Below is Vice President of Program Neal Cuthbert’s foreword from the McKnight-commissioned “Still Thriving: The Changing Face of Southwest and South Central Minnesota,” an essay by Jay Walljasper exploring opportunities and challenges in Albert Lea, Morris, and other small communities in the southern half of Minnesota.
The regional treatment center in Willmar was shuttered more than a decade ago, but the death knell we’ve come to expect when a small community loses a big employer never sounded. Instead, Willmar redeployed one of its best community assets, converting the 1912 state hospital’s historic lakeshore campus into a bustling business incubator now home to more than 30 companies employing nearly 570 workers—nearly as many as the hospital had in its heyday. In fact, as Jay Walljasper reports from his recent visit, Willmar’s creative co-working space showcases the low-cost quality of life and dot-com credibility that are helping to lure growing numbers of millennials and Gen Xers back to Minnesota’s small towns. Read the rest of this entry »