Albert Lea residents can make a difference

Published 9:04 am Tuesday, June 17, 2008

The downtown is the anchor for the community.

Although retail is primarily concentrated in the shopping centers, the downtown is the center for government with the library, city hall, fire department, law enforcement and the courthouse. It is the financial center with five banks in the downtown, as well as the center for legal and medical services. Did you know that the downtown has the largest concentration of employment with more than 2,500 people?

Albert Lea has many companies and facilities that manufacture for and service the global market, yet we think of ourselves as a small rural service center. We have the opportunity to be recognized as an important global community, especially as we are seen on the Internet and by travelers and businesses utilizing our interstate highway system and services. We also have the opportunity to enhance our image through a greater concentration of new investment and diversification of our downtown economy including new investment in arts and culture.

Email newsletter signup

We now have name recognition in our downtown with the Marion Ross Performing Arts Center, and we will continue to seek greater recognition and participation from a much larger market area as we become more arts- and culture-oriented.

Ms. Ross was thrilled that Albert Lea would rename the civic theater in her honor, and I believe the value of this decision will become more evident as we optimize and expand the use of the performing arts center.

Our recent visit from Artspace Projects Inc. resulted in the city, chamber, county, economic development agency, and housing agency unanimously agreeing to fund a market survey to determine if Albert Lea is a viable candidate for artist live/work studios. If the survey warrants moving forward with a project, we will invite community members and businesses to make an investment in the future of downtown and help us bring the vision of becoming an arts and cultural community to a reality.

Tonight is the comprehensive plan community meeting and the public is invited to hear a presentation of the final draft document. Stop out at the Skyline Plaza Senior Center at 6:30 p.m. and see how well the community’s vision has been captured in the proposed plan.

Only you, the residents of this community can clearly state your goals and vision and test this draft plan against them. We appreciate your input and ideas before we begin the public hearing process.

Enjoy all the great activities in Albert Lea this summer.

Albert Lea Mayor Randy Erdman’s column appears once a month.