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.

What do we want our community and region to look like in 5 years?

Have you walked down the road of growth and change in our area? I think we would all agree that we have allowed the future to “happen” to us. Until now, we had no vision to direct the future, we were happy with our situation.

For over a century, this region has been inextricably linked to the timber industry. There is no doubt, if you have lived in the region for any amount of time, you have been touched by one of our most valuable resource. We have great memories and certainly take great pride for this part of our heritage.

The announcement almost two years ago, about the pending lay off of over 250 employees has driven us to take a fresh look at our community and the way we think about our future.

Out of this devastating news the Voyage Forward effort was born.

The Long Term Vision, Strategy, and Asset Team (LTVSAT) has been working on developing a strategy to engage the community in actively participating in creating our future and identifying our assets so that we are ready for the next five, ten, and twenty years. The LTVSAT was one of the original teams envisioned by the Economic Response Team Leadership Team of Mayor Bob Anderson, Councilmember Pete Kalar, and Commissioners Wade Pavleck and Rob Ecklund.

We have spent countless hours defining our purpose and developing the vision for the Voyage Forward effort. Our kickoff event in September of 2014 was designed to create community excitement and ask our citizens to participate in creating our future. The outpouring of support from that meeting is what you see today in the form of “Stewards”.

The Voyage Forward effort took on two different strategies. The first strategy was to find out what our citizens valued, what they would like to see changed, and what they don’t want to lose. This effort is well under way and being led by the Public Engagement Team.

The second part of our strategy was to identify the regions assets and liabilities. After reviewing proposals from various consulting firms, we selected the team from Newmark Grubb Knight Frank. They have since visited the area twice, seeking input from business, government, non-profit, and state, regional, and local economic development agencies.

They have been working diligently in our region to gather data and information with the end result of recommendations for growth and potential to this area. Gathering all of this information, analyzing the data and getting it ready for publication takes time. But rest assured, the outcome will be an Economic Adjustment Strategy defined by our assets and liabilities. This is something that has never been done at this level. We can’t wait for the results!

I refer to our area as “Mayberry”. After living in several different large cities, I celebrate the way of life that we have cultivated here. I also want to challenge you to share that way of life with new people that move to our area. With the diversity that Voyage Forward is bringing to us, we need to be ready to embrace the changes. I believe that we have a gold mine opportunity to share our Mayberry lifestyle with others. What will your reaction be? Do you want others to come and live in your town? Do you want others to come and share your natural resources? Do you view them as “outsiders” because they weren’t born here?

It is truly time to celebrate our Mayberry lifestyle and all the wonderful people that live here and the relationships that we have. It is also time to allow others to embrace our way of life and become a part of us.

Become engaged in creating the future of our community. To receive information and updates on” Voyage Forward – Journey to Success” – go to: www.voyageforward.org.

Sue Natysin, Voyage Forward Co-Chair, Long Term Vision, Strategy, and Asset Team