Do the people of International Falls have what it takes to reinvent their community in the wake of significant job cuts at the decades-old iconic paper mill? Gov. Mark Dayton is visiting today to take the temperature and talk about state bonding money, but perhaps more important for the long run is the conversation residents are embarking on.
Local officials have set up several economic response teams that are trying to tackle the future on various fronts. One group is looking at business development; another is focusing on worker retention and a third is beginning to fashion a long-term vision and strategy. How does a company town become something else?
The answer will be a long time in coming, but for an early sense of what residents are thinking, we asked people to make contributions via our Public Insight Network. You can see all of what they told us on this page, but here’s a sample of comments:
David Arts: “Watch as business owners tighten up their grip on that checkbook and as spending is dramatically curtailed on the home front. On another business note, watch as inventory levels drop in local businesses, uncertainty causes many different reactions.”
Tyler Weir: “We had a chance for a casino at one point but turned that down, we also had a chance to have a Walmart but once again we turned this down…. Why?”
Ideas for the future
Robin Bjorkquist: “Tourism, hydroponic greenhouse farming, manufacturing of some sort, technology, including but not limited to computer farms, nothing should be excluded from thought. We also need the majority of people to get past their old mentality and look to the future by welcoming people instead of turning them away.
Mat Olson: “I feel strongly that the city should start a brewery.”
Wes Peterson: “Tourism. For lots of reasons this community has done a poor job of marketing resources like Voyageurs Nat’l Park, Rainy Lake and Rainy River along with some of the best and most scenic snowmobile trails in the state; developing bike trails. We don’t even have a real RV park!”
What do you think? Is there more residents can do to promote tourism? Entrepreneurial spirit? What about a brewery or winter-time gardening? Help us keep the conversation going by commenting on this blog post or by clicking here and answering a few questions that rose out of some of these earlier comments.