RSS Task Force Meets with EDA and Council

RSS Task Force and EDA_sized.jpgAt the request of its members, the Retail Support Strategies Task Force hosted members of the Economic Development Authority at a meeting this morning. It turned into an even bigger event, with members of the City Council as well as of the boards of both the Chamber of Commerce and the NDDC attending.

Don’t let these smiles fool you, we talked about the very serious subject of making Northfield more “business-friendly”.

As part of their efforts on the EDA Work Plan, the Task Force members tackled the “Needs of Existing Retailers” and “Obstacles to Development/Redevelopment”. They wanted to present their thoughts directly to the members of the EDA. The most mentioned need of the retailers was the creation of a more business-friendly environment in Northfield. As part of removing obstacles to the creation of this more friendly environment, the Task Force suggested reducing code complications, more consistent enforcement, tests for reasonableness/feasibility, establishing “one-stop shopping” at City Hall, identifying a staff advocate for businesses or development, and making business support at least as important as rule enforcement.

Everyone agreed that Northfield needed to create a culture of business-friendliness. A number of specific steps were suggested. Ultimately, however, it comes down to attitude and that attitude must be set by the leadership. The EDA and Council members pointed out that it was a bigger issue than Downtown or Highway 3 and the Task Force or the EDA; all groups in the community must work to make Northfield more business-friendly.

The EDA promised to set up a work session with the Council. It was agreed that the Chamber, the NDDC and the RSS Task Force would attend and that we would work to send out the word to all individuals and groups that Northfield will do what is necessary to become more business-friendly.

Attention Bohemians!

The_Bohemian.jpgThere’s a number of exciting cultural opportunities in downtown Northfield this weekend. Friday, The Contented Cow hosts James Leider with his acoustic funk, folk and bluegrass, and the Tavern Lounge offers live music with Just Us. Saturday, the jazz duo of Debbie Bigelow and Dean Kleven will be at The Contented Cow and the Norwegian Cowboy will be performing old school country, samba and 1980’s rock at The Tavern Lounge. Kim Bloom, classical guitarist, will be appearing at the HideAway both nights.

Further afield, there are a number of noteworthy events in Greater Northfield. Friday, the Northfield Arts Guild Theater presents the Little Shop of Horrors at 7:30 p.m. and ArtOrg is presenting The Bad Plus at 8 p.m. at the Carleton Concert Hall. For Bohemians who prefer an al fresco art, it’s the Northfield Garden Club, hosting a public garden tour throughout Northfield, Saturday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Funds raised will help support gardening and beautification efforts in Northfield. Tickets are available at Lansing Hardware, Knecht’s Nursery and Hodge-Podge Que, $10.

For those truly interested in taking a walk on the wild side, it’s the Dundas Sesquicentennial. Friday, from 5-11:30 p.m. our neighbor to the south celebrates 150 years with guided tours of historic homes, a Dukes game at 7 p.m. and an outdoor beer garden. Saturday, the Dundas Sesquicentennial continues from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. beginning with a pancake breakfast. Midday you can enjoy a picnic lunch, the children’s carnival in Mill Park, and an Old Timers ball game. It’s definitely worth a trip down the Mill Towns Bike Trail.

For more information on these and other events, see the Northfield Entertainment Guide.

Brilliant Branding Idea

bxp51167.jpegIsn’t it just amazing that now and then Northfielders can come up with an exciting new concept without spending tens of thousands of dollars on an out-of-town consultant?

The latest example of local genius, at least in my far-from-humble opinion, is Ann Marie Boyle, owner of The Art Store. Although Ann Marie certainly shows much brilliance in operating a successful independent retail store that meets the art supply needs of creative types around the region, her latest master stroke was executed as a board member of the Convention and Visitors Bureau.

There has been much discussion lately of “branding” Northfield, getting more leverage from its assets in an effort to realize greater economic vitality. Whether in a discussion coming out of an NDDC Forum, a strategic initiative triggered by the Economic Development Plan, a search for concrete action steps by the Retail Support Strategies Task Force, or ad hoc brain-storming by downtown retailers at a local pub, many people have been thinking about the marketing message and mediums used by the CVB to promote Northfield to the world.

The board members of the Convention and Visitors Bureau have responded. On Tuesday morning, they voted to move forward with Ann Marie’s proposal: “Reconnect”. The campaign will be illustrated with pictures of a couple walking hand-in-hand, a grandparent and grandchild, and some happy gals enjoying what might be a warm-up for the second annual Girls Nite Out.

I think it’s brilliant because it circumvents so many of the subjects that we Northfielders like to endlessly debate. Are we as “Green” as Seattle? Does our “Art Town” infrastructure compare with Northampton? Can we mention our “Historic Downtown” in the same breath as Galena? The heck with the discussion, let the residents come downtown, welcome the visitors to Northfield, with lover, spouse, grandchild or friend, reconnect with each other, and then tell the world why it was so good in Northfield.

Thanks Ann Marie and good job CVB. Your contributions have not gone unnoticed.

RSS Task Force Meets with City Administrator

Facing front.jpgThe NDDC and Chamber created Retail Support Strategies Task Force met with Northfield City Administrator Al Roder this morning. The purpose of the meeting was discuss the needs of businesses and obstacles to economic development identified by the group over the past few months.

We had a very open and honest discussion of these topics, a free and vigorous exchange of ideas, and a few good shared laughs too. By the end of the meeting, we had agreed on a process to move forward in addressing many of the issues.

Actually, it was all just a ruse to get Al to pose for the Taste of Northfield poster, coming to a retail window near you. That’s Al, second from the left in the back row. This year’s event, on Thursday, July 19th, from 5 to 9 pm in Bridge Square, will be bigger and better than ever.

Bountiful Harvest at Farmers’ Market

NorthfieldFarmersMarket.jpgThere’s already a bountiful harvest of locally-grown produce and locally-crafted products at Northfield’s Farmers’ Market. I picked up a half-dozen of different fresh vegetables today and I’m looking forward to enjoying them tonight.

Northfield’s market is open Tuesdays and Fridays at 11:45 am and Saturdays at 9 am. It’s located at Riverside Park (with its always-inviting playground) just off 7th Street.

Some come on down(town) and buy field-fresh food from the farmer that grew it right here in Minnesota’s rich agricultural soil.