The first of our series of Business Breakfasts will feature a presentation on Art as Tourism and Economic Development by Ashley Hanson and Tamara Isfeld on March 13 from 7:30-9 AM at the Prairies Edge Casino Resort Convention Center. Please RSVP by March 5. $5 for chamber members, $10 for non members. The following months feature topics of interest to chamber and community members. The April 10 event will be held at the chamber office, 807 Prentice St.
The First Dollar Award was presented to The Rock: Dining and Events on February 22 by chamber board members, Scott DeMuth, Sherry Mathiowetz, Cathy Anderson, Crystal Johnson and director Mary Gillespie. Welcome to the Granite Falls Area Chamber of Commerce! The Rock is now open 7 days a week for both lunch and dinner. Check out their new $6 lunch specials!
The Yellowstone Trail is an old automobile route that was created across the entire country beginning in 1912 in South Dakota. Today, the route follows mostly along Hwy 212 in the Minnesota stretch, but some of the older routes go through the middle of small towns. One of the early promoters and president from 1917 to 1919 was Michael Dowling. In 1880, Dowling suffered extreme frostbite when he was stranded outside during a blizzard. He lost parts of both legs, his left arm, and fingers on his right hand. He went on to become the principal of the school in Granite Falls, Renville and Olivia and a realtor and newspaper man. The trail was the first transcontinental automobile highway in the United States through the northern tier of states from Washington through Massachusetts. Yet too few people are aware of its existence or its social, political and economic effects on either the local communities or the nation.
Recently, there have been efforts to revive the history of this route throughout the USA. A group of interested community leaders from Granite Falls to Buffalo Lake have been meeting to look for ways to create economic development in the string of small towns along Hwy 212. The Yellowstone Trail is one of the logical tools in this effort along with the history of agriculture and cooperatives. The February meeting took place in Bird Island, showcasing their new Arts and Cultural Center -birdislandculture.com/ Convened by Scott Tedrick, formerly the Granite Falls Advocate Tribune editor who is now at the Renville County Register, this is a way to connect and promote our shared heritage. Ideas about how to accomplish this are just in its infancy stages and include events such as an antique car run, long garage sale or market day, historic museums, the arts, cultural mapping of assets through the Preservation Alliance of Minnesota and Yellowstone Trail signage. More information about the trail and detailed maps can be found on their website www.yellowstonetrail.org.
The Granite Falls Area Chamber and CVB had a great year in 2017. The chamber has exciting plans for the upcoming year including increased partnerships with the Granite Falls EDA for marketing and other projects, a monthly scheduled chamber networking event starting in March and a new event the evening before the Fagen Air Show on June 15. With the start of a strategic plan and second planning meeting in December of 2017, a new mission statement was created. " The mission of the Granite Falls Area Chamber of Commerce is to advance prosperity and community by meeting the needs of business and industry by providing information, services and advocacy for its members.” The new vision statement is “ The Granite Falls Area Chamber of Commerce is the organization of choice to promote economic vitality and growth.”
Events are an important part of the work of the chamber and includes advertising and marketing as well as planning. A review of all the chamber events last year include :
- Medallion Hunt during Ole and Lena Days
- Love yer Lefsa shopping event during Ole and Lena Days
-Community Celebration during Ole and Lena Days
-Visit from the State of MN Unemployment Office officials to Granite Falls to answer your questions
- Worked to create a Dementia Friendly Community with the Act on Alzheimer’s program, dementia education luncheon on November 14.
-Riverside Market and Muse every month in the summer funded by a SMAC grant
-Sod House Theater Performances to Granite Falls, 3 performances in August, 2017
-Cowboy Crazy Daze in June
- Western Fest Kickoff and Kid’s Night during Western Fest
-Musical Chairs on Meander Friday Night during the Art Meander
-Santa and Horse drawn wagon rides during Small Business Saturday
One of our important tasks is to encourage shopping locally all year long. During the holiday shopping season we promote the " Elf on the Footbridge" theme to emphasize our unique river location and famous footbridge . Events in December include -
Elf Shopping Passes that get stamped with sales with a $500 drawing to encourage holiday shopping locally.
Elf visits to local businesses and organizations to spread the holiday cheer.
Elf on the Footbridge “elf hunting” in local shops with prizes and coupons for the last 2 weeks before Christmas.
" Shopping with the Elves" where kids can shop and wrap gifts for the families at reduced cost.
Partnering with the EDA and Granite Area Arts Council, the chamber director helped write the Riverside Voices public art grant with ongoing workshops and events involving the public and YME students. The first mural is already done and the project will continue with more artwork on the flood wall in the summer of 2018. The chamber director also up-dates the chamber and CVB websites, blogs on both websites, social media, writes a weekly column in the Advocate Tribune and is a part of organizations that connect the town and area . The chamber office at 807 Prentice St. was just designated an official Explore Minnesota Information Center which will appear in Explore Minnesota Tourism publications in print and online.
Ron Fagen grew up in the small SW Minnesota town of Maynard. Fagen’s father, Ray was an avid pilot and an enthusiast of all things related to aviation. He played a prominent role in the shaping of the pilot that Ron would become. Ron had a wide interest in aviation ranging from the L-2 Taylorcraft he soloed in to the Pitts Special aerobatic bi-planes in which he flew Competition Aerobatics for a span of ten years.
Fagen joined the Army in 1968 and did a tour of duty in Vietnam in the Army’s 4th Infantry Division. Upon his return home, he entered the construction field with various commercial and industrial construction companies. Fagen, Inc. was formed in 1988 and specialized in industrial construction. Fagen, Inc., licensed in all 50 states, is credited with the lion’s share of the Ethanol industry’s plant construction. Power plants, wind farms and other industrial projects are typical projects in the company’s resume. In 2005, Fagen was inducted into the Minnesota Business Hall of Fame.
Aviation plays an important role in Fagen, Inc.’s success making all areas of the United States readily accessible from Granite Falls, Minnesota. Fagen and his wife, Diane, are retired from Fagen, Inc. but their sons, Aaron and Evan continue to run the business. Fagen, Inc. participates in Special Olympic Airlifts and Veterans Airlift Command with their two Cessna Citation aircraft.
In the summer of 2012, Ron and Diane Fagen along with their sons Aaron and Evan opened Fagen Fighters WWII Museum located near Granite Falls, Minnesota, at the Lenzen-Roe-Fagen Memorial Airport. The 4th Infantry WWII experiences of Ray Fagen included a Utah Beach landing on D-Day, the Liberation of Paris and the Battle of the Bulge. These and other events are the inspiration for the museum which is a living memorial to this critical time showcasing exhibits, fine art, sculpture, fully operational iconic aircraft and ground equipment used in that epic conflict. The museum hosts Ray Fagen Memorial Airshows which exclusively feature WWII aircraft including all the Fagen Fighters Warbirds. Ron continues to “wow” the crowd with the ease in which he flies an aerobatic routine in the P-51 Mustang, Sweet Revenge.
Fagen continues to enjoy all types of aircraft and when asked, “What is your favorite airplane?” Ron replies, “Whatever airplane I’m flying at the moment.”
Christmas was certainly in the air last Sunday, December 17 with two family friendly activities going on that afternoon. The "Shopping with the Elves" event provided an opportunity for children to shop for their family members and was a great success with many gifts purchased and wrapped. Volunteer students from Yellow Medicine East were a great help!
The same afternoon featured Lomen's reindeer at the Andrew J. Volstead House with Santa and Mrs. Claus inside taking orders and posing for photos. Carl Lomen was married to Andrew Volstead's only daughter, Laura, and is credited for bringing part of his Alaskan reindeer herd to parades in St. Paul and other large cities in the 1920s. So along with celebrating the season, there is also a historical reason for the reindeer to visit Granite Falls. The warm weather was probably a factor accounting for record attendance at this event. It was fun to see all the family photos with Santa and outside in his sleigh flanked by the reindeer.
Thank you to all the volunteers who made this possible! Thank you for the donations for the children's shopping mall both from local businesses and individuals. The Granite Falls Historical Society plans to make this a yearly event and the Chamber will also host the children's shopping mall again next year.
Thank you to all the loyal chamber members who support our work throughout the year! As well as hosting events, a web presence, social media and educational programs for businesses, the chamber is combined with the convention and visitor's center or CVB. I think this is one aspect that is often overlooked and an important reason to support the chamber. Using the lodging tax money, the CVB's mission is to attract visitors to Granite Falls. I also believe that a place people want to visit is a place where people want to live. Here is a summary of the marketing done in 2017 by the CVB. Many of these ads are included in the Explore Minnesota Tourism Marketing Grant which reimburses the CVB for 50% of the funding. In 2018, the CVB is pairing with the EDA to increase the budget through this grant. This is only a partial list but gives an idea of the type of publications and marketing done throughout the year besides the local paper, Advisor and Peach.
* Facebook ads for events and general promotion of website clicks.
* Paid promotions, updates and events added and management of this website - www.visitgranitefalls.com
*Western Minnesota Prairie Waters full page ad for Granite Falls. All Granite Falls businesses are included in the shopping and restaurant guide with no cost to the business, updated by myself. The director is a member of the board of Western Minnesota Prairie Waters Tourism . The new Get Rural website will be live in 2018 - www.prairiewaters.com . #GetRuralMN is promoting the lifestyle of our area, a one stop recruitment page that includes information about all the counties and towns in the Prairie Waters area.
*I am a member of the Minnesota River Valley Scenic Byway Alliance which creates a printed guide and website including many "Discovery Sites" in our area . The website is being updated with Dakota history from a MHS grant which hired Dakota elders to create the content.
*Mall of America paid spot for brochure distribution of the Granite Falls Guide with 10 boxes distributed so far this year.
*Pioneer Public TV ad for Granite Falls scheduled during the Sunday evening Antiques Road Show
* Ad in the Southern Minnesota Guide, I am on the marketing committee of this organization which is targeting the metro area, Wisconsin and South Dakota with e-mail blasts, Pandora radio and online.
* Ad in the Yellowstone Trail Guide
*Ad in South Dakota Magazine - in print and online
Our local newspaper has gone through many changes just in the time I've been the chamber director. Many small town newspapers have disappeared from the landscape, but the Granite Falls and Clarkfield Advocate Tribune remains the go to source for local news stories. I've asked some of the employees for their thoughts on working at our local paper.
Lee Ann Smith is in the composition department. " I have been with the Advocate Tribune for about 10 years now. Definitely gets in your blood and rarely a dull moment. An eclectic group to work with for sure! I'm pretty much a jack of all trades, master of none employee. I proofread most of the articles/pages but also spend a lot of time typing and formatting, cutting and pasting things such as the Jim Putnam column, news from Care Centers in both Granite and Clarkfield, obituaries, weddings, births, police reports, disposition bulletins, memories from past years going back 5, 10, 25 50 and 90 years, letters to the editor, brieflies and much more. "
The newest employee is editor Kyle Klausing.
"I started working for the newspaper in late July, when I moved to Granite Falls from my hometown of St. Louis Park. I was hired as News Editor, and my responsibilities include writing, photo editing, and layout. While I have certainly come a long way over the past 4 months, there is still a lot left for me to learn.
It’s a pretty small group of us who work here, so we all have pretty clear roles to play. That said, I also think we do a good job at helping each other out when things get busy (which, as I’ve learned in the newspaper business, can happen when you least expect it).
In my opinion, this job comes down to knowing people in the community. Newspapers tell and preserve stories about people and places. It’s important to forge connections with community leaders, which means always putting yourself out there. While it certainly hasn’t happened overnight, I have immensely enjoyed getting to know people around town. Everybody has a story to tell, the trick is knowing who to talk to."
A newspaper is part of our identity as a community, we're happy to have a thriving newspaper in Granite Falls!