Let's just say this: Virginia, MN, is a really beautiful city. We spent some time there yesterday getting to know the place and were quite enchanted. That's very much the same feeling we had with the walking tour in downtown Hibbing. These cities are just oozing with opportunity. Beautiful downtowns with vacant storefronts surrounded by blocks and blocks of underutilized (and undervalued) housing. These places prove that more than just good design is needed to make a place successful. It takes an attitude and a culture.
We can see that emerging, or at least trying to emerge. Our discussion in Virginia at noon yesterday started with a lot of old school talk of how to building and maintain large infrastructure systems, fire halls and the like. Chuck pushed the conversation into -- what one participant called -- "the edge of uncomfortable" and really opened up the dialog. By the end of the evening, we were talking about how arts, cultural and people who draw outside the lines are the leading edge of a renaissance.
And speaking of those kind of people, we ran into a little place called The Shop in Virginia. Didn't look like much from the outside, but once we passed through the door, it was apparent that this place was really, really special. We had a chance to chat with the owner and got some horror stories on permitting, inspections and electrical work, all of which gave us some really great stuff to ponder as we look for ways to clear a path for creative people to follow their passions. I met patrons who drove 30 miles to go to the shop for a pizza and the atmosphere. That's the power of something really unique and, best of all, it was created by a local with a vision.
Final thing: we're getting some amazing press coverage up here. Our message is spreading and the crowds are growing. It's an incredibly exciting week. - Jason Schaefer
This is our last day on the Range. Chuck Marohn and Jason Schaefer will start the day leading two tours of Iron Range towns: one in Gilbert and the other in Eveleth.
Then at 12pm, Chuck will host a panel discussion called "Building a Strong Economic Development Ecosystem in your Town" at the Lyric Center for the Arts (514 Chestnut St, Virginia). Panelists will talk about the connection between entrepreneurship, downtowns and attracting/retaining talent. Two of the panelists have already been featured in profiles on our site: Andrew Hanegmon, founder of Iron Range Makerspace, and Desiree Yourczek, co-founder of ReGen, so this will be an opportunity to get to know them further.
After the panel discussion, Chuck will host a walking tour of Virginia, then meet with local leaders.
Finally, the day will conclude with a final Curbside Chat at 6pm at Mesabi Range College - Virginia Campus (1001 Chestnut Street, Virginia).
FOR MORE INFORMATION ON TODAY'S EVENTS OR TO SIGN UP TO ATTEND, VISIT THIS PAGE.
(Top photo by Lee Bloomquist from Wednesday's panel discussion at the Lyric Center for the Arts)