I live in Albert Lea, Minnesota, population about 17,000 and falling. It is a pretty little town, The Land Between the Lakes, but it's dying a slow, lingering death. The major employers of 30 years ago, meat packing and light manufacturing are gone, leaving the Mayo Health System as the largest employer. We continue to grasp at straws, hoping that a savior will come and resurrect our economy.
The latest dream is Artspace, a nonprofit developer who is contemplating moving artists into lofts in the beautifully restored Freeborn Bank building. It is a stunning building - makes me want to join the art crowd just to live there.
We have also recently been visited by Dan Burden, founder of Walkable Communities, who reviewed the town layout and made suggestions on ways to make it more pedestrian and bicycle friendly. As a casual bicyclist myself, I am a favor of anything that will make it easier to navigate. Coincidentally, there has also been visits by Dan Buettner of Bluezones, an organization that sets goals for community health and vitality. When the smoke clears we probably still won't be a prosperous community again, but hopefully the quality of our lives will improve, which is more important than money anyway.