ReVisioning Two Harbors meeting – January 13, 2015

Two Harbors Community Center, 5:30 supper; 6-8 meeting

Attendance: around 50

5:30 Supper

6:00 GUEST SPEAKER – Greg Wright, Exec. Dir.,

North House Folk School, Grand Marais MN

After showing us a video to give us a feel for the North House Folk School’s work, Greg spoke about the history of the Folk School in Grand Marais from its inception to the present day. Katya Gordon’s summary of Greg’s talk and our discussion after for the Lake County News Chronicle read:

50 people showed up at the Two Harbors Community Center on Tuesday, Jan. 13, to hear speaker Greg Wright talk about the rewards and challenges of working collaboratively to build programs in a small north shore town.  Director of the North House Folk School (which currently brings over $12 million annually into Grand Marais), Greg’s stories highlighted five key points:

  1. You don’t start by trying to change the world–you start with a good idea
  1. At some point you need to jump off the cliff
  1. The journey is messy and full of imperfections; trust takes a long time to develop and there are no short cuts.
  1. When opportunity knocks, open the door and walk through.
  1. It’s important to take the long view–to think in terms of years and decades, not months

Greg’s presentation was hopeful and thought-provoking, judging from the questions and conversations it inspired.    After breaking into small groups, spokespeople from each group brought thoughts and ideas to the large group.  Ideas centered around the following themes:

  1. The need for a networking/collaborating/advertising center.  “Where is the go-to place in Two Harbors?”  asked a participant.  “Where do you go to learn what’s going on and how to get involved?”  Possible ideas to meet this need:
  1. a physical “Board” in a central location
  2. an online network (Chamber of Commerce is just opening an online community calendar for this very purpose)
  3. a building center downtown that houses nonprofits and provides “go-to” space
  4. local community radio station–(which is very close to being on the air)
  1. The need for our already-existing businesses to be financially solvent.  “The single biggest change that has come to Two Harbors in my lifetime,” shared a participant, “is when the highway to Duluth was built.”  If we want to keep our stores, our commodities, our entertainment, in Two Harbors, then we need to use them!  Every business owner in Two Harbors has already “jumped off the cliff” and we need to support them.
  1. The need for people to be open-minded, take the time, and have conversations with one another so that these good ideas can come to fruition in the long term.

Overall there was a very positive and hopeful tone to the room.  Stakeholders from many areas of our community were present:  city officials, Chamber of Commerce, small business owners, radio Board members, and others.  There was a strong sense of community, of a desire to improve our relationships with each other to benefit both ourselves and the people who come through Two Harbors. 

These meetings, funded by the Bush Foundation and offered through “Revisioning Two Harbors,” will continue on a monthly basis.  Anyone who is intrigued by the ideas, or has ideas of their own, or is interested in putting in some time to enrich our community, should consider attending. 

6:45 – Small Group Breakouts

After Greg’s presentation, small group breakouts discussed similarities/differences between Grand Marais and Two Harbors, and what dreams/opportunities/ challenges/success strategies Greg’s talk inspired in them for Two Harbors.

7:00 – Reconvening into large group, one representative from each group shared their group’s main points discussed. A discussion ensued. Rachel Nelson took notes on the large easel tablet as folks summarized their group’s takeaways and discussion ensued:

SMALL GROUP DISCUSSION MAIN POINTS AND QUESTIONS After Greg Wrights’s presentation noted the economic impact of arts and tourism in Grand Marais is $10,000,000 (that’s right, ten million dollars) annually coming into their community, many small-group discussions asked the question, what would happen in Two Harbors if the City, arts groups, families, artists, and businesses embraced a common goal? (the way Grand Marais community groups share a focus on tourism, as an arts destination.)

Other recurring themes of this discussion were: need for a gathering place in Two Harbors; the need for groups to collaborate to create sustainable change; and support for area businesses. There was a lively discussion around challenges Two Harbors businesses face, yielding the idea of community members commit to spend $50/month at local businesses, which could really help these businesses survive.

Janelle Jones of the Two Harbors Chamber of Commerce announced the Chamber’s new county-wide community calendar, a resource all can use that answers our need for a one-stop listing of community events.  The community calendar was a need identified last winter at our first ReVisioning Two Harbors meetings; now a Blandin Grant to the Chamber is meeting that need.  The Chamber knows that over 50,000 folks do come to downtown Two Harbors annually, but right now they aren’t finding anything to do there, said Jones.

Having events and activities here that interest tourists will directly affect the Chamber’s work to bring conventions to Two Harbors. If visitors find things to do, they’ll come back.

Ideas from small groups included a green bikes focus in Two Harbors with a Bike Map of routes in/around the city, and connecting/informing via the Two Harbors Radio initiative.

John McCarthy offered 10,000 square feet of meeting space in old Mercantile Building, now North Shore Architectural Antiques, if folks can help him get that space ready for use.

We noted the recent passing of approval to use signage at both ends of Two Harbors. Such signs, previously banned on 61, will help promote city businesses.

Large Group Discussion, individual comments/questions/ideas began-

How overcome the “no, we don’t do that, we don’t participate . . .”

How encourage volunteer community participation?

Greg responded to these questions

explaining how North House Folk School built connections with the community –

and noting how NHFS took advantage of national collaborations when they arose to benefit the community by bringing arts events like Mountain Stage Radio show/festival annually, which draws tourists and benefits the community’s arts base.

We ended at 8, as advertised. Many helped with cleanup; thanks!


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