Have you ever thought about why you live where you live?
For most of us the answer is either that we were born here and it is the family home, or we came here because of work and found a job here.
Next question. Why do we stay?
Again, the answer might be family or work.
Third question. What do you think of the place where you live?
This one gets a whole lot more complicated.
A small group of Blue Earth residents tried to find the answers during an hour long open forum one evening last week. Led by a facilitator named Chris Giesen from CEDA, the handful of local folks took the S.W.O.T. approach to taking a closer look at Blue Earth.
S.W.O.T. stands for strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats.
After the discussion, it was obvious to the group that there are many more strengths than weaknesses, more opportunities than threats.
Surprised? Maybe you shouldn’t be.
Some of the strengths were as specific as naming the BEA school and the UHD hospital as strong community assets.
Good, solid local businesses were also listed by name, such as Juba’s, Dikken’s, Ankeny’s and Armon’s. But, the list quickly expanded to many more, and the fact that there are so many great businesses in Blue Earth was listed as a strength.
A solid industrial community was also quickly added. Businesses such as Seneca Foods, Kerry and Nortech Aerospace, were noted as very strong benefits to the city.
However, talk of the industries also quickly brought a weakness to the surface. Many Blue Earth and Faribault County industries have been attempting to hire more employees recently, and have found it difficult to find qualified workers.
Another benefit which was added to the list early was the Green Giant statue and the new Green Giant Museum. The statue has drawn tens of thousands of visitors off I-90 and into town for at least a short rest stop.
The opportunities involve a City Council, chamber of commerce and many groups and organizations working to improve the community.
The city now has a plan to fix up the streets each and every year. The chamber plans events for the town and the economic development authority and Faribault County Development Corporation work with businesses and industries.
The city has a new housing rehabilitation plan. Lack of adequate family-sized housing was listed as a weakness by the group.
One item was seen as being in all four categories; strength, weakness, opportunity and threat.
I bet you wonder how that is possible.
The item is the future road construction for two blocks of Main Street and most of Highway 169 as it passes through Blue Earth.
It is currently seen as a weakness because the pavement in both cases needs repair. The actual construction period of time is seen as a threat, because businesses may suffer with having limited access to their stores. The opportunity comes into play if businesses and the city use this reconstruction as an opportunity to make the areas better looking and attractive. If they do, the project will become a strength as it draws more businesses and visitors to the city.
You probably wonder about other items on the list of threats to the future of Blue Earth. It was actually fairly short.
Number one was the declining population. We have to do more, with fewer people to do it.
The second was having residents shopping out of town for items they can purchase locally, either in Blue Earth or other towns in the county. The last threat is more of an intangible item.
It has to do with caring and being a good citizen. Caring about the town and county you live in, and then doing something to help keep it a place people want to live. Not enough people care to volunteer to help out, the committee felt.
Think about it. What do you do to make your community a better place to live.
After all, there is a reason you live here – you think it is a nice place. Don’t you think you have a responsibility to keep it that way?