Crew visits Spring Valley to highlight community assets

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A crew from the University of Minnesota Extension Service spent much of Wednesday, June 20, shooting photos of Spring Valley to use in the Extension magazine called Source.

Spring Valley was chosen for the photo shoot because its involvement in the Making it Home program. The magazine will feature the new program while highlighting different aspects of the community. Also, shots of the community will be added to the inventory for Extension to illustrate other programs, such as succession and community development, in the future.

Extension’s Making it Home program brought together people from throughout the community to discuss and create a community-wide vision for attracting new residents. Spring Valley residents started meeting in separate groups at the beginning of the year to kick off the process that included an action forum in late April.

Jennifer Hawkins, a University of Minnesota Extension community economics educator based in southeastern Minnesota, was the facilitator for the process. She was involved in various meetings, including the action forum where all the ideas came together.

She was also part of the crew that toured Spring Valley to get various visual documentation, including families fishing at Spring Valley Creek to show recreation, construction showing growth in the community, new homes and those with character, industrial activity in Spring Valley and small businesses.

“It’s fun to go into a community and experience the town firsthand,” said Hawkins.

She said the crew was impressed with not only the friendliness of the residents, but all that the community has to offer. She noted that one of the community slogans that came out of the Making it Home process was “Everything you need with a small town feel,” and the Extension crew found out just how many businesses and services Spring Valley has to offer.

Spring Valley and Lake City were accepted into the Making it Home program that was first offered to area communities in 2018 through the Southeast Minnesota Together regional collaboration. The program will continue in 2019 as applications are now being accepted to take on the process early next year.

The program in Spring Valley was coordinated by the Economic Development Authority (EDA) with economic development director Cathy Enerson taking care of organizing local people.

The Extension program is based on a successful model called Marketing Hometown America created by Extension services in North Dakota, South Dakota and Nebraska. It helps rural communities attract residents in our mobile society.

“The Making it Home program is a carefully-designed process that helps rural towns uncover what makes them unique, and what they have to offer residents,” said Hawkins.

Groups of local residents took part in independent study circles that met regularly to look at the community’s assets and ways to market the location to new residents. The groups, which met separately, but followed the same agenda, included people of all ages, even high school students, and many occupations, including retirees.

The goal of the program is to help communities: look at their community through newcomers’ eyes; discover, or rediscover, overlooked assets that can attract new residents; create positive conversations that lead to effective community marketing; create a quality of life that is attractive to both newcomers and current residents; nurture a welcoming spirit; and implement an action plan for the future.

Jerry Wolf, one of the study circle leaders, put together an agenda for the Extension crew in Spring Valley to showcase various aspects of the community. The Rev. James Leonard and his family were featured in some of the shots, including one of him and his children fishing and another one of them pretending to move into a home.

Wolf also arranged for the crew to get inside an industrial facility and several small businesses in the community. Photographer Cory Ryan has shot many photos for Source, the Extension magazine, over the past several years.

Also on hand was Source managing editor Catherine Dehdashti and Joyce Hoelting, assistant director of the Extension community vitality leadership and management team. Enerson accompanied the crew for much of the day last Wednesday.

The Extension magazine, Source, is expected to be published at the end of September.