For those of you in Central Minnesota, I've been invited to be part of a panel to discuss economic development in our region. This is a Rosenmeier Center Forum and will feature me side by side with all of the central figures actually guiding our local economic development initiatives (the head of the regional planning organization, the head of the local chamber, the head of the local economic development team and the city planner for Brainerd). As the sole outsier in this group, I can promise you some some difficult truths will be discussed and this will not be the standard, boring seminar. Please make plans to join us.

Here is their press release:


The Rosenmeier Center for State and Local Government at Central Lakes College will host a Forum on the Economic Development Future of the Brainerd Lakes Area from 7:00 to 9:30 p.m., Wednesday, September 5, in the Chalberg Theatre at CLC.

With the country still on shaky economic footing in the wake of the Great Recession and the city of Brainerd in its sixth year of double-digit unemployment, this panel will examine how the Brainerd Lakes Area can and should grow in the next 25 years to become and remain economically vital in an increasingly competitive and global economy.

Panel participants will be: Cheryal Lee Hills, Executive Director of Region Five Development Corporation (R5DC.); Sheila Haverkamp, Executive Director of the Brainerd Lakes Area Economic Development Corporation (BLAEDC); Lisa Paxton, Executive Director of the Brainerd Lakes Chamber of Commerce; Charles Marohn, Executive Director of Strong Towns; and Mark Ostgarden, Brainerd City Planner.

“It is an honor to participate in the Rosenmeier Center Forum on Economic Development,” says Hills. “Being responsive to tomorrows regional economic drivers will take more than trendy buzz words, it will take private/public & non-profit/philanthropic commitment and action. If we can learn from historical success/failures and institute practices and systems that balance our economic vitality with environmental stewardship….. we stand to be competitive. The previous “stand-alone silo thinking” and evaluating success by a fictitious number of jobs created is ineffective and unproductive. Our region has created thousands of ideas - it’s time for collective action.”

Moderating the panel will be Taylor Stevenson, Vice President of the Rosenmeier Center Board of Directors. Executive Director of the Rosenmeier Center, Steve Wenzel, will introduce the panel. Opening remarks will be delivered by Dr. Larry Lundblad, President of Central Lakes College.

“The Rosenmeier Center is thrilled to have such a brilliant panel to discuss our area economic future. Each of our panelists is a local person, but bring state-wide or national renown to this important discussion,” explains Wenzel, adding that, “The panel will examine the future of our economic sustainability, giving insight on what is being done and what still be done to ensure our long-term economic vitality.” 

Cheryal Lee Hills brings to the panel over 25 years of private/public and non-profit experience. Cheryal provides oversight of over $3 million in project, levy and grant annual income and delivers program development, program implementation, organizational planning, financial planning/oversight and manages all contractual agreements for R5DC. The R5DC program areas include Economic Development, Transportation, Community Development, Energy, and Local Foods. R5DC serves the region through technical assistance loan administration of five separate lending programs. Cheryal has received numerous service group awards and currently serves on over seven state and regional board of Directors. In her various leadership positions, Cheryal has secured public, private and non-profit funding to support community and regional development projects. 

Sheila Haverkamp is a certified Economic Development Specialist and is recognized by local, regional, and state leaders for her knowledge in community and economic development, she has a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration with concentrations in Finance, Management and Marketing from Minnesota State University, Moorhead. Sheila has played a key role in economic development projects in the Brainerd Lakes Area for nearly 25 years, facilitating and leading the economic development vision for the Brainerd Lakes Area, including Wausau Paper‘s $27 million investment in its Brainerd paper mill, Lexington Manufacturing’s decision to locate its new fire rated commercial door plant in Brainerd instead of the metropolitan area, and Artspace’s $10 million investment for renovating Franklin Junior High School into unique space for artists. 

Lisa Paxton has served as the Chief Executive Officer of the Brainerd Lakes Chamber since 1995, the 7th largest chamber in Minnesota with over 1,000 members and operating from four offices in the region. Paxton is active in public policy initiatives, serving as chair of the Explore Minnesota Tourism Council and public policy committee, and supporting the Chamber’s website featuring video interviews and an online voters of local and state candidates. The Chamber is part of the Minnesota Chamber Federation, a group of chambers that choose to align and work together on policy issues. 

Charles Marohn - known as "Chuck" to friends and colleagues - is a Professional Engineer (PE) licensed in the State of Minnesota and a member of the American Institute of Certified Planners (AICP). He has a Bachelor's degree in Civil Engineering from the University of Minnesota's Institute of Technology and a Masters in Urban and Regional Planning from the University of Minnesota's Humphrey Institute. Strong Towns, is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization focused on educating people about the way towns and neighborhoods are designed. Strong Town’s approach advocates for obtaining a higher return on existing infrastructure investments, as opposed to placing emphasis on investments in new infrastructure to serve or induce new development.

Mark Ostgarden was born and raised in Thief River Falls and received his Bachelor of Science Degree in Urban and Regional Studies from Mankato State University in 1980 and his Masters in Public Administration from Central Michigan University in 1999. Mark began his work in local government in 1980 when he was hired for a planning position in Northfield, MN. In 1987, Mark was hired as the City Planner in Midland, Michigan, where he worked for 17 years before returning home to Minnesota in 2005 when he was hired as Brainerd City Planner. The planning department is responsible for ensuring healthy and consistent growth throughout the community and developing long range goals for the development of the City. It enforces the local zoning ordinance and reviews zoning variances and conditional use permits for consideration by the Planning Commission.

The Rosenmeier Center was named in honor of the late Senate Gordon Rosenmeier of Little Falls who was regarded by Minnesota legislative colleagues and historians as the most knowledgeable, influential, and powerful legislator in all of Minnesota history. The purpose of the Center is to "educate and inform" the citizenry on issues of importance at the state and local level.