By Jennifer Kotila
HOWARD LAKE, MN Howard Lake Business Association members are striving to create a community that is thriving for businesses and residents’ quality of life.
Association members informed the Howard Lake City Council at a workshop Tuesday about the HLBA’s plans to work with Thriving Communities and the Minnesota Design Team to do just that.
At its last meeting, the HLBA decided to move forward with applying for a grant through the Thriving Communities Partnership program after hearing a presentation about the program from Dan Frank, the program manager for community development at the Initiative Foundation.
Although the HLBA does not need the council’s approval for moving forward with the Thriving Community Partnership program, it does want the council and the community’s support, said Howard Lake City Administrator Kelly Hinnenkamp.
The Thriving Communities Partnership program trains community members on how to use the community building cycle to create a vision for the community, plan to bring that vision into reality, take action on the plan, then evaluate how well the plan worked.
During the training sessions, the core team will learn about leadership and future trends, review community data, select the goals for the team, draft a plan to accomplish those goals, and learn community dialog tools.
When the core team has completed the training, a draft plan for the goals it has established will need to be created.
For this phase of the planning, the HLBA has decided to try to bring in the Minnesota Design Team (MDT), which has worked with the Initiative Foundation numerous times in the past, Hinnenkamp said.
The MDT is a group of professionals who volunteer their time going to a few communities each year to assist them in planning and designing a viable, appropriate future.
The design team comes to the community for a weekend visit, where it researches the community and talks to community members and leaders about what the community is now, and what is wanted for the future, Hinnenkamp said.
The fee for the MDT will be covered by the grant from the Thriving Communities Partnership program, but the HLBA needs at least 12 letters of support from a diverse group of people and organizations throughout the community to move forward with the application.
The letters of support should show that the community member or organization understands the program, what it is, and what it will do, Hinnenkamp said.
The HLBA will also be approaching the Howard Lake Lions, community churches, the school, and other organizations to ask for their support moving forward with this process, Hinnenkamp said.
“At least we will have a plan. The hardest part for me is when someone comes in and wants to do something, and I don’t know what to tell them because the city does not have a plan,” Hinnenkamp said.
“This will also establish a vision for volunteers who want to do service projects in the city,” added HLBA member Jeff Schoess.
The plan will also give businesses ideas for what they can do if they want to move forward in the community, noted Council Member Tom Kutz.
Although this process will establish a vision and planning to create a thriving community for both businesses and residents, it will take a long time to establish everything the community wants, said HLBA President Randy Heuer.
He noted that Winsted went through this process three to four years ago, and it still has a long way to go before everything is accomplished.
One of the qualities Heuer said he liked about the MDT is it realizes Howard Lake does not stop at the edge of town, and engages everybody who is a community stakeholder in the process.
“We’re looking for folks to be involved. Those that I have spoken to already said they are excited about the opportunity and that the community is looking at a long-range plan,” Heuer said.
Those interested in being involved in writing letters of support, or being part of the core group of people to be trained, should contact Howard Lake City Hall at (320) 543-3670.