Building on tomorrow
Editor's note: We live in a time of rapid change — change that does not entirely skip over small Minnesota towns like this one.
Today, more than ever, people here in this community are bypassing our neighbors' small shops in favor of an internet search and an out-of-town buy. Consumer preference is changing; we are changing. However, we are not powerless in this evolution. We, as a community, can decide how we want to navigate these new times to create a place we'd still want to live 10, 20, 50 years from now. We can take the easy one-click step that is good for the moment, or we can step another direction where we are all just a little bit more calculating and conscious of who we give our dollars to and what we want our town to be like.
Small town retail is not dying, it's just changing. That is the message from economy experts at the West Central Initiative, an organization that works to strengthen the economy in nine west-central Minnesota counties, including Becker County. Small town retail has been a focal point recently for the organization, which has been holding seminars on the region's retail picture.
"We were finding the negative narration that small town retail is dying," said Jill Amundson, an associate planner with WCI. "I want to emphasize that that is not true."
Retail sales are a powerful driver of local economies. According to state figures in 2016, retail-only numbers generated approximately $501.1 million in Becker County, a 20.6 percent increase over five years. That isn't the same across the region, though. Although the business district in Perham has remained strong, Otter Tail County overall saw a decrease of 4.9 percent over five years.
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