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Editorial: We must prepare for Highway 61 work

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Today’s edition reports the first casualty of pending Highway 61 reconstruction through downtown Red Wing. Granted, other circumstances contributed to Taco John’s demise, but location on Highway 61/Main Street contributed to an earlier rather than later closure.

The reconstruction project — that will be followed by a multi-year Mississippi Bridge replacement effort — has many downtown merchants worried. Loss of on-street parking, decreased traffic, reduced (easy) access for customers and resulting loss of sales might be so extreme that owners will expend reserves and therefore need loans, grants and other outside resources.

Fortunately, there’s still time for them and the community to brace for the challenges.

Minnesota Main Street will conduct a two-day technical assistance visit July 16-17. Businesses can enroll in one-on-one consultations with Jay Schlinsog of Downtown Professionals Network in Franklin, Tennessee. He also will lead round-table workshops at 7:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. July 17. Sign up through Red Wing Downtown Main Street by July 10.

Designed to help individual owners begin careful preparation to survive and thrive, these sessions potentially include financial planning, customer-base expansion and effective marketing.

In addition, the next reconstruction project open house is 4 to 7 p.m. July 16 at the St. James Hotel. ?It’s open to everyone, of course.

The community also should look to University Avenue businesses in St. Paul that stayed afloat during four-plus years of light rail construction.

Red Wing Downtown Main Streets aptly calls its reconstruction group the Building a Road to Our Future Committee. Indeed, we must have a new, improved highway and a new river bridge if Red Wing is to grow. They will come at a cost, however, and planning to reduce the loses starts now.

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