It may be the middle of winter, but there is suddenly real enthusiasm in Tower, and the prospect that the city may finally be on the cusp of real economic turnaround.
There has certainly been no shortage of twists and turns in the city’s slow advance towards the community’s goal of sustainable economic growth based on tourism and quality of life— but for the first time in years the city is working with qualified developers who are truly excited at the potential and possibilities.
As Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation Board Commissioner Mark Phillips put it last year at the dedication of the new Lake Vermilion Cultural Center in Tower, if we make our communities places people want to live, the jobs will come.
One of the ways to really put Tower on the map, of course, is to build a community that stands out from the crowd. Tower has many advantages already, as the only city that can offer direct water access to Lake Vermilion, located at the hub of the region’s snowmobile trail system, and with the new Lake Vermilion State Park right on its doorstep.
But, as representatives of Nordic Business Development, Inc. see it, Tower could make a name for itself in other ways as well. While the company’s initial interest is focused on condominiums at the harbor, this impressive group has an even grander long-term vision. As NBDI CEO Orlyn Kringstad put it, with the right approach to a city-wide redevelopment effort, Tower could become a global model for sustainable development, incorporating energy-efficiency, smarter resource use, and renewable energy into new construction.
These are incredibly smart investments for a community whose Main Street is currently lined with old, inefficient buildings that cost business owners a small fortune each winter just to heat. More than one Tower business has shuttered its doors over the years, or been forced to move, due to high heating costs alone.
When you consider that most commercial buildings will serve any number of businesses over the decades, making smart investments up front will make small businesses more successful and profitable for years to come. That’s sound planning and it’s an issue that NBDI representatives are interested in working on.
Yet this vision can go well beyond smarter construction methods. By positioning the city as a progressive place that’s taking bold steps into the future, Tower will inevitably attract smart, forward-thinking people who want to be a part of such an exciting community. It’s about establishing a reputation that attracts people who will contribute to the community’s long-term success.
Obviously, Tower isn’t there yet. And given the twists and turns we’ve seen in recent years, there’s always room for caution. The good news, however, is that right now, there is also room for hope. And that’s always welcome in the depths of winter.