Why I Love Albert Lea

Published 3:07 pm Wednesday, February 1, 2023

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Al Arends is the former owner of Alliance Benefit Group and is now involved in numerous community efforts.

In 1964 I was taking my little leaguers from Nevada, Iowa, up to watch a Twins game. When we passed by Pickerel Lake all of us said, “What a beautiful lake.” Then we passed the baseball field and our little leaguers said, “Boy, if we could play on a field like that, it would be super,” and I thought, “What a charming city. It would surely be nice if my family could move here.”

Then in 1967, lo and behold, I was asked to move to Albert Lea and become the basketball coach at Lea College. Lea College didn’t make it, but once my family had lived here, they never wanted to move anyplace else. How fortunate we have been able to stay in the greatest city in the country.

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We discovered that there was much more to Albert Lea than its beauty. The people loved their schools, their churches, their music and theater, and so much more. They loved their community. Whenever a problem or an opportunity arose, people would band together, pitch in and solve the situation.

They didn’t turn to the government for help. If you would look at all of the various projects that evolved, you would be amazed. A few examples are the Y, the hospital, the clinics, Mercy One, the ice arena, the Education Foundation and many 501(c)3 nonprofits. And, yes, even Lea College. All of these were founded by the generosity of its citizens.

Without good jobs and successful businesses we could not support our local government, which provides many of our services. We are so fortunate that in 1943 Jobs Incorporated was developed. We were the first city to have an industrial park not financed with government money. Over the years we have lost a number of large companies, but Albert Lea has been a catalyst for bringing and developing small and medium-sized businesses that provide good jobs and a larger tax base.

Lou Holtz, in 1985, in an interview over WCCO, said that there are two types of people, leaners and lifters. Albert Lea is a lifter type of community. Why do I love it? It is the people, because they are examples of this philosophy, always pitching in to get the job done.