By Tara Bitzan, Executive Director, Alexandria Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce
The Alexandria, Douglas County Lakes Area is pretty amazing. In fact, many believe it’s the “ultimate destination to live, work, play and prosper.” We have natural beauty, vast natural resources and recreational opportunities, quality healthcare and educational opportunities, strong hospitality, manufacturing and agricultural industries, impressive retail and arts offerings and so much more!
More importantly, the people here are pretty amazing. Throughout the community you can witness countless examples of neighbors helping neighbors, businesses supporting nonprofits, churches and schools, and people regularly coming together for the greater good of the community.
When tragedy strikes, the community rallies. When someone is in need, people are there offering a helping hand. When we achieve success, we celebrate! The fact that Minnesota Monthly recently selected Alexandria as Best Minnesota Town is evidence that we are pretty great! But we need to be honest with ourselves and admit that we have some flaws. One of the more significant being how we “react” in the form of mean-spirited words that get carelessly thrown around when there is debate of any kind within the community.
Something happens. We hear about it through media reports or word of mouth. Immediately, we react. Those fast reactions too often include aggressive, hurtful or hateful social media posts, the spreading of incorrect information to others, and worst of all, personal attacks.
Our community is full of passionate people, and that is why we are so successful! Passion builds momentum, gains followers and is a catalyst for making things happen. But there is a fine line between passion and aggression. Much too often that line is crossed, and that is a detriment to our entire community. It doesn’t matter if we are talking about city street projects, county ditches, school referendums or governmental tax levies, a local drug bust, building projects, snow covered sidewalks, plans or lack of plans for empty retail space, school bus schedules, or a security breech at a local business. Everyone has an opinion on the brief piece of information they come across, and they react before they educate themselves on the topic.
The news is released and it’s like a shotgun start at a race – people are immediately posting their opinions on social media, calling their friends to complain, sharing their frustrations on the street. Often there is an uproar for a few days, or maybe a few weeks or a few months, and then it all dies down and life goes on. Unfortunately, there is damage left in the aftermath, most often in the form of diminished trust, destroyed relationships, and good old-fashioned hurt feelings. It’s unclear why local residents have such short fuses, and it really doesn’t matter. What does matter is that we recognize that this is a problem, and that we focus on trying to make it better.
Here are some easy tips to get started. Next time you hear some news that raises your dander, bite your lip and do some research. Start by reading the entire media report instead of just the headline and opening paragraphs. If you still have questions or concerns, call up the entity involved. Our local government officials, school officials, business and organizational leaders, board members, etc. would be happy to answer questions if you are civil when asking them. In fact, most of them would prefer you call to ask questions versus spreading misinformation. But they don’t deserve to be verbally attacked, called names, criticized on social media, etc.
With all of the passionate people who care about this community, it’s a pretty safe assumption that no major decision is made without an extensive amount of study, research, input and consideration. And when the decision is made, it’s because they believe it to be the best possible one. So we owe it to them to at least listen, learn and then, if we still disagree, share our thoughts in a kind, respectful manner. There’s a great community resolution for 2020.
Matt Hagstrom is the president at Hagstrom Engineering. It is a civil engineering, landscape architecture and land consulting firm with over 20 years of experience based in Alexandria, MN. Hagstrom Engineering is licensed in Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, Colorado and Washington.
By Robyn Snyder, 2020 President, Alexandria Lakes Area Chamber Board of Directors
Twenty some years ago, I sat at the annual Chamber celebration and watched the incoming president accept the gavel for the upcoming year. A person at my table said he could see me doing that some year. So here I am, fulfilling that prophesy. I was humbled when asked to serve on the board five years ago, and am excited to serve as your president for 2020.
My theme for 2020 is Be Positive, Do Positive. To keep our community strong and vibrant, we all need to Be Positive and Do Positive. As we connect and collaborate, we need to do it with positivity. As Chamber members, I want to encourage you to bring positive action into your life and your businesses, and into our community as a whole. There is so much negativity in our world day today. Perhaps it’s always been there, but social media puts it in front of us all the time. Did you know our brains are wired for negativity to have a greater impact on us than the positive events?
Over the last several years, I have worked hard to focus on positivity within my own life and the environment of my company. I have seen firsthand how being positive and doing positive can have an effect. A staff member’s spouse recently shared with me, “The inspiration you bring to your group daily follows the ones you inspire home, I have to thank you for that! I have had a difficult week with much negative energy presented daily at my work. It is refreshing to come home and hear about your office positive sunshine daily.”
This year, as Chamber president, I want to encourage positivity and have my theme serve as a reminder for all of us to Be Positive, Do Positive. It starts at home, in our personal lives, spreads to our business roles and impacts our community as a whole. So I am challenging you to start and end your day by thinking of something you are grateful for – anything! I challenge you to smile more – smiling sends a message to our brains that we are happy and research shows smiling is contagious! Praise others and show appreciation! In the workplace, I challenge you to have a positive attitude. Attitude will show in the way staff deals with clients, the way they work alongside their teammates. If you are not in a management role, let the positivity start with you. Work hard, smile and keep things light, bring up issues as they arise-don’t let it build up inside of you. Practice honesty, admit mistakes, be appreciative, speak well of your company and your coworkers. Be respectful, inclusive, and supportive of others. Don’t gossip.
At the bottom of this blog is a link to my Be Positive, Do Positive “cheat sheet”. I encourage you to share it with your family, post it on your bulletin board at work, email it to anyone you think could use a positivity boost!
I am so proud of the community where I live. We truly are an ultimate destination for people to live, work, play, and prosper. If we, as individuals, can begin to focus on positivity in our personal lives, we can bring it into our workplace and spread it into our community! What you send out, you get back! Positive thinking is more than just a tagline. It changes the way we behave. When we are positive it not only makes us better, but it makes those around us better!
Click HERE for my Be Positive, Do Positive “cheat sheet”.