West Central Blogger

Thursday, April 10, 2008

The Fergus Falls community chimes in

WCI staff didn't have to travel far for their latest community breakfasts--they were held right in Fergus Falls at the WCI offices. About 25 people at each of the two breakfasts enjoyed egg bake and caramel rolls as they shared their ideas and concerns about the Fergus Falls community.

Fergus Falls folks like the safeness of the community, the good school system, the beauty of the area, the quality of healthcare and the fact that, even as a rural community, there's easy access to metropolitan areas, thanks to the proximity to the interstate. Older people--especially those who grew up in the area or have a lake home--are retiring here. People are generous, too. And it's a good place to do business.

Folks in Fergus Falls think regionally. Government officials from neighboring communities gather regularly to learn from each other and collaborate. Many people think nothing of driving 30-40 minutes to eat at a good restaurant--and that's true for people coming to Fergus Falls as those from Fergus Falls.

There are challenges, though. Long-timers may not be as positive about Fergus Falls as newcomers are. The sidewalk sometimes seems to roll up after 5 p.m. and on weekends. Shoppers may not come to the city if they perceive nothing will be open. Even with a Minnesota State Community and Technical College campus in town, there doesn't seem to be much for young adults to do. "How do we keep young people in town?" some people asked. "We don't. We let them spread their wings and experience the world," others replied. "Then, when they are older and married and having kids, they'll think what a great place Fergus Falls is to live and raise a family."

What are some areas to concentrate on?
  • Start building a quality workforce to replace those retiring in ever greater numbers.
  • Make Fergus Falls a retail destination, especially on Saturdays.
  • Invite businesses and entrepreneurs to invest (and reinvest) in the community.
  • Be a welcoming community, especially in terms of the possibility of the Regional Treatment Center turning into an international school.
  • Stop worrying about shrinking school enrollment and start figuring out how to make the new, smaller model a model for success and excellence.
  • Pay attention to aging infrastructure issues.
  • Push for making Fergus Falls an arts mecca for the west central region.

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