Generations strengthen their communities

By: Margaret Dillard – Chamber President

Margaret Dillard This is the time of year, I am reminded that communities in Martin County, Minnesota are “generational” communities and present a different culture than those characterized as “transitional.”

Pork Masters Golf Outing is a joint effort with the Chamber’s Agri-business and Ambassadors Committees and Martin County Pork Producers. Approximately 250 pork producers and industry suppliers from three states come together at Interlaken Golf Course to have fun, network and create or cultivate business relationships. During the fair, the chamber committees facilitate Blue Ribbon Pork Cook Off, where more than 400 ticket-holders will experience culinary creations. Then collectively select 1st, 2nd and 3rd best pork dishes. Three judges will also pick their top three favorites. The day of both events, dozens of loyal volunteers, many who have worked these events for decades, come together with skill and precision to create pure magic!

I believe this anomaly is only possible in generational communities, where families tend to stay for multiple decades allowing for established routines, traditions and foundations. Organizations and businesses tend to be more cohesive. Groups and individuals have strong ties and are able to chase results rather than to spend time getting comfortable with each other.

About transitional communities

In contrast, transitional communities, where residents come and go spend more time establishing ground rules and creating relationships with each project roll out. Much of my career, I have worked in two Arizona cities. Bisbee, a small community, roughly half the population of Fairmont, near the border with Mexico is reliant on government (border patrol, county and schools) and tourism. Sierra Vista, home to Ft. Huachuca Army Base, is similar in size to Mankato. I would characterize both cities as “transitional.” While working with Chambers in these communities, I felt that much of my activity was reactive rather than proactive; I spent too much time finding resources to combat problems and too little time collaborating to achieve new and better results.

In my experience, one of the most significant contrasts among small communities in the United States is related to transitional vs. generational differences. When returning to my roots almost three years ago, I was rather unprepared for the vast differences. I expected to use most of the same relational tools that I was accustomed to in Arizona. After all, it’s all similar in the continental US, right?

Here’s some observances that may help demonstrate my point.

About generational communities:

• Generational communities are more desirable locations to start and manage quality businesses. Because people have strong bonds, they spread the word making advertising and publicity efforts more effective. In contrast, when businesses have poor quality or services, generational communities can be harsh and impatient.
• People know each other and know how to work (or how not to work) with each other. There is definitely a sense of belonging. However, newcomers may feel excluded. See the local Facebook page that hosts events for Newcomers!
• Relationships, whether personal or professional, have stable foundations, but it may seem that opportunities to get involved are limited.

About transitional communities:

• When starting a business or adding products and services, beef up your advertising budget. It will take concentrated effort to get and keep your customers’ attention. However, widespread memory concerning personal or professional shortcomings fade.
• Be prepared to build and rebuild your team. The advantage here is that if a project didn’t go well, you will be working with a different group when preparing next time.
• Ethnic and cultural diversity brings a variety of perspectives. You may find that creating cohesive relationships, policies and infrastructure are challenging.

Through the above ramblings, I’ve attempted to convey how grateful I am for advantages of the local culture whether it is due to my theory or for other reasons and I would like to believe that there are valuable take aways for readers. It’s possible that my perspective is unique. Anyway, I would be interested to hear your perspective about generational vs. transitional communities and the effects they present.