By: Margaret Dillard – Chamber President
Over the last year, chief concerns among business leaders throughout the region continue to be lack of workforce, housing and childcare. We know that agriculture is the driving force of our economy. The board and staff of the chamber strive to address these concerns and more business issues through programs, services and advocacy. In short, we are here to promote a healthy business environment in the Fairmont area. Furthermore, we are stronger when we work together and celebrate local successes!
Here are some economic highlights of 2017:
- Utilizing online platforms, print media and relationships to feature community amenities and job opportunities has yielded documented results. Families, professionals and individuals who relocated referred to publicity hosted on websites and social media of FairmontChamber.org and FairmontAreaLife.com as well as those of our partners Fairmont.org and VisitFairmontMN.com. Project efforts include countywide distribution of welcome bags at city halls, utilities, chambers and civic groups and specific sponsored campaigns, quarterly Newcomers and Neighbors welcoming events, outreach through schools and more. We’ve gathered a database of 50+ residents who have relocated to the area in the last 5 years.
- Fairmont Community Education and Recreation facilitated the Diversity Forum, which drew more than 50 people, including chamber members, directors and staff who seek to prepare our area for growth.
- The community had little time to consider the loss of long-standing big box retailer, JC Penney, before the space was filled by Savewize, the first brick and mortar storefront of a wholesale product company.
- Fairmont Economic Development Authority efforts cite several efforts, including assisting with the opening Fairmont Butcher Block, relocation and expansion of Zierke Manufacturing and providing Tax Increment Financing to Fairmont Realty Group, LLC. Ambassadors led the celebration as seven new 3-bedroom apartments became available at Prairie Avenue and 1st Street in August.
- A collaborative agreement between Fairmont Area Schools and the City of Fairmont birthed WhiteTail Ridge, a subdivision of 20 lots, of which five are sold and the building of new homes is currently underway.
- Two examples of how collaboration can bring amazing results came through Lakeview Healthcare. This organization answered the needs of the community when long-term care no longer fit well with Mayo in Fairmont. Lutz Wing residents were relocated to Lakeview’s campus as were 85 children when Building Blocks Childcare needed a new home.
- While encouraging youth to find careers locally, the chamber’s Agri-Business Committee facilitates two $4,200 ag scholarships while promoting ag awareness and networking through the Blue Ribbon Pork Cook Off held during the Martin County Fair and Minnesota State Pork Masters Golf Outing.
- Area Career Exploration showcases local businesses each April to more than 650 high school sophomores and the Junior Achievement curriculum supports 35 volunteers as they provide business education to more than 1100 students from kindergarten through 8th grades.
- The first Martin County Ag Tour led by Visit Fairmont in July and held in cooperation with 1590s farm to table event promoted Martin County Ag to legislators, media and public.
- Eighteen professionals, selected by their employers, graduated Leadership Martin County. This immersion course is a nine-month commitment and provides participants with in depth information that paves the way for them to be strong voices for business and local community advocates.
That a new enthusiasm for what is possible backed by hard work and dollars allocated toward community enhancement and infrastructure is evident as we look to the future. The momentum continues with the announcement from Fairmont Opera House of a $10 million expansion and Lakeview Healthcare’s plans for a new build. Marina Lodge has broken ground for the addition of a three-bedroom overnight resort rental. Fairmont Lakes Foundation plans include a kayak and canoe rental kiosk to come online next summer.
Chamber staff will debut the 2018 newly designed and branded Martin County Visitor and Relocation Guide to be published in January 2018. Twelve thousand are distributed to travel/visitors centers, chambers, requestors and local outlets while the e-version outpaces printed copies with over 25,000 views.
Efforts stemming from the 1590 group include branding our county as “Bacon Capital USA”, creating a community center and building a play area inside Five Lakes Centre mall. More than half of the $450,000 has been pledged to build an all-inclusive playground at Gomsrud Park.
There are so many efforts underway and more that are yet to come that I’m sure that I missed something. I know that I run the risk of omitting grand achievements, however I think it’s important to note successes and focus on the positive things yet to come. I believe in encouraging those who have the courage to work toward making our world a better place!