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Business organizations pull together

There are three distinct business organizations with particular interests in downtown Red Wing.

But in recent months, Red Wing Area Chamber of Commerce, Red Wing Downtown Main Street and Red Wing Port Authority have been working on working more collaboratively -- not only with each other, but with other community organizations as well.

"We try to collaborate with everyone we can," Chamber Executive Director Patty Brown said. "We continue to help each other out where it makes sense and where we can.... We don't do anything standing alone really."

"We are definitely working with business organizations," Downtown Main Street President Dawn Bennett echoed. "We want to make sure that we're using our resources and not overlapping."

The goal, the organizations' leaders say, is to pool resources, contacts and ideas in order for the groups to better serve their clients and Red Wing as a whole.

"Hopefully we can come up with better solutions that are better thought out," port Director Randy Olson said.

While collaborating has been going on for decades in Red Wing, the organizations leaders say they feel it has picked up in recent months.

"I think those kinds of conversations have been happening more and more. There's been a natural progression as more organizations see the benefits," Bennett said.

"I think it's a little newer concept," Olson added. "It's really been something that's evolved in the last several months."

Currently, all three organizations have representatives on the Red Wing 2020 Chairs group.

"We meet and we share information to collaboratively promote Red Wing," Olson said. "We meet monthly to address larger issues that really transcend all of our organizations."

The group began meeting late last fall, and Olson said, includes representatives from the city of Red Wing, the Visitor & Convention Bureau, Red Wing 2020 and the Housing and Redevelopment Authority.

The group's current focus, he said, is revitalizing Red Wing's downtown and filling some of its vacant storefronts.

"We feel that the downtown of Red Wing is very representative of the health and vitality of the entire community," Olson said.

But the business organizations are partnering outside the 2020 group as well. For example, Brown said the chamber is working with Downtown Main Street, the city and businesses to organize the Cabela's National Walleye Trail tournament, which will take place in April.

Brown said the chamber is particularly good at communication, education and networking. She said her organization is happy to help other groups in those areas.

"So many organizations have such good causes, but they struggle with getting the word out. And we really excel at that," she said.

Downtown Main Street routinely partners with area nonprofits for its Shop for a Cause event, where members businesses donate portions of their proceeds to a certain nonprofit, Bennett said. She added that DTMS is also looking to help Red Wing Ignite find ways that the DTMS economic incubator will complement Ignite's technology-based incubator.

Finally, Olson said the port is constantly promoting chamber and Downtown Main Street memberships to businesses and entities it comes in contact with.

"We're recognizing that we can help build membership for other organizations," he said.

Both Brown and Bennett said they're looking to continue to expand their organizations' collaborative efforts.

"It seems like it continues to grow as we get more and more ingrained in it," Brown said.

Bennett added that Downtown Main Street is looking at creating an executive director position in the coming months. One possibility the group is looking at is sharing that employee with another business organization in town.

"It's about all working together for the betterment of the community," Bennett said. "Having a unified front also presents us as a better destination to live and work."

Sarah Gorvin
Sarah Gorvin has been with the Republican Eagle for two years and covers education, business and crime and courts. She graduated from the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities in 2010 with a  journalism degree.