By Starrla Cray
DELANO, MN In the past 18 months, the Delano Dream Team II has been the springboard for new energy, vitality, and growth in the community.
“We’re kind of like Johnny Appleseeds,” Dream Team II President Chris Brazelton said. “The idea isn’t for the Dream Team II to be a stand-alone entity. The point is to plant the seeds, so others have what they need to grow.”
The progress the team has made so far will be highlighted at the Heritage Fest in downtown Delano Saturday, Aug. 28.
“Come down and talk with us,” Dream Team II Vice President Harlan Lewis said. “We will have a booth right in front of the heritage building (old village hall).”
The Dream Team II plans to be in existence for a total of three years, which means that its time is half over.
According to Brazelton, many of the projects will take longer than a few years to fully implement, but she hopes that other organizations will continue to provide support, and eventually take full ownership.
“It’s so dependent on the energy of the community,” she said.
“The Dream Team is always open to more people becoming involved,” Lewis added. “During this past year, well over 100 people have been involved in community planning activities.”
One of the major accomplishments of the team has been getting the city, chamber, and other organizations to work together toward common goals.
“From this, we have started a number of projects,” Lewis said.
A comprehensive survey of business needs within the City of Delano is just one example. The team is working with the city to create a detailed market study, showing how many square feet of retail space are available, what types of businesses are already in place, what the community is interested in seeing, and other practical information.
“It’s an extremely useful tool, “ Brazelton said.
Eventually, the team hopes to bring 300 jobs to Delano.
“That will take a new industrial park, growth of our commercial base, and keeping what we have,” Lewis noted. “This type of activity is going to take a great deal work and a lot of leg work.”
Encouraging new businesses and building customer traffic downtown through community events are two ways the team has started to generate growth.
“The Old Fashioned Christmas was a huge success last year, and we’re going to do it again this year,” Brazelton said.
“Movie on Bridge Avenue” in June was another event that brought the community together, Lewis added.
“We just want to keep downtown vital and strong, and that means you have to have customers,” Brazelton said.
One new endeavor is the Delano area online calendar, www.delanocalendar.net.
The calendar is a list of events happening in the community.
“It helps when trying to schedule something,” DeBeer said. “We’ve got a fabulous town, but it’s hard to plan events without overlapping everything else.”
Another possibility for driving customers to Delano is through riverfront development. If access points and trails were added along the Crow River, kayakers and bikers from outside the community could stop at Delano to have lunch and shop at local businesses.
“The river can be such an asset to the community,” Brazelton said.
Engineering students from the University of Minnesota have sketched ideas for riverfront development, but Brazelton said that careful funding is always a priority.
“We don’t want to let these ideas die, but we want to do it thoughtfully and do it right,” Brazelton said.
The first grant the Dream Team II received from the Initiative Foundation was $10,000, to plan and select community projects.
“We now need to show the Initiative Foundation we have done our planning, and now would like the next grant to implement these projects,” Lewis said.
People who would like to become involved in the Dream Team II can select particular projects they are passionate about, Brazelton said.
“There are so many people with great ideas; we just have to put that together,” she said. “Like any goals in life, if you think about it and never do anything, you’ll be in the same place in 10 years; but if you take short steps, 10 years from now, you’ll have progress.”
For more information about the Delano Dream Team II, contact Brazelton at (612) 209-4553 or Lewis at (952) 237-7368.