The art of conversation

How passionate are you about your hometown?

On a recent daylong journey to Alexandria, I engaged people in conversations about living, working and playing here; this area definitely has more than its share of advocates.

Joining me on this daylong journey was Bridgette, the Pelican Rapids Schools Spanish teacher immersed in a  workforce development project to better engage students with business and industry. Bridgette is a small business owner, teaches driver’s training and understands the challenges that face small communities. She’s an optimist and I enjoyed our discussions on the way to appointments in Alexandria.


First stop was to talk with Ann, executive director of the Andria Theatre. She is so excited about their growth. “It used to be growing up when summer was over, the sidewalks were rolled up, but that’s definitely not the case,” she said. The theatre is expanding their programming, she said, doing more outreach and are finding new performance partnerships. I’m going to follow up with her on a couple items, especially if I can bring you the story of Andria, whose name came from the very marquee in downtown Alexandria. It has an interesting twist so stay tuned!


Next we met with Kristi, the human resources manager at Donnelly Custom Manufacturing. I love Kristi’s “can-do” attitude! She is open to trying new ideas in regard to workforce, recruiting and retaining their 200-plus employees. Live Wide Open, she agreed, is the kind of movement that tells the quality of life story of west central Minnesota. Donnelly Manufacturing is a great place to work, she said, but getting that message out there can be challenging. I look forward to more conversations with Kristi!


Our final stop in Alexandria was at Edina Realty with Carl. Anyone moving to west central Minnesota needs a place to live, so it’s natural that Live Wide Open engages with realtors in our region. Our conversation was wide-ranging, from supply-demand dynamics to what someone wants to know when they are looking to move to the area. While working with numbers isn’t my forte, Carl has facts and figures at his fingertips. His expertise and history in the Alexandria real estate market, and how they engage with new residents is worth exploring further.

These conversations made me think about holding group discussions in various west central Minnesota regions. What could we learn/share? Would there be local champions to take Live Wide Open to greater heights? What outcomes would one expect?

What do you think?

Scott Kiemle