January 14, 2016 at 2:11 p.m.
The exciting announcement brightened a dreary frigid Minnesota winter day for many volunteers involved in the ABC plan who gathered inside the Chisago Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce building, in Lindstrom, for the announcement.
The America’s Best Communities contest began with a national call for entries and got hundreds of responses. Chisago Lakes is the only community in this state chosen as one of 50 quarter-finalist entries. The 15 semi-finalists now are expected to present their refined implementation plans to judges in person in Durham, in April.
The ABC contest is sponsored by Frontier Communications, CoBANK, The Weather Channel and Dish Network. The grand prize to the one community which most successfully follows through is $3 million, but even second and third place finishers out of the 15 finalists are eligible for $2 and $1 million prizes.
The Chisago Lakes Area ABC implementation plan details a number of projects and initiatives ranked by area residents, government agency officials and civic leaders.
Important regional needs involve ensuring a quality of life and being known for environmental/recreational opportunities. The priorities also include a strong, supported workforce, a place that provides access to technology and incorporates alternative energy in its marketplace. Projects in the plan are meant to culminate in a diverse and healthy local economy.
The implementation plan’s outcomes were merely a vision a few months ago; but from early summer 2015 into late fall, the ABC committee held meetings, took surveys and offered forums for personal interaction bringing ideas and opinions together for the plan.
The ABC prize served to bring together a fractured area, known more for its lack of cohesion than for cooperating on common goals, observed one of the active committee volunteers, Lindstrom’s City Administrator John Olinger.
Another noteworthy thing about this entire effort, that was stated in the exective summary accompanying the plan, was that the group working towards the ABC prize actually grew in number over time. As the process moved forward it energized the volunteers. Ordinarily these sorts of committee based efforts fatigue people and burnout is expected.
Tangi Schaapveld, coordinator of the ABC effort, said to those gathered for the announcement that it was becuase of the fantastic level of involvement locally that this happened and “...no matter what the outcome we have a plan and will continue to work together.”
Senator Amy Klobuchar’s representative Tim Cossalter told the volunteers the sentor sends congratulations and admires the dedication of the group to better the local economy.
Frontier’s Minnesota representative reminded the group there’s still “hard work ahead” to refine the plan and get the presentation packaged. The Chisago Lakes Community entry is competing for the grand prizes against semi-finalists including Lake Havasu, AZ, Fort Dodge Iowa, Charleston West Virginia, towns in Indiana and Idaho and Washington State.
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