Mayor, CVB invites organizations to collaborate to help Little Falls thrive

By Terry Lehrke, News Editor

Many organizations work in Little Falls to make the city a better place.

Because so many work independently and often are not aware of what other organizations are trying to accomplish, Little Falls Mayor Cathy VanRisseghem and Little Falls Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB) Executive Director Kris VonBerge, are inviting all organizations to a “Town 101” meeting Wednesday, Aug. 21.

The meeting, to be held at 2 p.m. at the Little Falls City Hall, is meant to bring all of the hardworking organizations together to collaborate on ideas to make sure efforts are not duplicated. VanRisseghem said many grants are available for projects and with all the groups working together, those grants may become more accessible.

“We need to pull together,” said VanRisseghem, who noted she’s been working on this over the past 22 years, first as CVB executive director, now as mayor.

“So many organizations are working in the community for the betterment of Little Falls,” she said. Projects, she said, seem to fade out or never get over the peak to success.

“There are so many groups getting things done. We need to come together to find out what everyone is doing and collaborate so we are not repeating work,” she said.

“Through our efforts in making a better Little Falls, we have encountered many groups and individuals who are of the same mind as us — developing and retaining — Little Falls. Kris, myself and many other Little Falls people have recently attended meetings, conferences and gatherings that pertain to making a better Little Falls,” said the mayor.

VanRisseghem has attended several meetings with Region 5 and at the Initiative Foundation.

She said she learned from representatives of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, that what cities need to do is come up with a story. “What is Little Falls about? What we are trying to accomplish?” said VanRisseghem.

One meeting was called “Keys to the City,” presented by Jack Schultz, author of “Boomtown USA — The 7 1/2 Keys to Big Success in Small Towns.”

VanRisseghem said Schultz was a farmer in the 1980s when the farming industry crashed. He and his wife moved to town and got involved and helped rejuvenate their city.

The 7 1/2 keys, said VanRisseghem, include 1) Adopt a can-do attitude; 2) Share your vision; 3) Leverage resources; 4) Raise up strong leaders; 5) Encourage an entrepreneurial approach; 6: Maintain local control: 7) Build your brand and 7.5) Embrace the ‘teeter-totter’ factor.

“There are going to be ups and downs and you need to embrace those,” said VanRisseghem. “If you let them overtake you, you fail.”

VanRisseghem has a long list of organizations that could benefit by working together and by working together, make Little Falls a better community; a thriving community.

Some of the organizations she listed included the CVB, the Little Falls Area Chamber, West Side Improvement Association, Little Falls Business Association, Public Health, Healthy Communities Collaborative, Community Development, the Lions and Kiwanis clubs and the Great River Arts Association.

“These people all address housing, jobs, health and fitness, kids, seniors, tourism, arts, trails, schools, downtown, beautification, historic preservation, all with projects,” she said.

Coming together would make those efforts stronger, she said.

“It’s the best time ever to try to accomplish things,” she said.

For more information, call VanRisseghem at (320) 630-9843 or the Little Falls CVB at (320) 616-4959.