Serving the citizens of Koochiching County and the cities of Bigfalls, International Falls, Littlefork, Northome, Ranier and surrounding region.
Serving the citizens of Koochiching County and the cities of Bigfalls, International Falls, Littlefork, Northome, Ranier and surrounding region.

We are all a reflection of our community

I remember the keynote Jay Bartkowski gave during the Voyage Forward kickoff event in September. A couple of key sentences come to mind:

….. Sometimes, our attitude toward ourselves makes us a less attractive destination, both in the eyes of our current residents and visitors possibly looking to relocate. We get to hear about disagreements between local government, their agencies, schools, healthcare providers, and others in our community. This does not give a good impression of our area to locals or outsiders. In my opinion, we need to do better and we can do better. In addition we can’t hold disagreements from the past forever. Here are some of the things I’ve heard as I’ve been throughout our community:

I will not shop at a store because they made incorrect change 15 years ago;

I will not join an organization because of a disagreement 20 years ago;

I will not support Voyageurs National Park because of differences of over 40 years ago.

If we are going to be successful we need to stop focusing on negatives and start to focus on positives. We need to focus on how we can make our community better.” ….

Local residents are not the only ones that read the newspaper or listen to our “local” news. Businesses, individuals, and organizations research cities and towns before they relocate, vacation, or make a decision to move to a different community.

As part of the Voyage Forward Long Term Vision and Strategy Team, I was part of the team that interviewed the consulting firms desiring to develop the Economic Adjustment Strategy. Each team did their homework; they read back issues of the Journal, went online and researched local businesses and organizations, and researched demographic data to get an understanding of the region. They knew our region before they submitted their proposal.

They did exactly the same thing a company desiring to relocate would do. They did their homework.

Personal attacks and public arguments do nothing to move us forward. They do everything to move us backwards.

The Voyage Forward effort is about engaging our citizens to move our region forward. A huge amount of time and effort has been spent by countless community members over the past year. We’ve had many discussions within our various teams on the need to think differently, act differently, be supportive and operate as one in order to minimize the barriers we can control in attracting people and businesses to our region.

We have had far too many participants on our various teams and in the business community ask why our regional leaders don’t always appear to work together for the common good. Instead of saying no or throwing up barriers, we should work together and ask how we can move initiatives forward.

Our task is simple. We need everyone working together to make our community a better place. We need our leaders to be examples of who we want to follow, not barriers to overcome.

Leadership doesn’t just mean elected officials. Whether you are a Board Chair, President, CEO, the person working the cash register, or a student, leadership needs to set the right tone for our region. People see the community by the way YOU act and react. To the person, we are a reflection of our community.

Now more than ever we need forward thinking leadership. We have a lot of work yet to do on our Journey to Success. It’s time we set our differences aside and work together to make this region a Community of Choice.

What we need is leadership. From everyone.

Participate and create our own future. Sign up for informational updates and receive more information at