Many of us on the WCI staff regularly visit communities in our region as part of our jobs, but not all of us have the opportunity. Even if we did travel through west central Minnesota often, we may not experience it the same way our colleagues do, because we work in different arenas. A couple of our sister MIFs decided their staff would take a regional tour to help all staff know and understand the area they serve, and the work of their coworkers. We thought this sounded like a great idea.
On April 23, we boarded a Rainbow Rider transit bus and spent the day exploring a portion of the region we serve (it's too big to do the whole region in a day!). We visited the counties of Douglas, Grant, Pope and Stevens.
Our first stop was the City of Hoffman. All the staff have heard about this "Little Town that Could." Economic Development Director Muriel Krusemark is the dynamo who has used her energy and "can-do" attitude to help Hoffman grow and encourage residents to think outside the box when it comes to community development. She hopped on the bus and gave us a whirlwind tour of the town (population 672). We visited Advanced Manipulator Specialists and saw a demonstration of the mechanical arms they design and build. We ended our town tour at Main Street Galleria, a general store cooperative where 25 unique vendors sell their wares. Armed with $10 a piece, we formed a cash mob and did some fast and fun shopping!
We then headed to Morris and toured Superior Industries, which builds conveyors for clients all over the world.
WCI Board Member Mike Reese joined us at Superior, and then took us on a tour of the U of M West Central Research and Outreach Center, where he is the director of renewable energy. This experimental station uses solar, wind and hydrogen energy. We got to go inside one of the huge wind turbines.
From Morris we traveled to Starbuck, where we had a lovely lunch at the Nutcracker Cafe, and dessert at the Starbuck Dairy Queen. Several staff members swear it's the best soft serve in the region!
Pope County Early Childhood Initiative Coordinator Jeannie Pederson hopped on the bus in Starbuck and gave us a tour of the town and of nearby Glenwood through the lens of early childhood. We saw two outdoor playgrounds built specifically for little kids, and a great indoor play area just for tiny tots at Minnewaska Wellness and Fitness.
Our last stop of the day was at Tastefully Simple in Alexandria. Tastefully Simple is a business success story on a grand scale. The company is generous in giving back to the region, and we are pleased to be a partner with them in working with nonprofits in west central Minnesota.
See more photos and videos of our tour on our Flickr page.