Grand Rapids innovates under pressure

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Grand Rapids city administator Shawn Gillen.

Grand Rapids, a city of 10,000 in northern Minnesota, has some things going for it. A big employer, a hinterlands that shops there, a major philanthropic foundation all make life easier in tough times.

But the city is under the same pressure as every other municipality — shrinking state aid, a tough economy, a desire not to raise taxes.

As a result it has cut city jobs and planned its budgets not to rely on a half million dollars in state aid. But, with a mantra of not reducing services its residents demand, it has done a number of things that others might look to as worthy models. For one thing, in a city that pulp and paper built, City Hall is going paperless. Check out Jennifer Vogel’s reporting on the Iron Range city and the changes led by city administration Shawn Gillen.

Grand Rapids is one of hundreds of Minnesota cities trying to figure out how to navigate. For more, see the Ground Level “Cities in Crisis” page.

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