By Andrea Dwyer, Member Relations Coordinator, Alexandria Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce
Let’s take a look at a tourists’ motives and needs. If a person is going to spend some time in a city they are not familiar with, there are a few things this person needs. First, we have physiological needs, this would include places to eat and drink. Next is safety and security, which would include shelter or someplace to call “home ground”. Third would be social needs, such as events, activities, gatherings, or the social life of the town. As a tourist in an unknown city or a local looking to find services in their town, having a hub of information like the Chamber of Commerce Visitor Center is very important. Studies have shown that visitor centers make an important contribution to the economic, social and recreational well-being of communities. This is done by encouraging tourists and locals to experience local events, attractions, and recreation options. This also financially supports the community’s retail, housing, accommodations and eating venues.
As a member of the Alexandria Chamber we have incorporated our visitor center into a complementary benefit of Chamber membership, each member receives one spot in the visitor center. As we work to promote our Chamber members, we see the value of having something tangible to hand out. First, we ensure that our members’ materials are being seen, by offering a clean, organized, and clearly labeled visitor center. Then, when someone comes in looking for a specific type of business, we know exactly where to look and are able to hand out marketing pieces for our Chamber members. When we start to run low on materials, we reach out to our members to request more.
The Alexandria Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce sees around 15,000 walk-ins each year. As a staff of four, we go to training each year to learn about the similarities and differences between other Minnesota Chambers. Through these trainings, we have learned that we are one of the few Chambers in Minnesota to still have a visitor center alive and active in the same building. The purpose of keeping our visitor center alive and active is to provide information to tourists planning trips to Alexandria and to area residents in need of local services. By making sure we have all of our members’ marketing items visible in our visitor center, we have the resources to provide the proper needs that fit the physiological needs, safety and security needs and social needs, not only our tourists, but to our community residents as well.
If you are a member with the Alexandria Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce, contact us today to ensure we have your items in the visitor center!
Adrian Panther, owner of Panther Distillery, had a simple idea in 2011 to "bring great spirits to Minnesota". Panther Distillery is Minnesota's first legal whiskey distillery and offers a variety of whiskey products. It is dedicated to continuing Minnesota's heritage of exceptional distilled spirits that goes back to Prohibition.
By Tara Bitzan, Executive Director, Alexandria Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce
We are still a year away from another presidential election, but there will still be some important voting going on locally this election season. Two Douglas County School Districts have put referendums before voters this year as follows:
Alexandria Public Schools voters will have a one-question ballot that asks voters to approve a phased-in operating levy. Funding would be used to maintain or reduce class sizes, continue with specialist teachers, expand mental health support, maintain or expand real world work experiences at the middle and/or high school levels and provide more financial stability. The proposed levy features a 10-year operating levy that is phased in as follows: $375 per student in 2020-21, $485 per student in 2021-22, and $595 per student in the 2022-23 school year and the remaining seven years after that.
Brandon-Evansville School District voters will have a two-question ballot. The first question asks voters to approve a $19.9 million referendum that will convert the existing Brandon facility into a pre-kindergarten through grade 12 school. It will include construction of an elementary school addition and improvements, an early childhood addition and construction of high school renovations and improvements. Those include construction of a band and choir addition, along with improvements to cafeteria/commons area, classrooms, restrooms, locker rooms and parking lot.
The second question will ask voters to approve a $5.3 million referendum that will be used to construct a multi-purpose gymnasium addition with locker rooms and a dedicated Charger Kids Club area at the Brandon School site. This question is contingent on question one passing.
Do you live in one of these school districts? If so, do you plan to vote? I hope your answer is yes! Communities can only progress and prosper when the citizens who live there are involved and engaged. Part of being engaged means exercising your right to vote. But more importantly, it means educating yourself on the issue at hand before casting that vote. There have been countless news reports shared through local media, many public meetings and listening sessions in all communities involved, and many other printed and online resources shared. There is also a lot of misinformation out there.
I am not going to tell you how to vote on either of these referendums. But I am going to encourage you to please make sure you have all the facts before heading to the polls. Don’t just rely on what you heard at the coffee shop last week, or what your neighbor shared over the fence this morning, or what you saw posted on Facebook that was shared by a friend of a friend of a friend. Take the time to seek out the factual information and filter it out from the opinions that easily cause those facts to fall the wayside in every election.
In a world that President Trump would say is full of “fake news,” be sure that the information you are basing your vote on is factual. And if you aren’t sure, don’t hesitate to make the calls and ask the questions. It’s your right as a citizen, and it is expected of you as a voter. And after you are armed with all the information you need to make an informed vote, head to the polls on November 5, or vote through any of the early voting options available to you. These communities need to hear your voice.
Carol Swenson is the Executive Director at Legacy of the Lakes Museum in Alexandria, MN. The museum showcases classical style boats, grand hotel and resort history, fishing memorabilia and much more! The campus also offers the Legacy Gardens which features landscaping, water features, walking paths, etc. Also on the grounds is a boat house, this can be rented out by the public for various events.
By Tara Bitzan, Executive Director, Alexandria Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce
It won’t come as a surprise to many of us who live here that Alexandria “exceeded expectations” in a quality of life study conducted by The Center for Rural Communities at Northland College in Ashland, Wisconsin. The work is funded in part by the Otto Bremer Trust. According to the project website, “What we measure matters, and measuring quality of life and well-being is essential for understanding rural communities.”
The Northwoods Quality of Life Database brings together a comprehensive list of data on rural communities across the north woods areas of Minnesota, Wisconsin and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Utilizing a variety of original, proprietary data collected by the Center for Rural Communities and data gathered from governmental, nonprofit, and print sources, this initiative supports a public database of quality of life metrics and examines the various factors and characteristics that describe quality of life in the identified region.
The study collected recreational infrastructure data in five categories: indoor recreation, outdoor recreation, youth recreational programming, adult recreational programming, and waterfront recreational amenities. Data was gathered on such things as number of parks, number of baseball fields, and miles of paved trails in the community and then scored The goal of the project is to “understand the things that make a rural community a good place to live, work, and play’ and to “provide baseline data and track changes over time related to important characteristics of rural communities in the north woods region.”
More information on the study can be found here: https://www.northland.edu/sustainability/crc/data-visualizations/recreation-database/