By Jennifer Kotila
HOWARD LAKE, MN In the next year, HL Thrive will be implementing numerous projects around Howard Lake to improve the aesthetics, family life, and business climate of the community.
Recently, the community was asked to take part in a survey for the Initiative Foundation to gather baseline information on factors concerning the core areas of HL Thrive: the local economy, youth development, and quality of life.
Based on the participation of 90 community members, HL Thrive was awarded an additional $750 in grant funds which will be used to implement HL Thrive projects.
The money will tentatively be used to develop a web and social media presence for HL Thrive in order to better communicate the current status of the initiative and keep citizens engaged, according to City Administrator Nick Haggenmiller.
Specific results of the survey have not yet been made available by the Initiative Foundation.
In addition to the $750 grant from the survey, and a $10,000 grant from the Initiative Foundation to implement projects, the city of Howard Lake has also included monetary support for projects in its budget.
Although not given directly to HL Thrive, the city plans to use the $6,000 to assist downtown businesses with facade renovations, improving pedestrian safety, and improving the overall business climate in Howard Lake, said Haggenmiller.
Throughout the upcoming months, the council will work with HL Thrive’s economy task force, the Howard Lake Business Association, and local retailers to identify projects and ways to assist the business community, Haggenmiller said.
Although only a small amount was allocated, it is hoped the money can be used to fund studies and grant applications, as well as assist in leveraging and developing larger, long-term economic tools to meet the needs of the community, Haggenmiller noted.
Members of the economic task force are also working with economic development professionals to create a business resource directory, which will offer free technical assistance to individuals about how to start a business.
It will also showcase the incentives and assistance the city has available for businesses.
Included in the directory will be information about low-interest loan programs and staff development possibilities for exisiting Howard Lake businesses, or those wishing to re-locate to Howard Lake.
The youth and future development task force recently secured a $2,000 grant from the Initiative Foundation to implement a “bucket of books” campaign in Howard Lake, according to task force member Margaret Marketon.
The campaign will kick-off with a free workshop Monday, Feb. 4 for children through age 5 and their parents, as well as daycare providers, and early childhood teachers and staff.
The workshop will begin with a meal where parents will create their own sub sandwich with their children.
Following the meal will be special activities for parents and children to enjoy together.
Following the activities, parents will learn the critical role they play in promoting literacy in their young children, and how they can help with developmentally-appropriate activities.
Finally, buckets of books will be placed at 25 locations throughout Howard Lake for parents and children to take for free.
Another project the economic task force has been diligently working on is a community entrance sign, which will be installed on the east side of Howard Lake, near Lions Park.
Howard Lake City Council approved $1,000 to assist in the construction of the community entrance sign, and included $6,000 in its 2013 budget for downtown enhancements.
Local vendors are being used to provide labor and material for the community sign project.
The design of the sign has been completed, with computer-aided design work donated by Police Chief Tracy Vetruba.
At this time, quotes are being sought for the concrete work, and work to finalize a lighting plan for the sign is being completed.
Casting Creations in Howard Lake will provide the lettering on the sign, which will be made of highly-polished bronze.
A grant is being sought from the Minnesota Department of Transportation to assist with landscaping and planting around the proposed sign location.
Making HL pretty
The quality of life task force is planning to implement beautification projects at Lions Park this spring and summer, according to task force chair Cindy Zitzloff.
The task force is exploring Minnesota Department of Natural Resources grant options to assist in funding a landscaping project at the park.
Before moving forward with any projects in the city’s parks, plans will need to be reviewed and approved by both the city council and the park commission, Zitzloff noted.
Another project the quality of life task force is working to implement this summer is an “adopt-a-pot” program, which it hopes will help beautify the main arteries of Howard Lake, Zitzloff said.
Local businesses will have the opportunity to sponsor large flower pots that will be set on city sidewalks or along Highway 12.
Sponsors will be responsible for planting flowers (or hiring someone to do it for them), as well as handling the maintenance of the pot, Zitzloff said.