MARSHALL – Marshall officials hailed several positive developments last year – from public facilities like a new elementary school to some major investments in business.
But Mayor Bob Byrnes and City Administrator Sharon Hanson said there are many challenges ahead for the city.
Byrnes and Hanson spoke to an audience of area residents on Wednesday during the 2022 State of the City Address. They went over some of the highlights of 2021, and looked ahead to city goals for this year.
The past year included the construction of some new public buildings, like the renovated Marshall City Hall and the new Southview Elementary. Both have been good additions to the community, Hanson said. The new school offers more space for a growing student body at Marshall Public Schools.
“Recent data supports why the school district did this,” Hanson said.
Hanson and Byrnes said some big projects for economic development also moved forward in Marshall over the past year. In 2021, the city issued 443 building permits with a total value of about $ 17 million, Hanson said.
Some of Marshall’s economic development highlights included renovations at EverSpring Inn & Suites, plans by Ralco to develop office space on Main Street, and plans to build mixed residential and commercial buildings on Block 11 downtown.
The city also approved a property tax abatement for a major expansion at the ADM corn processing plant in Marshall. Byrnes said the planned expansion will allow ADM to produce more corn starch at the Marshall location. The total cost of the project is estimated at $ 30 million to $ 35 million.
Besides being positive for Marshall, Byrnes said, “It’s also very important for ag producers in a 20 to 30-mile radius.”
Looking ahead, some of the challenges Marshall will face this year include efforts to encourage growth and economic development, Hanson and Byrnes said. Byrnes is now part of a new group, the Southwest Minnesota Council of Mayors, that is working to come up with development opportunities for area cities.
“All of our communities really have a lot of the same issues we’re dealing with, and a lot of the same opportunities,” Byrnes said.
The Council of Mayors wants to help southwest Minnesota compete with neighboring states, and is proposing a program to help students in certain needed occupations with their college tuition if they stay in the region.
Byrnes said Marshall is also trying to challenge its 2020 census results. Byrnes said the census was “Highly disappointing,” and showed a slight decrease in Marshall’s population.
Most of the population loss seemed to be in Ward 1, which includes Southwest Minnesota State University and nearby rental housing.
“It was very obvious our population decline really had to do with Ward 1, and probably had to do with Southwest Minnesota State University,” Byrnes said. In April 2020, SMSU had closed its campus due to the COVID pandemic, and very few students were living in the residence halls.
There is an appeal process for US census results. However, “The appeal process wasn’t designed in anticipation of a pandemic on Census Day,” Byrnes said.
He said Marshall and other Minnesota communities with colleges were reaching out to Congress members to address the problem.
In addition to new challenges, Marshall will also be celebrating a milestone this year. Byrnes and Hanson said a variety of events are being planned for the city’s 150th anniversary.
Byrnes said Marshall has undergone lots of changes in its history. He credited a couple of different reasons for some of the city’s growth over time.
“From the city’s standpoint, that (factor) has been the investment in infrastructure,” Byrnes said.
For example, investments like flood control measures over the past 30 years have helped make development in Marshall safer. “The other really big factor is the people in the community,” and their support for entrepreneurship, he said.