Members of Crookston InMotion stewardship team discuss where to go from here
The "lightning talks" that were supposed to max out at 10 minutes in length at a Crookston InMotion update session this week for the most part went longer than they were supposed to. But none of the 20 or so "community stewards" in attendance in UMC's Bede Ballroom were complaining, since the longer-than-planned lightning talks were probably the best indication that the strategic visioning initiative dating back a little more than two years in the community has many successes under its belt.
Crookston InMotion has been driven by "destiny statements" focusing on topics like economic development, downtown revitalization, housing and sustainability. Each statement has been built upon many "destiny drivers" that have identified specific things the Crookston community should focus on in order to further ensure long-term community vitality.
In Bede Ballroom, leaders of the working groups that tackled each destiny statement and its destiny drivers rattled off the many things in economic development, downtown revitalization, housing and sustainability that have happened largely as a result of Crookston InMotion. But, maybe more importantly to City Administrator Shannon Stassen, who convened the gathering of stewards who were identified early on to lead the initiative, there were several destiny drivers that had not yet been achieved.
Because of that "unfinished business," Stassen heard loud and clear from those in attendance that he wasn't alone in his belief that Crookston InMotion – likely with an influx of some new blood to join its experienced stewards – needs to live up to its name by continuing to move forward.
"By definition this is supposed to constantly be moving," Stassen said. "There's been a ton of great stories and ideas, but now we need to build on that momentum, keep it going, recharge it, get some things down on paper and grow the ideas from there."
Some of the new and/or modified goals that could keep Crookston InMotion's nose to the grindstone include:
• Branding the Crookston community for the purposes of a more strategic, overall marketing effort: "You need stories that go along with that," Stassen said. "Why are we so proud to have UMC in our community, for example. What good housing opportunities have people found here? What do our quality schools here mean to people? In my opinion as we go forward, I think it's important that we have people tell those stories and shine a spotlight on them."
Branding Crookston could involve a simple, catchy slogan and possibly a logo, he said.
• "Merge" the work groups' efforts more than they are now: "I see a lot of overlap of the ideas and groups, but where is the merging of these things?" asked Amanda Lien, who's working at the Chamber of Commerce before she returns to New Zealand.
"We don't want everyone working on parallel paths because we already do that, with the people in this room knowing how many meetings they go to," Stassen added. "We need to bring those people together."
And with that, Ward 1 City Council Member Tom Jorgens said, celebrating successes must be a big part of the effort to continually re-energize people. "How do we better keep score when it comes to how all of these groups are doing?" he wondered. "We also need to figure out how to grow the circles of the passionate people that work on these things, so that we aren't leaning too much on one or two people. We need more depth on our roster, so to speak."
• A more focused focus on the city's trail system: Ward 5 Council Member Dale Stainbrook works with the trails committee spawned by Crookston InMotion, and he said the city needs a master plan that includes the current trails and the trails that are being envisioned, whether they're for year-round use or are more seasonal in nature, such as cross-country ski trails. "If we have that plan, it makes it easier as we seek dollars," Stainbrook said.
• Continue to focus on all types of housing opportunities without focusing too much on one demographic, whether it's young professionals, young families, baby boomers, retired senior citizens, or the workforce, and doing more to lure people who might work in Grand Forks but find the cost of housing and the cost of living there to be too expensive: "Our population is aging and we need to continue to address that, but there are young professionals and young families who are deciding which adult is going to commute," CHEDA Executive Director Craig Hoiseth said. "But they face challenges in getting a mortgage, often because of the load of student debt they're carrying, so we need to be positioned to provide them a more affordable housing alternative."
• Exploring new destiny statements: Lien said she thinks that health and wellness, which are covered by the sustainability statement mostly but are also part of the other statements, might need to be its own destiny statement. "Without health, what do you have?" she wondered.
• Focusing on making Crookston a "community for life": While that might not necessarily mean that someone lives in Crookston for his or her entire life, Hoiseth said, it does mean having a community that has what a young adult needs and wants but also has what that person needs and wants when he or she looks to return to the community later in life. "When they're 25 is Crookston good for them? And when they return as an older professional or they look to retire, can they get around, can they get the services they need here?" Hoiseth asked.
• A more comprehensive partnership between the community and UMC: UMC Chancellor Fred Wood said Crookston's growth to the north means that the campus and community are, literally, more connected than ever. But he said Crookston has what most communities don't have, a college campus, and the two need to "tap into each other" more than ever to achieve success for both. Maybe the first question to answer, Wood said, is if the community and U of M are each comfortable with maximizing their collaborations, partnerships and relationships.
"Does this city really want to own the U of M in their town and think about what a college town really looks like and feels like?" he said. "Do we want an institution that taps into those values? I don't think there's a staff person or student on campus that wouldn't jump on board with the concept of health and wellness, or the need for sustainability in our homes and the foods we eat, but how do we capitalize on those passions in a way that recognizes all of Crookston and what Crookston wants to be?
"How do we meld the values, directions and policies as we collectively move the community forward along with a university?" Wood continued. "I don't think we can answer that now, but it's worth putting some time in to, I think."