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Letter: Arts community growing economic development

On a recent cool late-September weekday evening, we turned off Highway 34 into downtown Park Rapids. There were more cars parked along and in Main Avenue than I’ve seen on a Friday summer night during the peak of tourist season. We could hear the crowd in The Good Life Café before we even got to the door. After a sip and a nibble, we walked a block to take our seats amidst a large, enthusiastic crowd and took in a magical night of music at The Armory, thoroughly entertained by the native Minnesota blues-folk musician Charlie Parr.

Something remarkable is happening in Park Rapids. The work of Alan Zemek and the others behind the Armory renovation and the Upper Mississippi Center for the Arts is illustrative of the vision and initiative of the dynamic, creative community growing in the area. These efforts are going to have a far-reaching impact towards a healthy, economically vital, sustainable, and sustaining Community as a whole. The summer music events put on by the Park Rapids Downtown Business Association, the growing presence of the Park Rapids Lakes Area Arts Council, and the work of everyone else involved in these types of ventures warrants the support of all of us.

County Commissioner Kathy Grell, as recently quoted in the Park Rapids Enterprise, is right on target when she notes that “The vitality of our county depends on the entrepreneurial efforts of so many independent, creative, and determined people.” Beyond simply filling downtown parking spaces and restaurant booths, these initiatives play a key role in community economic development. A vibrant and diverse local arts and entertainment community, argues business professor Richard Florida in his The Rise of the Creative Class, goes a long way in building a culture conducive to attracting and retaining the entrepreneurs and creative business talent essential for a community to succeed economically.

Public and private funds dedicated to developing local music and arts initiatives are well spent. Next time you hear or read about a concert at The Armory or on a stage on 2nd Street, show your support by simply going. You very well may be glad you did.

Peter Pierson

Park Rapids, Pogo Mine, Alaska and Prescott, Arizona