Star Tribune eyes (noncontroversial) renaissance in Ely

Iron Range newsWhat an interesting and exciting story in today’s Star Tribune. Pam Louwagie writes about a Missouri developer, a longtime summer resident in the Ely area, who has purchased a number of decaying buildings in downtown Ely with the goal of renovating and re-imagining their use for a modern town set amid the pines.

Louwagie makes specific mention of the fact that these developments would enhance the local economy whether controversial new mining projects nearby go ahead or not. Here’s an excerpt:

So boosters are forging ahead with or without mining, developing ideas for more festivals and amenities to draw both tourists and residents.

They brought in architects and designers from around the state recently to come up with a plan for giving Ely a revitalizing boost.

Officials are excited that high-speed, fiber-optic Internet service is slated to become available to each resident next year.

“There’s a lot of folks now who could live anywhere. If they could make a living here, they would move to Ely in a minute,” said Petersen as he strolled past empty storefronts. “We’re working on everything.”

Among the buildings: the State movie theater, the old Ely hospital (the “castle”), and three other properties. The developer John Ott has a vision of turning the historic buildings into enterprise that works for tourists and locals alike.

In a nutshell, this is the very sort of thing I’ve been talking about here at my little Don Quioxe regional blog for several years. And while some locals might instantly label Ott as an “out-of-towner,” I’d be quick to point out that this is how our region survives. People with ideas and money who LIKE IT HERE decide to enact those ideas with their money HERE. This is a much better strategy than giving OUR PUBLIC MONEY to people who DON’T REALLY CARE to create a few jobs here for a few years until they hold us over the barrel for more money and then leave.

Further, there’s no reason locals of high means or menial means couldn’t invest, on their own or in groups, on ideas that would breathe new life into their Iron Range towns. A little bit of progress inspires more progress. And this story in today’s Strib is, indeed, inspiring.

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