Annie Deckert has returned to her hometown for the best reason in the world – family.
“My family is one thing,” Deckert said, explaining the decision to bring her talents back to Fergus Falls. “The other is that it’s my hometown.”
The graduate of Fergus Falls Class of 2000 recently assumed the executive directorship of the Greater Fergus Falls Corporation on May 13.
Deckert replaces Bruce Thom in running the economic development group.
Engaging, outgoing and enthusiastic, Deckert brings experience to the job that has caught the eye of more than one Fergus Falls resident and city official.
After graduating with Fergus Falls’ last class of the 20th century, Deckert embraced the new century by earning an Associate of Arts degree at Fergus Falls Community College (now M. State-Fergus Falls). Her first stop after FFCC was St. Cloud State University where she enrolled as a mass communications major. During her time in St. Cloud she discovered an interest in community development. When she left SCSU she had a Bachelor of Arts degree in the subject but she was just beginning to roll. She went to Hamline University in St. Paul where she picked up a master’s in public administration. During this time she was keeping her bank account solvent by working for the city of Big Lake and later as the director of economic development in Elk River – two communities in the rapidly growing area between St. Cloud and the Twin Cities.
In 2012 she took on the challenge of working in the private sector. She started Decklan Group, a firm which specializes in helping businesses expand and improve their workforce.
The opportunity to start her own business practically shouted at her.
“There were just so many development opportunities that weren’t happening,” Deckert recalls.
The businesses her group has helped do not have the expertise Deckert and her associates have developed by daily contact with banks, tax incentives, employees and the many forms connected with getting a business off the ground.
“The purpose of my whole job is that they tell me they want to grow and expand and I help them,” Deckert said. “This is all I’ve done for 15 years.
At the present time, the Decklan Group has more than 130 clients.
Deckert has not let go of Decklan Group but when she got the chance to come back to Fergus Falls the opportunity was just too tempting.
“Why would I ever turn down a chance to make my hometown better?” Deckert said.
The melding of Deckert’s economic development skills and a Fergus Falls community anxious to grow and change is a timely one. The Fergus Falls Port Authority purchased the former Mid-Am Dairy site last year and the 29 acres along with Otter Tail River is expected to see some big changes once the old plant can be demolished.
“To have a 29-acre site along the river is a gem,” Deckert said.
But Deckert feels the backbone of the Fergus Falls community is manufacturing. She has found that the stronger a community’s manufacturing base is the more attractive a community is to retailers.
People choosing to shop locally is “imperative” in Deckert’s opinion. The more people spend in Fergus Falls the better it is for the economy.
“My approach is working on the current businesses that are here,” Deckert said. “I want to make them happy.”
She looks at her new job as GFF’s executive director as “a big challenge.”
“Joining Greater Fergus Falls is a very smart decision for me because it allows more flexibility when working to negotiate deals, supporting businesses and recruiting businesses,” Deckert said.
Having worked with communities all over the state Deckert knows the strongest are the ones who support business.
She also realizes the length of time that is required to put a business into a community. The absolute minimum is about nine months – if absolutely everything works out perfectly.