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Why I love Albert Lea

Why I love Albert Lea by Allen Hendriks

 

I could call out countless reasons why I love Albert Lea, naming everything from the 13 area lakes, 45 parks and the 23 miles of trail, to the 1,578-acre state park just on the edge of town, but what I truly love are the numerous entrepreneurs, organizational leaders and passionate business owners that make up our great town. In short, I love the people of Albert Lea.

I grew up in a small town in southwest Minnesota, which most of you have probably never heard of: Edgerton. With its most renowned claim to fame being winning the 1960 high school basketball state championship, Edgerton is a small farming town with just over a thousand people firmly rooted in small local businesses, entrepreneurs and, of course, many hard working farmers and farm families. The largest single employer in my hometown is Fey Industries, a locally founded, owned and operated manufacturing company originally formed around the paper industry. Throughout my time in Edgerton, I watched the economic ebb and flow and how it affected not only Fey Industries, but the town as a whole. With such a large single employer, the ripple effects layoffs or downturns had on the economic vitality of the town were clearly evident.

With that background, the importance local businesses have for a community and supporting those local businesses has always been evident to me, and that’s why I love so many things Albert Lea has to offer. Even though we are currently in tough times, in every corner of our town I see local businesses changing and adapting their business models to continue operating. In addition, multiple businesses like Budget Signs; Harold’s Bar; Peterson, Kolker, Haedt & Benda, LTD; Freeborn-Mower Cooperative Services and the local VA clinic, just to name a few, are actively building, remodeling or improving their buildings. Then there’s the planned construction of a new apartment complex on Front Street and another apartment complex planned in the former Marketplace Foods/Nelson’s building. Looking back into the last few years, we have even more to be proud of. The reinvigoration of downtown Albert Lea, cornerstoned by intellicents and Mortarr, has blown me away. Travel just a few blocks down South Broadway, and you’ll find Bleachers Sports Bar and Grill and Thirsty Fox Pub & Grill, two brand new businesses that have helped breathe life back into the southern extension of South Broadway. I believe Albert Lea is a powder keg of potential, and if we continue to work together with our local leaders, business owners and entrepreneurs, we will not only see our local businesses flourish, but our town as a whole flourish.

One of the timeliest examples of working together is First Presbyterian Church’s sponsorship of youth football, spearheaded by their youth pastor Stephen Piper and assisted by many local volunteer coaches. Not only do they provide a safe opportunity to fifth and sixth graders to participate in tackle football, but this year, they expanded that opportunity by adding seventh- and eighth-grade flag football to fill the gap in after school activities left behind due to the restricting of tackle football for that age group. To build on that, the field these athletes play on, Grizzly Field, was originally organized and built by the local nonprofit Albert Lea Grizzlies with the help of the city of Albert Lea, who owns the land, and local business Lou-Rich Inc. which designed, built and donated the field goal posts. The scoreboard the Grizzlies use was also donated by a local organization formed in memory of Ryan “Pie” Truesdell, which regularly donates money to help area youth sports. Local partnerships like these are what makes Albert Lea a wonderful town to live in and raise a family.

None of these things are possible without the inspiring people of Albert Lea working together, supporting each other and working toward providing the best opportunities our town has to offer.

 

Allen Hendriks is a geographical information system technician for Freeborn-Mower Cooperative Services. He also volunteers with the Albert Lea-Freeborn Chamber of Commerce as an Ambassador and serves as the board vice president for the Albert Lea Grizzlies. He lives in Albert Lea with his wife, Jessica, and their two children, Baylie and Carter. He enjoys spending time with his family, exercising and maintaining and restoring his home and vehicles.