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Community working to become 'business incubator'

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business Park Rapids, 56470
Park Rapids Minnesota PO Box 111 56470

It has been said that the one constant we have is change.

We have a change in the economy, a change in the weather, and yes, a change in our local businesses.

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It is not the change that is important but how we react to the change that will determine our future.

Jim Chrisinger of the Public Strategies Group issued a January 2009 Thought Piece in which he said, "What if courageous leaders refuse to be bound by budget constraints? What if they start from scratch, include all the resources, and build it better together?"

Taking an inventory of our resources in Park Rapids, we see that we have lost some old favorite haunts like Outdoor Power Equipment, Dan's Outdoor Power, Pamida, and Utke's Hardware.

But on the positive side, we have a new 34 East Lawn and Sport, a Wal-Mart Super Center, a new J&B upscale grocery store, an expanded Ace Hardware and a four-lane Highway 34 serving the city.

This Highway 34 corridor will be a showcase example of what a com-

munity can do to provide green space and landscaping.

We have a partnership between Innovis Health and St. Joseph's Hospital which led to a $20 million investment in a new clinic building attached to our totally renovated hospital to increase efficiency and service.

Those are the tangibles. We have numerous intangibles in our inventory of resources.

We, of course, have the natural resources of lakes and woods that make our community such a desirable place to visit and live. We have a balance of manufacturing and tourism, which is much envied by our neighbors. We are a focal point for arts and entertainment; there seems to be some activity every weekend throughout the year with some during the week.

The Hubbard County Regional Economic Development Commission (HCREDC) and Park Rapids Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce are working to lure new industry to our community and also to develop our resources for us to become an incubator for new businesses.

Earlier in March, a seminar was presented to showcase available tools for small and emerging businesses. Presenting their services were the supportive local banks, foundations, finance corporations, development corporations, Park Rapids Revolving Loan Fund, the Minnesota State Community and Technical College and Marketing Assistance and Research Solutions.

Also presenting were two suppliers of free consulting and mentoring, Small Business Development Center of Bemidji and SCORE of Park Rapids. Both are part of the Small Business Administration.

The local SCORE branch was initiated less than two years ago and now has 12 seasoned executives to lend their experience to help local businesses. Currently, a 30-hour FastTrac training course in basic business and business planning is being conducted with a number of small and emerging businesses.

Perhaps the most important intangible is the attitude and culture exhibited by our community leaders.

An example is a group called Progress Park Rapids, which includes the mayor, the leader of the Downtown Business Association, executive director of the Chamber, director of the HCREDC, Park Rapids school superintendent, CEO of St. Joseph's Area Health Services, Headwaters Regional Development Commission, League of Women Voters and other community representatives.

They have identified six areas in which to focus their attention. Measurements have been made to determine the current state in each of the six areas and goal to be attained in the future state.

The status of this effort with the six areas of economic development, education, health, sense of community, environment and leadership will be discussed in a community forum Thursday, March 26 at the Riverside United Methodist Church.

This event to get feedback and advice from the community at large is sponsored by the Minnesota League of Women Voters. A soup and bread supper will be provided at 5 p.m. with the meeting to start at 5:45.

The Park Rapids community is not standing around wringing their hands over the economic situation but working together to build an even better community in the future.

(Louis Schultz, managing director of Process Management LLC, has assisted organizations worldwide with performance improvement. E-mail him at lou@process management.com.

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