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How to promote – or kill – your town

By Staff | Mar 4, 2018

It was big news on the front page of the Faribault County Register last week.

The new Chamber of Commerce building, which will house their office, a gift shop, the Giant Museum and the Tourist Information Center, is a go.

You maybe thought it already was. But, when the bids came in much higher than originally thought, its future was somewhat in doubt.

Despite doing quite a few cuts from the original estimated costs, the total package still came in very darn close to $1 million. And that is a pretty serious chunk of change in most people’s books.

However, the Blue Earth City Council stepped in to do what they could to make this happen, and make it a reality not a year or two from now, but this year.

The city had been saying all along that when the time came, they would help out with what they could.

In this case however, they stepped up in a big, big way. Some might say in a giant way….if you know what I mean.

The city offered to make a $200,000 donation to the Giant Building Fund, which would come from the liquor store funds. But beyond that, they voted to sell a general revenue bond, up to $500,000, to finance the rest of the building.

That means it would happen right away, with construction starting this spring.

The city would lease the building to the Chamber, at an amount that would cover the annual bond payment over the next 20 years.

And, as an added bonus, the city wants their economic development authority (EDA) to buy the land the building will be constructed on. You see, the Chamber bought the property by using a loan from the EDA. They recently paid that loan back to the EDA using monies meant for the new building.

The city wants to basically give that $50,000 back to the Chamber, so that the city will technically own the land and building and lease it all to the Chamber.

Now, after the Chamber has paid lease payments to the city for 20 years to pay off the bond, the city plans to turn around and sell it to the Chamber for $1.

There are some big plusses to this plan. First off the building gets built, right now, not later. Secondly, the Chamber has raised some monies to pay for the building and plans to continue to raise money for the next few years, to help pay off the bond.

And, another big plus is the community of Blue Earth gets a fabulous new welcome center. A welcome center complete with a Giant Museum and gift store and a whole lot more.

Is that an important deal, some may ask? Well, Blue Earth mayor Rick Scholtes thinks so. This new building will be a place where visitors will be welcomed and the city and community of Blue Earth can promote the town. And that is huge.

At last January’s Minnesota Newspaper Association’s Annual Convention, one of the speakers was a man named Doug Griffiths from Canada.

His seminar was based on his book entitled “13 Ways to Kill Your Community.” He was pretty witty, pretending that we were all there to learn the best ways to kill our towns if that is what you want to happen. But his message was clear. Do these 13 things and your town will die.

Some of the 13 were pretty interesting and some were obvious. If you always talk about how your town is dying, then that is just what will happen.

But, I digress

One of his points was that if you have something unique about your town, don’t promote it. Keep your town just like every other town your size. Don’t make it special.

Of course, he meant we should do the opposite if we didn’t want to kill our community.

Tout what is different about your town, he meant. Promote your uniqueness as much as you can. Give people a reason to come visit, live, work, go to school in your town.

We can thank KBEW’s Paul Hedberg for giving us something original and really different a 60 foot tall statue of the Green Giant. It makes Blue Earth unique, and thousands of people have stopped here to have their picture taken with the big guy.

Never mind there is no Green Giant Canning Plant here anymore, but there is still one in operation with a different name.

Everyone knows the Green Giant. And a lot of folks know he lives in Blue Earth, Minnesota. And those that don’t will find out all about the Giant and the city of Blue Earth when they stop at the new Giant Welcome Center, Visitors Center and Giant Museum.

That kind of community promotion is almost priceless. Maybe you could even call it Giant.