Chamber Event

Currents and Currency: Coalition seeks to build economic strength across St. Croix watershed

In an economy trending toward ever-increasing automation, how can people living in the St. Croix watershed — a region built on lumbering, milling, and farming — ensure a vital economic future?

This multifaceted question will inspire discussion when economic and community development groups gather online February 18 from 9:00-10:30, exploring ways to partner for success throughout the St. Croix watershed. 

The webinar, “Harnessing the Power of Our Watershed for Economic Development,” is being organized through North Woods and Waters of the St. Croix Heritage Area as part of a larger effort to leverage resources within the St. Croix watershed for economic and community development.

“This webinar represents the importance of partnerships and ability to highlight the value of natural, cultural and historic resources in the overall economy,” said Sandy Voigt, director of the Women’s Business Alliance and incoming President of GPS 45:93, a regional economic development organization serving east-central Minnesota. 

The partnerships and resources Voigt alludes to are not vague notions that might, or might not, manifest in an uncertain future. At least two tangible opportunities are already here:

  • LYNX, North Woods and Waters’ wide-reaching events website; and
  • Clio, a virtual tourism platform with which North Woods and Waters has partnered.

“Services offered by North Woods and Waters through LYNX and Clio will highlight the treasures of the St. Croix watershed to not only multi-state but national audiences,” said Voigt.

“The tools, LYNX and Clio, are free tools that organizations can use to promote their community and  business events to a large area for free,” added Nancy Hoffman, an economic developer in Chisago County, Minnesota, who serves as treasurer for North Woods and Waters’ Executive Committee. “Tourism will help many of the communities. So if we can build on the tourism and cultural heritage we could become stronger economically.” 

Rosemary Mansfield, Marketing Director of the Saint Croix Valley Regional Tourism Alliance (SCVRTA), said “We are delighted to be partnering with Northwoods and Waters to help bring greater awareness to the St. Croix River Watershed and build a strong economic base through collaborative marketing. SCVRTA has served small communities along the St. Croix River Valley for 27 years. Communities which partner with the Alliance are small and depend on a unified marketing/collaborative approach that enables them to reach potential customers throughout the Midwest and beyond that they could not afford to reach singly.”  

In this initial meeting, the coalition will talk about:

  • The economic impact of heritage tourism in Minnesota and Wisconsin and how this can be enhanced through stronger connections throughout the watershed;
  • How designation as a National Heritage Area enhances this region’s visibility and potential for wide-reaching promotion;
  • An economic impact study through the Carlson Consulting Enterprise, a program of the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management; 
  • The possibilities for joint marketing of recreational opportunities, cultural and historical sites, businesses, and the arts;
  • Two new services being offered by North Woods and Waters:  LYNX, a free, on-line events calendar that unites all communities in the watershed and Clio, an app and website that brings natural, cultural and historic sites to a national audience;
  • Next steps for bringing economic development entities, municipalities, chambers of commerce, visitor bureaus, and tourism groups together to further explore these ideas.

“Ultimately, we would like to see a committee grow out of this effort that will support a joint marketing effort across the watershed,” Hoffman said.

Israel Haas, Executive Director of the Great River Road Visitor and Learning Center at Freedom Park, had this to say about the webinar:  “What if we could connect 115 communities in the St. Croix Watershed? I work in Prescott, Wisconsin. The watershed runs up to Moose Lake, Minnesota, and across to Barnes, Wisconsin–almost 8,000 square miles. Just imagine what we could do if we all worked together!”  

A wide array of organizations from both Minnesota and Wisconsin are sponsoring this webinar, including:  Arrowhead Regional Economic Development Commission, ArtReach St. Croix, Chisago County HRA/EDA, East Central Regional Development Commission, GPS:45:93, Great Rivers Confluence, Initiative Foundation, Northwest Regional Planning Commission, Old Highway 61 Coalition,  Pierce County Economic Development, St. Croix River Association, St. Croix Scenic Byway, St. Croix Valley Foundation, and the St. Croix Valley Regional Tourism Alliance.

About North Woods and Waters of the St. Croix Heritage Area

North Woods and Waters of the St. Croix Heritage Area is a nonprofit organization promoting the natural, cultural and historic resources of the St. Croix Watershed.