Anderson: Reinforce the local economy
25 Feb 2022
Community, Business, Economic Development
We all want a healthy, thriving economy. Strong economies make all other aspects of a successful society — affordable daycare, clean lakes, and rivers, robust youth programs — possible.
The residents of Little Falls made it clear in those first OurTown 56345 visioning sessions that a robust local economy was one of their top priorities. They strongly supported measures that would protect and support our existing businesses, create incentives for new businesses, and develop downtown as a riverfront gateway for bikes and trails tourism. In addition to these aspirational goals, there are also several projects planned for the near future that will be of material benefit to the community as a whole, such as the rail-grade separation of the Highway 27 Memorial Bridge and the referendum on a local option sales tax that will be on the November ballot.
Residents emphasized the need to strengthen existing support to entrepreneurs and small businesses. Ideas included working closely with the Economic Development Authority of Little Falls, Community Development of Morrison County, the Initiative Foundation, Region Five Development Commission and North Central Economic Development Association, and the Small Business Development Center, to assist businesses with location and growth. Offering new training and re-training opportunities to business owners and employees ensures that families looking to relocate to the area have adequate support to do so.
With that goal in mind, we can ensure that the local economy remains healthy and dynamic for many years to come.
The rail-grade separation on the Highway 27 Memorial Bridge has been a long time coming. The current bridge between the east and west sides of town crosses the railroad tracks. This means that, whenever a train passes through Little Falls, traffic can become significantly backed up in both directions. For most of us, this is just an inconvenience, but for someone riding in an ambulance on their way to St. Gabriel’s, it can be a matter of life or death, and for businesses on either side of the tracks, it can mean that the flow of commerce is likewise backed up. The city is working to design a new Highway 27 bridge to go over the railroad tracks instead of across them, reconnecting the two halves of the city and allowing freer movement for everyone.
The local option sales tax is a funding mechanism that has been proposed before as a way to pay for community improvements. Although the public was not interested in this idea at the time, it is one that bears re-examination. This would represent a tiny fraction of a percent of an increase in sales tax for the city, but the cumulative impact from all of our purchases would be enormous. The additional revenue would help the city fund the construction of a community recreation center where our children could play and community groups could meet. This is one example of how economic measures can benefit not only the local economy but also the next generation.
Little Falls has a lot going for it. It has a clean, beautiful riverfront area, numerous well-kept parks, a thriving historic district, and a community of local business owners and entrepreneurs that keep the city’s commerce sector running. All of these are assets that we should cultivate and seek to continuously improve because these form the core of our economic health.
Have any of these ideas resonated with you or with the mission of your organization? Do you see your values reflected here? Share your thoughts with us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Carol Anderson is the executive director of Morrison County Community Development.