Newly hired Granite Falls Economic Development Authority (EDA) Director Linda Mathiasen has taken over the reins during an unusual time to say the least. She begins her tenure as the top municipal economic official in the middle of the worst pandemic in living memory and the ensuing economic and fiscal fallout sweeping the entire nation. The Advocate Tribune spoke with Mathiasen to learn more about her background, how she came to the position, and what the future looks like for the Granite Falls area business community.
Mathiasen was originally born and raised in Hinckley and graduated from high school there as well. Afterwards, she graduated from St. Cloud State University with a Bachelor’s of Science Degree. She later earned a Master’s Certificate in Business Communications from St. Thomas University.
During the previous 20 years, Mathiasen has worked in public relations. Before that, she was self-employed for 15 years “providing a broad range of services from marketing, strategic planning, customized training to nonprofit development, grant writing and project management.”
Additionally, Mathiasen has served two terms (for a total of 8 years) on the Willmar Public Schools Board of Education. “I volunteered six years on the Willmar Lakes Area Vision 2040,” Mathiasen added, “which is a community-led grassroots effort, facilitating the Housing Committee since 2016.”
Mathiasen also talked about the process that ultimately led her to the Granite Falls EDA position. “I was looking for a multi-faceted, dynamic and community-driven position to make a positive difference in people’s lives and continues my involvement with both public and private organizations similar to past work experience, volunteerism and elected service,” Mathiasen explained. She added that she has “worked contractually in the four-county and nine-county area– including Yellow Medicine and Chippewa counties—for several years” - giving her a wealth of experience to draw on in her new role.
The residents of Granite Falls itself also presented Mathiasen with a strong motivation for taking the dive. “Granite Falls is an attractive community with its history, natural amenities, vibrant downtown and river walk, strong industry and county seat, educational institutions, medical community, and appreciation for arts and culture,” Mathiasen said.
Mathiasen stressed the importance of cultivating her professional relationship with the Granite Falls business community. “I intend to become a trusted resource in Granite Falls and an ally for business retention and expansion, new development and promoter of a thriving community,” she said, adding that she is “looking forward to diving in and getting to know the community’s goals around economic development and community engagement.”
The start of Mathiasen’s tenure at the EDA has been largely dominated by responding to the economic impact of COVID-19. In addition to learning the ropes and getting settled into a new workplace, on of the first actions undertaken by Mathiasen at the EDA was to award the 11 COVID-19 Resiliency Grants to Granite Falls’ businesses - something Mathiasen described as “wonderful.”
The grant program - which for some represents a critical lifeline in these uncertain economic times - is the result of a “partnership between the EDA, Granite Falls Area Community Foundation and Southwest Initiative Foundation (SWIF),” Mathiasen explained.
Commenting on the hiring of Mathiasen, Granite Falls EDA President John Virnig said that “we on the Economic Development Authority Board feel very fortunate to have hired Linda as director. I am confident that her experience, expertise and excellent communication skills will serve our community very well. I look forward to working with her on many great projects for the benefit of Granite Falls.”