Every community the size of Little Falls can trace its history back to one or two or at most three people who, a century ago, had a special talent or vision that helped the community grow beyond a trade center for the surrounding farmers.
For Little Falls, one such person was Paul Larson, who began at age 19, simply enough, by building himself a boat for duck hunting and fishing. Those who saw it were envious, and then Paul started building boats for some of them, too.
Soon Paul needed help to keep up with demand. It would be easy to say the rest is history, except that it wasn’t. All businesses, large and small, struggle to move ahead, to anticipate the whims of the fickle public, to find and pay good help, to make a profit so they can stay in business.
A 1949 fire leveled the business. Ten years later, Larson was moving toward retirement. He sold part of the business. The new owners struggled. He bought the business back.
Gradually, the business went from being a regional marketer to creating a world-wide network of dealers.
A few years ago, it became a victim of the Great Recession, going through bankruptcy.
And still Larson Boats kept on, employing hundreds of area workers. Their caring, their craftsmanship, their dedication to detail kept producing a world-class product year after year.
This weekend in St. Cloud, Larson Boats is throwing a centennial celebration for its dealer network, employees and a few select citizens. It has added 39 new dealerships during the 2012 model year, only one of which is in Minnesota. It has truly become a global company. It will be rolling out 11 new models for the 2013 model year.
Morrison County has hundreds of businesses. The vast majority of them will not last long enough to celebrate a centennial. And none of them can point to more families that have benefited from being employed over the past 100 years than Larson can.
Had it not been for Paul Larson and his unique vision and talent for boat building, Little Falls would not be nearly the community it is today.