Leaders invigorated by Blandin workshop

Published 12:00 am Thursday, February 13, 2003

As 25 leaders in the Albert Lea community come back, there are high expectations.

The Blandin Foundation of Grand Rapids took two dozen people from Albert Lea for an intensive week-long leadership workshop. They returned last weekend.

One person who should benefit greatly from the event, along with her organization, is Marge Hamersly, the executive director of the Freeborn County Chamber of Commerce.

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Hamersly had already taken aim at creating a more involved and visible chamber, she said.

&uot;From all of our community I have heard that we need to jump start,&uot; Hamersly said. &uot;The way to do that is to develop a plan.&uot;

Hamersly and the chamber plan to help organize strategic planning for the city and county. Greater Jobs, the City of Albert Lea and Freeborn County have been invited to participate.

She said she would like to see a five-year plan, or maybe even a longer-term plan.

Representatives from each entity will be on a planning committee. Hamersly hopes the group can begin meeting next week.

&uot;I’d like to get started as soon as possible,&uot; she said.

Hamersly said she hopes that the planning won’t be an overnight process and that a long-term plan will involve long-term commitment.

Strategic planning has been tried before. In the mid ’80s as well as in the ’90s, groups that included the chamber tried to come up with plans. But each time the plans fell flat because they didn’t have the funding to survive and see the plan through.

Hamersly said that while the economic climate makes starting something like this tough, it provides a positive opportunity for setting it up.

Finding grants will be a major effort of the project. But Hamersly said she realized through the Blandin retreat that the infrastructure is already here.

&uot;(The program) definitely helped to crystalize the plan,&uot; she said. &uot;The retreat really helped us realize what things are very important to our community.&uot;

During the retreat, the participants had to come up with main issues that need to be addressed, such as the library, downtown revitalization, lake improvement and a number of other issues.

Mary Ellen Johnson, who also went on the Blandin retreat, said that the event should be a great benefit to the community, both through collaborations like the chamber is pursuing and through pure leadership development.

Part of the week was spent talking about how the presence of the chamber should be stronger in the community, she said.

&uot;The chamber has the structure and the connection of all these businesses in town,&uot; she said. &uot;We felt that the chamber, working with different organizations around town, could be giving Albert Lea a lot of leadership.&uot;

Johnson said the the infrastructure is already in place for new things to happen, and that the retreat set up people to use that infrastructure.

&uot;We had 24 people who are all from same place and want to see their hometown grow and flourish,&uot; she said. &uot;It was a wonderful gift for Albert Lea.&uot;