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Park Rapids can grow by developing strategies to utilize community assets

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Editor's note: This is the third in a series of articles examining each section of a Progress Park Rapids indicator report. The articles will appear in the Park Rapids Enterprise each Wednesday over the next several weeks.

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By utilizing community assets, Park Rapids can grow in the future.

In the economics and prosperity section of the Park Rapids Indicator Report, Park Rapids is categorized as relatively poor but has strengths to create economic prosperity.

"I'm optimistic about our future," said Hubbard County Regional Economic Development Commission Executive Director David Collins.

Despite the struggling economy, and a poverty rate higher than the state average, Park Rapids has a lot going for it.

The population is aging and more jobs will be opening up, Collins said.

Progress Park Rapids has developed strategies to capitalize on the strengths in the community.

A few of the strategies are:

-Complete the Downtown Revitalization Project. This is both an economic development project and a quality of place initiative.

The Park Rapids City Council recently held a public hearing about the Main Avenue reconstruction project, which includes public utility and street reconstruction. The project is slated to begin in 2010.

Downtown business owners have begun rallying behind the project and hope to include streetscapes as part of the Downtown Revitalization Project. The Downtown Business Association has provided input for the project.

"The Downtown Business Association is one of the best organizations I've ever seen," Collins said. "They will be instrumental in the revitalization."

-Develop efforts to make the community "telecommunications friendly" to grow businesses. As technology changes the Park Rapids community will have to make the intentional effort to position itself for success. This could take two different forms: an effort to expand broadband access, and an initiative to create a business center that serves the needs of small businesses dependent on telecommunications technology.

Collins said technology and infrastructure will be very important to Park Rapids in the next few years.

"People want to come here and live on the lakes and expect to have high speed Internet," he said.

-Continue and enhance local entrepreneurship training. The Hubbard County Regional EDC has initiated some local entrepreneurship training that is of real benefit to the region. The indicator report says the community should find ways to enhance this initiative.

"Champions," or contacts for the economics and prosperity section are listed at www.progressparkrapids.com.

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