Let’s keep the progress going

Josh Wolsky, Minot

A couple of years ago I brought a car back from Florida. I used the trip as an opportunity to see how Minot measured up. I wanted to see how we compared to other places. I didn’t have a lot of time, so my stops were brief. Most were maybe an hour – just enough time to walk around, take some pictures, grab a cup of coffee, and form a first impression.

It’s hard to get an honest sense of a place by looking at its McDonalds, so I made the downtowns my focus. I stopped eighteen times: Dawson, Eufaula, Montgomery, Tupelo, Conway, Fort Smith, Ponca City, McPherson, Lindsborg, Salina, Concordia, Hastings, Aurora, Grand Island, Broken Bow, Valentine, Pierre, and Mobridge.

So how did Minot measure up? Better than I expected. We’re doing pretty well. There are more places behind us than ahead, but the margins are slim, and we are definitely still in the pack. The places that are ahead are really ahead; they’ve separated themselves and are far in front.

So what separates them? All I have as evidence is what I saw and some ideas, but here goes: pride, focus, and polish. Those aren’t tangible things, they’re values. But when those values are expressed through actions and investment, the results translate into outcomes that can be felt. I don’t know how else to put it, but you just know when you’re in a place that has its act together.

I think we’re on the verge of that in Minot. If you haven’t been downtown in a while and looked at and felt what’s happening, do it. Get out and walk around. Is it a wildly thriving environment? Not yet. There’s plenty of room for progress. But the energy is there; it’s unmistakable. Both private and public investment have gotten us where we are.

The question is what’s next? Will we keep our foot on the gas? Or will we lose focus? Are we proud enough to keep investing in ourselves, or will we trust the cynics who say we can’t, it’s impossible, or we’ll never ‘be’? We’re going to find out this Monday. City Council will take up wayfinding and welcome signs as a potential investment in ourselves. These items have been long-identified as part of our improvement plan going back to the International Economic Development Council’s recommendations to the City in 2018.

But five years is a long time, and every year that passes makes it easier for elected and city officials to say we’ve done enough. From what I saw on my trip across the country, we still have work to do. And what happens if we skip the polishing? In my cynical moments, that’s what I expect we’ll do; we’re good at almost doing things well.

But I hope my cynical side is wrong. Or if negativity about our past is justified, I hope we break the trend. Because from what I saw driving across the country, the places that really have it together didn’t skip the polishing. They were all proud of their place, and they were happy to have me there. I know that for sure because they had all built beautiful welcome signs to tell me so.

If you’re like me and want to see Minot’s recent progress continue, it might make sense to reach out to the City Council and let them know.


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