Tuesday, September 19, 2006

The Center of Everything

“If you drove from Minneapolis to Fargo and on to Bismarck, down to Rapid City and from there to Sioux Falls and back to Minneapolis, we are the biggest town in that circle,” Mayor Mike Levsen of Aberdeen, SD (population 24,658) was talking about the 1,400 mile trip around his town. “John Sieh, who started the artists’ Granary in town always said, ‘It’s not in the middle of nowhere, it’s in the center of everything.”

I was in Aberdeen for a Regional Development Summit for NE SD that encompasses a 12 county area. Population in the region peaked at 140,000 in 1940 and has fallen to 88,000 today, about where it was in 1920. The purpose of the conference was to explore ways that the region could work together, something that I’m seeing more of every day.

Aberdeen has lent support for a plant expanding in Britton and a new ethanol plant in Mina, both in neighboring counties. Mayor Levsen, “It’s hard for local people to understand why $1 of tax money is good if it is in our town or a neighboring one. But we have to understand that everything we can do to grow the pie bigger will benefit everyone, even if your slice is slightly smaller.”

More and more areas are starting to understand the importance of a regional approach. Aberdeen is on the cutting edge of a growing trend.

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