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ATVs plunge through thin ice on Grace and Island lakes, one fatality

Initiative underway to establish community brand

A group of Park Rapids area stakeholders is working to establish a community brand.

The Park Rapids Lakes Area Community Branding presentation was held Thursday and Friday this week, where group leader Molly Luther introduced the initiative. The Dallas-based firm Civic Brand was hired to help in the process, with the goal to build a positive image that attracts the desired residents and visitors, helps recruit and retain healthy workforce, and attracts business and investment to the Park Rapids Lakes Area.

"We are hoping that through this process we can help attract the desired residents we want to bring to our area, entrepreneurs who will open businesses and create jobs, and to help build a strong, healthy workforce for the businesses that are open here."

Luther, who owns The Good Life Cafe and Molly Poppins, was part of the 2014 Blandin Leadership Training and this is a project she has been working on since participating in that group.

"Some of the other goals we have with our project are differentiating Park Rapids versus other communities in the area," Luther said. "When people want to escape Minneapolis or when they are thinking about opening a business or raising their family or retiring we want them to think of Park Rapids. At the same time we want to also preserve the nice small town lifestyle that attracted us here in the first place. We want to make sure as we grow and attract more visitors we don't lose our small town charm. That's very important as well."

Civic Brand is a firm the steering committee has selected to help Park Rapids through this process. Civic Brand specializes specifically in community branding.

Civic Brand representatives are in Park Rapids throughout the week to experience what the Park Rapids area has to offer. They are photographing and filming events and attractions, and at the same time interviewing community members to get a sense of what the Park Rapids Lakes Area is all about. They went to Itasca State Park following Thursday morning's presentation, a resort tour, then attended Water Wars and 2nd Street Stage, early morning fishing on Friday, followed by Legends & Logging, biking to Dorset and Nevis, and a pontoon ride at sunset on Fish Hook, breakfast at the Logging Camp, and Run to the Rapids classic car show.

"This first trip Civic Brand is here to really immerse themselves in Park Rapids to get to know us, to understand who we are and what's important to us, what we value, what do we strive for in our community, what fears we have about growth and change, and really get to know Park Rapids."

Civic Brand will return in the fall and winter to experience activities like fall colors, exploring the trails on ATV, visiting surrounding communities, ice fishing and snowmobiling.

Ryan Short, founder of Civic Brand, said this trip is about seeing the community and hearing people's stories.

Some of the workshop activities during presentations Thursday and Friday included participants sharing their opinions on the following questions:

• What group of new residents would benefit Park Rapids most

• What type of tourism is Park Rapids currently? Participants were asked to place a sticky dot in appropriate quadrants - Luxury, Active, Affordable, Relaxing. The most dots were placed in quadrant Active/Affordable.

• What type of tourism do you think Park Rapids should be known for? Again, participants placed sticky dots in the quadrant they felt best fit Park Rapids. The quadrant with the most dots here was Active/Affordable.

• What type of new business growth do you think would most benefit Park Rapids? Independent, Aggressive, Chain, Conservative. The quadrant receiving the most dots was Independent/Aggressive.

"The idea is to come together and support more of a brand platform that supports those many different ideas and things you're doing once you leave this room," Short explained. "There's a brand that supports that, even though there may be contradicting goals we can define what those are and how they can work together and where those shared values are, that can give you guys something to go and be more successful."

Short explained establishing a brand is making an emotional connection and values, not just a logo and tagline.

"The idea is you guys are sort of the the secret ingredient to all this. Park Rapids is you guys. Our job is to find out what makes this great, what attracted you here, to get more people like you to come here."

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