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Alan Zemek

Common Currency: Park Rapids: The mouse that roars

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I would like to try an experiment in today's column that requires some audience participation: I am going to describe a city only by certain geographic and economic characteristics. After you read this part of the column I am going to leave a blank space for you to fill in the answer to a couple questions, so you'll need a pencil.

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Ready? Let's get started.

This city is located at the intersection of two major state highways that traverse the entire length of its state, south to north, and west to east.

Within a two-mile radius of this intersection there are 10 gas stations, six lodging establishments, five banks, three 24-hour grocery stores, including a Walmart Supercenter, a major regional hospital with a staff of 24 doctors, a jet service airport (fifth busiest in the state) and a major food processor that employs hundreds of people.

And of course, the usual national franchise restaurants, such as McDonald's, Pizza Hut, Burger King, and Subway are all there, along with a variety of local and homegrown competition.

And let's not forget the car dealers, auto service and parts stores, fitness centers (there are three), the clinics and pharmacies, the national brand name hardware store and the regional law enforcement center.

This city also hosts many artists, musicians, writers and educators who, by choice, choose to live and create in this city.

This city is home to the largest broadcast media company in the region and still has an independent book store.

The local art museum houses a collection of old world masters' paintings that spans six centuries of art.

Hundreds show up for performances during the concert season. Tours buses bring folks from 50 miles away when the local theater companies perform. Question: What is the population of this city? _______________.

Okay, maybe that was unfair. I forgot to mention that this city also serves as the gateway to a world famous geographic landmark that draws visitors by the tens of thousands every year, and sits on the edge of an internationally known system of trails and byways that connect hundreds of miles of scenic terrain.

Homebuyers pay several hundred thousand dollars for the privilege of living on the outskirts of this city. You can change your answer here if you would like:______________.

The other day I had a conversation with a community leader who expressed some reservations about Park Rapids' ability to support a regional events and cultural center downtown.

Skepticism is always healthy and should be respected. Skepticism is nature's way of ensuring self- preservation through the prudent exercise of caution.

But, I would like to ask you: Does the description above sound like any town of 3,600 people you have ever heard of?

Do I think Park Rapids can become a regional center for arts and culture? I think we already are. But I am curious, what do you think?

Alan J. Zemek is a Park Rapids area developer and author of "Generation Busted: How America Went Broke in the Age of Prosperity." You can follow his blog, or comment on this article on his website, www.genera tionbusted.com.

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