Letter: How do we turn stagnation into success?

Published 8:30 pm Friday, September 24, 2021

In our 40 years in business, we were never asked what the city could do to help us succeed. Every local business needs to be asked what it would take for them to prosper and expand.

Discussions on how to promote Albert Lea as a destination city have been taking place for years. I have taken part in several. Lots of talk, little follow-through! The results of these meetings are likely moldering away in some dusty file at City Hall. Perhaps they should dusted off!

We own a 42-foot motor coach. We drive around 10,000 miles a year touring this great country. To get us to spend more than an overnight at the KOA or Walmart parking lot, a city has to offer something special.

Currently, it appears, to me, that Albert Lea is making little effort to let travelers know what it has to offer.

To verify this, I drove to the Minnesota Welcome Center on the Iowa border mid-August. I expected some promotional material — after all Albert Lea is the southern gateway city to Minnesota. I was shocked! Albert Lea had no promotional material available nor are there any billboards promoting the city along the freeway. I understand billboards are in the works.

Even small towns like Cannon Falls and Zumbrota have professional quality promotional material detailing the city’s industries, hotels, restaurants, retail outlets and businesses with maps and a list of events for the year. Without doubt, various entities in these cities cooperated  in the production of their publications. Nearly every city around Albert Lea had very professional promotional material. Albert Lea had zilch! Then I checked Albert Lea’s online image — yes, there is one, but it would not entice me to stop.

Albert Lea is a beautiful city with an attractive historic downtown, nice boutique shops and restaurants. We have a community college, a fantastic museum, a number of lakes, an underutilized state park, city, village and county parks, the theater, Civic Music, an art center, golf courses, a shooting range, the YMCA, a quality county fair, golf tournaments, the Rendezvous, convention centers and other attractions. There are a number of villages in the county with unique shops and bars and grills worth visiting. Many of these villages host annual celebrations with parades.

But, so do most other small towns across the country, and they are all clamoring for my dollar as I travel.

Albert Lea and Freeborn County’s amenities and activities need to be wrapped into a package and presented to the traveler in a professionally done, easy-to-read magazine format available at the interstate rest stops, local hotels, medical clinic waiting rooms and businesses. We need a better internet presence. We need full page ad in the Minnesota Magazine telling people about our city and how to get more information.

Perhaps this is a work in process.

Don’t tell me “We can’t afford it.” We can’t afford not to!

If you don’t toot your own horn no one else will.

Don Sorensen

Albert Lea