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Bold ideas and action pave opportunity highway

Author: 
Kathie Starkweather

Woman speaking.Hoffman, Minnesota, population 672, is a community that sees obstacles as opportunities. That’s because of Muriel Krusemark’s work for the Hoffman Economic Development Authority. In three short years, remarkable things have happened.

Muriel, a small business owner for most of her life, left Hoffman in the early 1990s. She retired and moved back and was devastated by the loss of main street businesses, the high school, and a worsening decline in population. She began working part-time on economic development in 2007.

Since then Muriel has accomplished some amazing things in Hoffman:

  • Helped a local entrepreneur open a small business incubator with 26 businesses on main street.
  • Renovated the baseball field and built a BMX park “so the kids have things to do.”
  • Put new playground equipment in the park.
  • Started a weekly Farmers Market with over 20 vendors, 200 people, music and food, and one important rule. “Drink concessions go to the kids so they can make a little money too.”
  • Helped open a main street Health Mall with a podiatrist, chiropractor, massage therapist and an audiologist. They are now recruiting a mental health specialist.
  • Filled six main street storefronts with small businesses as varied as dog grooming, appliance sales and repairs, a full-fledged hardware store and Motel One, a building with one sleeping space and plans for a bunkhouse for families with kids.
  • Welcomed 16 new families to Hoffman.

How has Muriel accomplished all this in three short years? Her first step was a community survey asking all the residents what they needed. That was the impetus behind the small business incubator, Health Mall and Motel One. The Center for Small Towns at the University of Minnesota, Morris, provided an intern, and the Horizons Program provided assistance.

When she discovered retirees were leaving town because covenants prohibited them from building townhouses, Muriel asked the City Council to change the covenants. They were changed and assessments were alleviated. Lots sold for $1 each, and over five new townhomes and single dwelling units are now full of retirees and young families. Other new families moved into homes vacated by townhouse owners.

Muriel, the welcome wagon for new residents, isn’t shy about finding out what they can contribute to Hoffman. She’s brought many new volunteers on board. When she sees a need, it gets filled. The local lake had been a skating rink, but that was no longer the case when she moved back. Local residents fixed up the rink and reopened it, and nobody showed up. Muriel discovered that the kids didn’t have and couldn’t afford skates. The Lions Club provided 30 pairs of skates, and a “Day at the Rink” was held with hot chocolate and hot dogs. About 120 children showed up, and they’ve been at the rink every day since.

When we were leaving, I asked Muriel if she experienced any naysayers. Her response was, “Oh sure … but you’ve just got to rise above it and keep moving.” So far that seems to be working. Leaving town we passed an exit sign for Opportunity Highway, and I realized that highway leads right to Muriel’s front door.

This article was reposted with permission from http://www.cfra.org/newsletter/2010/10/bold-ideas-action-pave-opportunity-highway

October 12, 2010
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