I gotta wear shades…

Summer is officially here and tourism is in full swing in the Redwood Area.  We’ve just experienced another amazing Summer Splash city celebration, and we’ve already seen large increases in requests for our Redwood Area Visitors and Resource Guide this summer, compared to other years.  Our website’s online views are up considerable percentages from last year at this time, and I would anticipate that to continue.  At a recent Redwood Falls Rotary Club meeting, our Program Speaker was Jackie Edwards from the Redwood Area Community Center, and she shared that even pool pass sales are on the rise with plenty of summer remaining.  The summer season is off to a great start!

As someone who regularly has the privilege of showcasing our area community to prospective residents and tourists, I’m allowed the unique perspective of seeing our community through the eyes of visitors and potential new neighbors.  It’s a great viewfinder, outside looking in, and it also makes a person stop and reflect on all that we have going for us and the opportunities for future growth!  Since I’m a proud product of the 80’s, I’ll quote the horribly catchy tune, “the future’s so bright, I gotta wear shades!”   I mean, really, do you ever take the time to stop and think about all we have to be proud of and grateful for, living in this area?  Our future sure is shining bright and I’m excited about what’s new and next for our area based on all that’s happening and headed for a positive direction already.

Ramsey Park is a huge draw, with thousands of people enjoying its splendor in the next few months alone.  As you may recall, we even had newcomers discover its beauty in the colder, snowier months this past winter, with the Checkpoint MN Winter Scavenger Hunt with Explore Minnesota.  It was a huge tourism opportunity and certainly met our expectations, coming in 3rd for the most visited spots out of the 10 in the whole state, only following the Prince Mural in Chanhassen, and the Shops at West End center in Minneapolis.  Most recently, there have been many renovations and improvements at the Park.  Be sure to make a trip soon and check out the new paved trails for yourself.  These and other upgrades continue due to the commitment and strategic planning of our City, dedicated City Staff, and awesome Friends of the Park organization.

I recently Met a Farmer – well, truthfully I met about 10 farmers that day – on a tour of agriculture in our area.  You’d be hard pressed to find the same number of producers and ag businesses elsewhere, compared to what we have here, that care more about the success and development of agriculture, and that’s a bet I’d take any day of the week.  Research and innovation, creativity and ingenuity, and passion for agriculture are right here among us, and if you don’t see that in your own experiences, please call me, and let me introduce you to who I fondly refer to as my ‘farmer friends.’

From new business owners or new construction projects, to renovations and amazing upgrades, you don’t have to look far to find physical evidence of growth in our area.  What’s even more exciting to me is that we have many local businesses in partnership with other local businesses.  Companies that commit to using local contractors, or local products and services, are increasing their impact and benefit  to the area.  It takes a sense of ‘top-down’ commitment and local loyalty, and it’s not always easy, but can be done and is regularly at work in the Redwood Area.

It shouldn’t go unstated – please continue to shop locally and do your business, corporate or personal, locally whenever possible.  It should be obvious, but in a world where more and more things are available online, it’s even more important to be mindful of this.  Our local business community regularly reinvests in our area not just by employing our area workforce and paying taxes, but also by sponsoring events and giving generous donations to community organizations and foundations.

And by all means, if you feel that you have received great service from a local business, take the time to ‘share the positive’ with the business, and consider giving them some social media ‘kudos’ as well.  Too often, as of late anyway, it seems complaints can be rude, loud, obnoxious, and seem lecturing.  I don’t know if it’s the tech world we live in, or just that some people seem to be self-designated ‘experts’ on everything, but that sort of ‘over the top’ public shaming of businesses is certainly harmful to a business, but also can be arguably harmful to a community image as well.  Lodge a complaint the professional way, through Google or another online review system, if you must electronically.  Send a message directly to them via their business email.  Or here’s an ‘old school’ thought, take the time to talk to the business.  Constructive criticism is very beneficial and generally appreciated by businesses striving for success.  Rude criticism is just, well, rude.  But again, most importantly, ‘share the positive’ because that’s the fastest and most productive way for growth and progress to continue to occur in our area.  Reinforce the good=more good happens.

So as you continue enjoying the summer months in the Redwood Area, be prepared to welcome others to our area, because we have a lot to showcase and be grateful for.  Share the positive, get excited about the possibilities, and continue to do your part in encouraging and supporting growth in the area.  And, invest in a good pair of sunglasses.

Anne Johnson is the Executive Director of Redwood Area Chamber & Tourism.  This article was originally published as a guest column in the Redwood Gazette on 6/26/17.