31 January 2011

people love downtown!

A recent press release in the Star Tribune, very cool:

Duluth Retail Contest: Lease for nothing, ads for free

Call it "urban renewal" 2011 style.

The Greater Downtown Council of Duluth is offering a year of free rent on its main downtown drag--Superior Street--to two entrepreneurs who can come up with a new retail concept for downtown.  The contest is called "Go Downtown, Grow Downtown, the Great Space Giveaway. 

Applicants have until Feb. 28 to submit a two-page business plan for either a new start up store or a store expansion from another location. Finalists then will be asked to submit a detailed business plan.  The winners will receive rent-free space, a free advertising package with the Duluth News Tribune, free marketing services from Out There Advertising, consulting and a loan package from the Northeast Entrepreneur Fund.

"This is a great way to generate excitement about our downtown, assist an entrepreneur in their dream and show how serious our downtown stakeholders are about attracting new retail to our central business district," said Kristi Stokes, president of the Greater Downtown Council.  For contest details, including rules and how to enter, visit http://www.downtownduluth.com

Go Duluth!

28 January 2011

mission: possible

So with Finding Windom's public presentation night coming up February 16th at 7pm at the BARC, I thought it would probably be a good idea to put together our mission, vision, values and goals to create a more concrete concept of Finding Windom's purpose.  Just to clear things up: Finding Windom isn't just a clean up crew, we are an organization dedicated to the growth of our community in an ever changing world.  We hope you come to learn more and share with us your vision for Windom as well on February 16th at the BARC, but before then, it's my pleasure to bring you this work in progress for you to read, absorb and get excited about:

Mission: With the creative minds and working hands of volunteers with a genuine passion for their community, Finding Windom will dedicate time and effort to find Windom’s potential and true beauty.

Vision: Finding Windom is dedicated to creating a thriving and unique downtown and community-wide experience. We believe our downtown Square is the heart and soul of our community and its surroundings promote an ideal quality of life for its residents. We wish to see the community’s potential flourish in our ever changing world.

We believe our downtown Square is:

a. What makes Windom unique and distinguished.

b. A central meeting place for our community’s celebrations

c. A place for business, retail and service, housing and recreation

d. Rich in history and pride and we must preserve it for the future

e. Has limitless potential for growth

f. We must make decisions to ensure its growth and protect its historic relevance in the community.

Values: Finding Windom values our downtown and community wide assets. We value the power of the internet and our “wired” city, we value the spirit of cooperation and the strength of working together, and we value the power of pride. We value Windom’s businesses, services, residents, tourists and limitless potential to progress and grow.


1. Branding Windom. We are continually working to brand our city to give it relevance in today’s every changing world. By branding Windom, we give people and businesses a reason to come, stay, and do business in our beautiful city.

2. Development on our beloved Square. We wish to see the Square provide a unique experience for residents and tourists. In order to do this, Finding Windom’s goal is to promote our existing businesses, encourage more businesses on the Square, market the Square to tourists through signage along the highway, broadband usage, and working with surrounding and state-wide communities. We wish to promote activities/community events beneficial to the economic stimulation of our downtown businesses and celebrate our community as a whole.

3. Cooperation and Support. Finding Windom will initiate and seek partnerships for collaboration with any group/organization that influences the development and growth of our community. We would like to facilitate efforts of development with formal decision makers of the city. We promote using professional and social networks as valuable resources to make progress and advance development.

4. Education. Finding Windom is dedicated to educating the public about important issues that face our community. We wish to remind the community about the power we have over our quality of life and economic growth. We support local, we understand its importance, and we promote ongoing campaigning to remind others of the importance of supporting local (The Little City That Would).

5. Credibility. We seek to be a vital resource and organization for the community of Windom. We wish to obtain credibility as a vital resource for the community by not only talking about Windom’s assets and potential, but providing our forward thinking ideas, positive attitude and working hands into making Windom an exceptional place to be.

27 January 2011

just some light reading.

A friend turned me on to a book titled "Hollowing Out the Middle: The Rural Brain Drain and What it Means for America." I just got it from the Plum Creek inter library system--love our library--and I'm looking forward to digging in.  It's a book about how the community plays a role in the population decline in pushing away their "best and brightest young people" and under investing in the ones that stay in the community.  It is interesting that this book was suggested to me because I've been meaning to address this topic from my own experiences of growing up rural and returning to my rural roots after college, but just never really new how to start explaining it.  I'm looking forward to hearing what the "professionals" have to say about an issue that, well, I can directly relate to.  So after I finish the book, I'm looking forward to thinking it over and writing about it to share with you.  While reading the preface, I was already intrigued by the topic that awaits me in the next 172 pages and want to share with you the part that makes me proud of my rural roots and really why this topic should matter to all of us. 

"Of course it matters," they chorused, and, in their separate ways, they went on to say why small towns are worth saving.  One person talked about how much of the nation's natural resources and the world's food comes from this region and said that this alone should be incentive to devote attention to the challenges facing the countryside.  Another pointed out that if alternative forms of energy and food production are the waves of the future, then the Midwest and rural areas more generally will be ground zero for the rolling out of the green economy and sustainable agriculture.  A third alluded to the historical centrality of the region to the health of the nation and said that, despite the recent downturn in manufacturing and the wholesale reordering of agriculture, the Heartland and its thousands of towns could, with the right policies in place, once again thrum with success.

We had seen firsthand the herculean efforts that some small towns make to survive and the ferocious love that inhabitants feel for their dot on the map. And yet it was in younger generation's stories about coming-of-age in the Heartland that the most important lessons about the workings of small towns were revealed.

...our [the authors] immersion in this issue fueled a great desire to place the hollowing-out phenomenon on the crowded national to-do list.  We do so because we believe that there are more than quaint postcard images of sepia-toned Main Streets at stake.  We should care because the Heartland is the place where our food comes from, it is the place that helps elect our presidents...and it is the place that sends more than its fair share of young men and women.  The future of the many towns that give the Heartland its shape and its sinews is of vital importance, and we believe that ignoring their hollowing out will be detrimental in the short and long terms. Though we are faced with an economic crisis of ever-widening and catastrophic proportions that will undoubtedly siphon our attention and resources, it would be a mistake to overlook the crisis in rural America that has slowly developed over the past two decades.  In many ways the travails of hollowing out small towns and their Main Streets were an ominous harbinger of economic hard times to come. 

26 January 2011

no vacation.

Ah, the smooth feeling of my laptops shallow keyboard, the familiar J K L ; and F D S A position how I've missed you.  I'm so sorry I kept you waiting, but I had to take a little unexpected vacation and it wasn't to Tahiti.  This winter has been by far the unhealthiest winter I've ever had in my life **feel free to say this very dramatically**.  I get sick, my son gets sick, I get sick, my son gets sick--we are a close family, can you tell?  Thank goodness my husband has stayed healthy because he was stuck listening to my sighs of pain all while taking care of Henrik's teething, feverish happiness.  Such memories we've made this winter in the Harries' household. 

I must confess that while I may have lead you to believe I took a vacation from blogging, I did not, however, take a vacation from my quest to Find Windom--nothing could stop me from this, my friends.  Lets start with last Wednesday--I had a meeting with my new found MIRC (MN Intelligient Rural Communities) friends planning some pretty great classes for our local businesses about utilizing broad band, very exciting.  Watch for upcoming class dates to be held for the very low price of $5 at BARC.  On Thursday, I met with the Kiwanis group to discuss this very exciting MIRC project, its benefits to Windom and our businesses and how this project parallels all the missions and visions of Finding Windom. Thanks for your time, Kiwanis, much appreciated!  On Friday, I had yet another meeting regarding the MIRC project, got to talk "Windom talk" and officially meet the new EDA director-also very exciting, and I'm looking forward to working with him.  And finally on Saturday, Finding Windom was invited to celebrate with the board, employees and volunteers of the Plum Creek Food Coop at their annual holiday party.  It was a wonderful way to celebrate our exciting last few months for the Food Coop and for Finding Windom.  So it was a packed week for me before leading to the doom of Strep Throat that overcame me these past few days.  Now that I'm feeling better, I need to get my main little man feeling better as well, and we will be up for more eventful days on our journey to Find Windom.  Never a dull moment for us here in River City.

18 January 2011

45 days until spring.

I must remember
during the cold days of winter
when even the snow
under my boots
with each step
the earth under the pure white
is preparing to give us
what we deserve after a harsh season
it's green,
it's hope,
it's spring.

13 January 2011

putting us on the map.

I've written another article for MN 2020 and pretty excited they posted a picture of the courthouse along with the article.  Doing everything I can to promote Windom so others can find it on a map of a million cities.

Check it out at http://mn2020.org/issues-that-matter/economic-development/uncovering-small-towns-assets

Here is the article I wrote for MN 2020 in case you run into technicle difficulties:

When you have lived in one place long enough, you get to see the life and death of numerous things. I have lived in the same small rural town in Southwest Minnesota now for 28 years. Okay, throw out 4 ½ years of college, but I considered myself “living in town” during that time too through numerous phone conversations with mom. During these short 28 years, I’ve witnessed families move to and move from Windom. I’ve seen houses go up for sale, sell, or stay for sale for so long any host of a HGTV show would cringe. I’ve watched young ones grow into high school graduates (not many times, but becoming a scary, frequent reality every year) and then these graduates move on to something bigger, but the town crosses fingers in hopes that someday they will be back. I’ve developed relationships with my elders, listened to their stories of the good ‘ol days here in Windom, learned a thing or two about life from them, and then had to attend funerals, all while wondering what I would talk about given the opportunity some youngster would actually want to hear about my good ‘ol days someday. I have also witnessed businesses in my city come and go, but recently, it seems the cycle stops at the going part somehow forgetting the next step should be that another should come.

We can blame it on the recent economic turmoil or that starting a business is such a scary thing it seems nobody wants to do it, especially a bank. But I say there is no time like the present, especially after surviving these difficult economic times.

Richard Florida, an urban theorist and economic developer, has an interesting theory. It may be directed toward urban areas, but rural areas should take notice as well. His book titled The Great Reset describes how society “view[s] prolonged economic downturns, such as the Great Depression of the 1930s and the Long Depression of the late nineteenth century, in terms of the crisis and pain they cause. But history teaches us that these great crises also represent opportunities to remake our economy and society and to generate whole new eras of economic growth and prosperity.”

Now is the time for rural to start focusing on our own reset.

Since I can remember our small city has been trying to hit what is viewed as the jackpot of economic development, a factory. Windom is the proud home of two greatly important factories: the Toro Company and a kosher meat packing plant, PM Windom. These factories have not only put us on the map, but provided Windom with essential employment opportunities. While these factories have proven time and time again to be assets to the community, there is still plenty of room for what makes the city unique and even more appealing to potential families, employees, tourists, and even more probable factories…small businesses. This should be the focus of our great reset.

My small, rural city was at its very finest when our beloved downtown centre square was filled with small businesses. Saturday afternoons were brimming with consumers ready to have a good time spending hard earned cash. A person could find everything he needed from baked goods to home repair to a sharp dress coat for a night out, it could all be found right downtown and with small town service. Those times are hard to imagine when I see an abundance of empty historic buildings begging for attention. The trends in economic development have passed up those beautiful buildings of distinction and dignity with something a little less charming, but new and put in areas defined as “industrial parks” in hopes the label would attract such commerce like bait. By the way, we are still waiting like a fisherman using cheese.

While I love the idea of all these economic possibilities in my small rural town, the idea I love the most is being able to find almost everything I need with that one of a kind small town service, like the good ‘ol days. I love the idea of attracting tourists with small town charm, history and experience. We need to show our heart and soul again.

Small businesses should be worth something again to economic developers, bankers, the government and this small rural city. For someone with enough gumption to start a small business, well, they deserve all the support and respect we would give a manufacturing company. These businesses create a thriving economy and community as well.

So this is the good news: now is our chance to rethink things and renew ourselves again. Our great reset lies in all the possibilities of small business development within our historic downtown, which was once an active main street (or in our case, an active main square) until its appreciation was so ignorantly set aside. Besides, how long are we going to wait for a manufacturing company to bite again before we change the bait?

11 January 2011


During the deep winter months, while missing the sweet, sweet sun and it's refreshing warmth and revitalizing Vitamin D, I can't help but try to find just a little bit of happiness to make up for the absence of such inspiring rays.  It seems I was searching even more during my necessary half hour on the elliptical machine at the wellness center tonight.  Each stride became harder and harder as I thought about how much I miss exercising my body under the warm sun outside.  I often comment on how quickly time passes, but for some reason on this crazy contraption they call the elliptical, time couldn't go any slower.  I don't know if it was my longing for those carefree summer days or just that I had no oomph to do what I was doing at that moment.  By now you probably know that the fitness center isn't really my idea of fun, but more a necessary action I force myself to do at times.  Anyway, to get to the point, I was reading a magazine in desperation it would make the numbers on the time clock quickly reach 30:00, and I stopped on an article titled "Big Love."  It was an article written by the woman who wrote "The Happiness Project," Gretchen Rubin.  Well, I'm a sucker for happiness and its sappy stories and couldn't help but soak in the words. The article didn't compare to the inspiring sweet summer sun's rays I'm craving, but after I read it, I felt a little inspired, and I want to share some of it with you:

As my happiness project unfolded, I found one resolution to be particularly effective: "Give proofs of love."  This resolution was inspired by something I'd read in college and never forgotten, a remark attributed to French poet Pierre Reverdy: "There is no love.  There are only proofs of love." It was true.  Whatever love I might feel in my heart, other would see only in my actions.  How could I translate "proofs of love" into actions that I could take in my daily routine?

To my surprise, I found that not only did my proofs of love make others feel more loved by me, but they also made me feel more loving toward others.  One important lesson I've learned from my happiness project is that although we think that we act because of the way we fell, often we feel because of the way we act. A very effective way to change my emotions is to act the way I wish I felt.

Feeling more loving toward the people in my life, and having them feel more loving toward me, was a change that absolutely boosted my happiness.  Ancient philosophers and contemporary scientists agree and this comes as no surprise to anyone--that having strong, affectionate bonds with other people is a key to happiness.  In fact, it may be the key to happiness.

In the dead of a cold, dark winter, when I'm searching for warmth--this was a ray of sunshine and it did make the time clock on that machine go a little faster tonight and it felt good.

Spread the love, Windom, spread the love.

10 January 2011

snow's warmth.

the snow falls softly upon the streets
kissing the earth so gently
the dark cold sky
abruptly interrupted by the white horizon
the street lights glow
looking into a snow globe
warm homes and sleeping babies
peaceful city streets

09 January 2011

looking sharp.

You wondering what to wear tomorrow?  Haven't done laundry in awhile and need something clean to wear? What can you wear that is going to make your eyes dance? What can you wear that will make good 'ol Larry Buhler keep smiling? What can you wear that goes with everything in your closet?  You guessed it, your very own Finding Windom t-shirt...now available in black at Frank's Shoe Repair or the Windom Chamber of Commerce.  Get your very own for only $12--get yours today.  All proceeds go to efforts of making this beautiful city shine!  We appreciate your support.

Mark your calendars, Finding Windom has a very important and exciting event coming up in February.  Join us on Wednesday, February 16th at 7pm at the BARC for an informational meeting regarding Finding Windom's vision, mission, happenings and future and we need your input!  This event is free, all that is required of you is your support and inquistive minds regarding Finding Windom.  This will be an opportunity for Windom residents and Finding Windom supporters and future supporters find out what we are all about, to give your input about a visions for Windom and for all of us to come together and talk about my favorite subject-Windom.  It would be great to see you all there!

Many exciting things happening these days for Finding Windom.  Taking it one day at a time, in order to create a successful future. 

Finding Windom together,

04 January 2011

the future of small towns.

I came across this article on a website titled "The Daily Yonder: Keep It Rural." It is a great website full of useful information about rural areas.  After reading the article, I was rather inspired.  All of these ideas are things I've been trying to promote through Finding Windom, so I thought maybe if it came from the experts, it would help pursade more people that despite the economic downtimes, it is possible to create a thriving rural economy and community.  There are a pleathora of resources and things we can do as a community to see the economy and community prosper.  Just read it.


02 January 2011

the little city that would.

Resolutions, resolutions.  I figure it is always best to make a new year's resolution on January 2nd because most resolutions, as we all know, end January 2nd, so I figure by making one now there are better chances of it progressing on longer than a day.  Okay, to be completely honest, I made this resolution a while ago and have already started to work on it, but now it is time to share...

One of my new year's resolutions for 2011 is to start a support local campaign in Windom.  The title of the campaign is called "The Little City that Would," and it will be designed to help constantly remind locals to support local businesses.  Yeah, you are probably thinking, just another shop windom, help your neighbors, yada, yada, yada, schpeel, but I really think if we are constantly reminded and completely understand the impact, it would make a big difference because everyone needs to be reminded--that's why we have alarm clocks. Not only would it help our rural economy, but it would help our residents, new and existing, discover all the great things our city does have to offer. As a part of the campaign, I would really like to educate the public on the power we have to sustain our rural economy, and the power we have to help get new businesses to come to town--like another grocery store...oh, pretty please!

I'm hoping to have most of the details down on paper-- instead of just floating around in my mind--and be talkig to the public very soon, so we can get this puppy rolling and launched, so watch for more details.  I've been doing some research and have found many communities that have stated a support local campaign have seen very good--and important--economic revitalization happen.  I'm really looking forward to getting this underway, and also look forward to talking to the many businesses, groups/organizations, and the residents of Windom about what we can all do to see our small businesses and small community revive itself through the power of supporting local. 

This is just new year's resolution number 1...stay tuned for more...

And don't forget to "Cheer" for Windom at http://www.wehearyouamerica.readersdigest.com/.  We are making headway, so keep going!  Don't be shy, tell them what we need and why we are great!

Making it happen in eleven,