By Tara Bitzan, Executive Director, Alexandria Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce
The 2022 theme for the Alexandria Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce is “Catch the Passion!” “Passion” is a word that frequently comes up in discussions about the people of Alexandria. So many who live here, work here, own a business here, run a nonprofit here, retire here, go to school here, and everything in between are passionate about what they do. The Chamber is excited to recognize, encourage, and celebrate that, because it is that passion shown by so many that makes our community strong and resilient.
I was in a room full of passionate people a few weeks ago, when the Chamber convened a group for a roundtable discussion regarding the performing and visual arts in the Alexandria area. A key pillar of operation for the Alexandria Chamber is Collaboration: Working with others to best serve our community. While we are blessed with numerous quality arts opportunities in our area, we know there are always ways to grow, improve, evolve – and collaborate!
Representatives from local theater groups, music organizations, visual arts opportunities, and others attended. They were open to discussion and idea sharing, and best of all – they exhibited passion for the arts in the truest sense of the word. Entities like chambers, tourism bureaus and economic development commissions recognize the value a strong arts presence brings to a community. Communities with abundant, quality arts opportunities attract visitors and are a calling card for new residents and workforce, which in turn make those communities attractive to businesses looking to start up or relocate.
It’s important that the rest of the community understands the value of things like this as well. We all tend to get tunnel vision at times, but we need to regularly look at the big picture. I challenge you to build 10 minutes into your week to think “big picture thoughts” about the community and how it impacts you as a resident, employee, retiree, student, business owner… whatever your role.
This week, think about the arts and how they benefit this community and your quality of life. If you are a lover of the arts, you likely understand how they contribute to your personal quality of life, but do you think beyond that to how they impact the overall community? If you aren’t personally interested in plays, concerts, or exhibits, consider how you still benefit from those events happening in your community.
According to Creative MN (www.creativemn.org), just within West Central Minnesota Region 4’s counties of Becker, Clay, Douglas, Grant, Otter Tail, Pope, Stevens, Traverse and Wilkin, the total annual impact from nonprofit arts and culture organizations, their audiences, artists and creative workers, is a whopping $26 million plus.
For residents, this equates to more money circulating in the community and improving services and amenities, many of which you use regularly and may take for granted.
For business owners, this equates to stronger employee attraction and retention. When trying to attract new employees, do you only talk about the job and company, or do you paint a bigger picture about community and lifestyle?
In today’s employee market, you don’t need to just convince employees why they want to work for your company, you need to convince them why they want to live in Alexandria. You need to talk about the opportunities that contribute to a great quality of life.
While the arts may not be for you, they absolutely may be the calling card that causes a prospective employee to say yes to your offer.