child care, and the groundbreaking for construction of a Veteran’s Home expected this August. “Housing is critical in the community, and the other thing that’s top of our list is childcare,” says Economic Development Authority (EDA) President Marvin Garbe. “ If you’re going to have more businesses locate here you have to have childcare which is very critical.”

Community Development Director Ben Dolan began his position with the City in March of this year and has since been working on those three major projects. Shortly after, the announcement was made that the final approval for the Veteran’s Home to be built was announced, and with it, 110 new jobs would be brought to town, making the need for housing and daycare within the City even more critical. “Daycare is a national crisis. Montevideo is trying to do its part to make a dent in it for this community along with housing which is something we work on daily,” says Dolan. The need for additional housing has been discussed for some years, and in 2019, a housing study was done that identified several issues in every area of housing, and so the addition of the Thunder Hawk Apartments that broke ground in April will help to address some of that need with 38 units under construction currently and the option for more units to be added by the developer over time as progress continues to happen within the community. “That will be a nice option for folks, and that’ll open some mid-income housing because in Montevideo there’s a wide range but the middle of the cost range for housing is very sparse,” says Dolan. 

The construction of the Veteran’s Home will also bring a lot of activity to the local economy during the construction process, as Garbe notes, “With 18 months of construction, that’s going to keep the motels full. There’ll be a lot of activity.” With all of these advancements, the EDA recognized a need to provide funding to help businesses already existing in town fix up their exteriors. Most recently, the EDA approved 30 applications for facade grants. Garbe noted the EDA provided $20,000 to fund the grants, while the MCDC chipped in another $10,000. The Facade Grant Program provided a thousand dollars per business to make exterior improvements. Dolan reports that most of the applications were for signage, paint, and other such repairs. With those funds helping to kick-start the business projects the estimated revenue infused in the city through labor and supplies based on the estimates received with the grant applications comes to around $150,000. City Manager Robert Wolfington notes that the council received CARES Act funding in 2020 to be used to help support the existing businesses as well. “The City Council, throughout Covid, along with the EDA and MCDC all tried to work with our business community,” says Wolfington. “The council made it clear they wanted to support our business community in whatever way we could.” One of the ways the council helped with struggling businesses was to refund liquor licenses for establishments that were shut down and unable to serve for those months the license wasn’t actively being used. 

The City’s longest project, the Flood Levy Project, which has been ongoing for decades since the floods of 1997 and 2001, is anticipated to wrap up this year as well. “We’ve been doing it segment by segment for the last couple of decades with a three and a half million dollar bonding bill from the State. We’re able to move forward and hopefully finalize the project this year and so we’re looking forward to what that means for our community,” says Wolfington. 

As for future projects, Dolan has created a survey to be distributed to elected community leaders serving on boards such as the Chamber, MCDC, and others to gain insight on what the elected officials are hoping to see in the community in the future whether that be specific types of businesses, amenities or ways to improve the community. With everything happening in 2021, Dolan is optimistic about Montevideo’s future and the city’s ability to appeal to businesses looking for a location. “We have so many great things to offer,” Dolan says. “We have our own high school, our own hospital, and a great staff with the city that works towards daycare and housing daily. It’s just a great place to live, education-wise, amenities-wise, people-wise… I think that’s what really attracts businesses now. It is important to stay positive because good things are happening.”

Dolan also says the focus of the EDA for the near future is to continue to work on the growth happening this year. “We’ve had a lot of victories the last couple of months and coming out of the shut-downs,” Dolan said. “I think Montevideo is looking pretty good. There have been several people who have approached me about daycares, housing projects, businesses, and things like that. It’s a good problem to have, keeping busy all the time and trying to make dents in these issues that seem to be plaguing the nation.”

Garbe also mirrors the enthusiasm for the progress happening in Montevideo this year, saying, “I think there’s a lot of exciting things that are happening. We live in a great community.”