Northfield, MN…Music City and City of the New Frontier?

There’s been a lot of buzz about “Music City, Minnesota” lately. Jim Walsh, former City Pages Music Editor, wrote a great piece on MinnPost about Northfield’s deep-rooted and currently-thriving music scene. It was, truly, a great piece, reflecting Walsh’s talents as a historian, anthropologist, sociologist, and, even, economist.

It was quickly a topic of conversation in the coffeehouses and Facebook. Of course, it was picked up by Locally Grown and, eventually, the Northfield News. I imagine Jessica Paxton noted it on her KYMN show, “All Wheel Drive”, where she remembers the Twin Cities scene(s), nurtures the Northfield scene, while playing great American music, from the twang of Country to the beat of R&B.

It was more than just Northfield’s fifteen minutes of fame. There was actually, perhaps thanks at least in part to Walsh’s intelligent article, some thoughtful discussion about what generated innovation and vitality for a local scene or local economy. The colleges’ cultural spillover of talent and knowledge, the “support local” values of the community, and the urban sophistication at the edge of the Big Woods were all touched upon in the follow-up discussions.

Earlier that week, Northfield got another mention that was less widely noticed. There was an interesting piece on Minnesota 2020 titled “Are Minnesota’s Small Cities the New American Frontier?”. Northfield was mentioned along with Minneapolis, St. Paul, Duluth, Rochester, and Moorhead as being a community that had the potential to be a leader of the emerging economy.

The piece stressed the importance and power of “access to healthy and local food, stable supply of water, financially manageable infrastructure with emphasis on compact streets in areas developed before the automobile, location on established regional transportation networks, an intelligent and flexible workforce, and a healthy culture with a diverse economy”. It suggested that investments that strengthened these assets would offer the greatest returns in the new economy.

Northfield has a historic, and still vibrant, downtown, a “Wild and Scenic” river, two nationally-ranked colleges, pound for pound the best music, arts, and cultural scene in Minnesota, the chance to be part of a bike trail that runs from Mankato to Red Wing, great public schools, 100 Mbps to your business district desktop, and is only 45 minutes from the international airport. Northfield has great opportunity in the emerging economy.

There’s a local election on Tuesday. We need leaders who recognize the potential of the creative class, the power of the knowledge workers, the value of the amenities that attract and nurture these people, and the commitment to make the investment of scarce resources in these assets so that Northfield can take advantage our our opportunity. Please, vote for enlightened leadership.

Photo courtesy of Griff Wigley.

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