Despite downturn, local businesses thrive together

Guest Column
By Steve M. Albers

There is no doubt. The real estate market and economic downturn have impacted all of us. Regardless, much like every action must foster a reaction, so must every challenge make way for at least one planned accomplishment. And, often times, a couple of positive surprises are to follow as well.

So, rather than focusing on all of the uncertainty throughout the world, in our economy, political landscape, federal reserve policies, cultural unrest, and yada, yada, yada, I thought I’d share with you some of the accomplishments that have taken place right here in our little gem of a community.

First though, in keeping with our theme, every challenge must make way for an accomplishment, please allow me a moment to reflect…no… embrace the preverbal elephant in the room.

Billy’s, Burger King, Kenny’s, and others, are all distant memories; each with its own story. Perhaps, each holds its regrets. Whether you’re a citizen, city official, educator, or business owner, we all feel the sting. We all feel the anxiety. We all ask the questions. As business owners we well know that we are all interconnected. What affects one, will, no doubt affect many. For every challenge an accomplishment awaits.

So, in 2010 we set out to do all we could to help our community post a few accomplishments in lieu of challenges, with a few extra on top. Our first step was to evaluate what we were doing well and what we could do improve upon.

Area businesses owners were focused and working hard to succeed. The Orono School District was reaping the rewards of their hard work and commitment to their Character Counts Program. St. George continued to display consistency of excellence in hosting the annual Corn Days event. Every year The Lions, with their Snow Ball Open, remind us that winter can be fun too! Our city officials continued to work hard on our behalf to keep our parks vibrant, streets safe, and budget inline.

With all of these positives what more could we do? Well, after speaking to many residents, community leaders, and representatives of these various affiliations, we uncovered two reoccurring themes. First, many ideas were shared. Second, we were often faced with the same comment, "Wow, we should have worked together on that!" That was it. It was time to work together!

So, with the help of C.E.L., a local public relations firm, the Long Lake Area Chamber Of Commerce developed a new "brand;" both visual and written. Our written theme is, "Making Life Better Together." The city of Long Lake demonstrated immediate support by adopting their own version of our logo and brandishing these same words. We launched the brand at Corn Days in 2010.

In 2011 we set out to support our theme with some serious action. Go big or go home, right! SummerFest started as, what some would coin, a grandiose vision that would reach beyond achievement in such a short time. Too often we heard the same words, "Don’t you think that’s too much?" "Maybe you guys should start small?" "Hogwash!" Is that really a word? I digress. Eight weeks to bring a vision to fruition…permits, vendors, entertainment, volunteers, police patrol, partnerships, and money! One of the best decisions I have made since joining the Chamber Board of Directors was asking Kris Rudd and Kelly Parrott to co-chair our inaugural SummerFest.

With their leadership and tireless efforts, Kris, Kelly, and their many partners, started what is sure to be a long-lived tradition of Making Life Better Together. SummerFest 2012 is right around the corner, beginning on June 19 and ending on Big Bang Saturday June 23. Feature events include live music from "Red Dot Garage," numerous gourmet food tents, movie-in-the-park, and a water ski show capped with a spectacular fireworks display. You’ll find the complete schedule of events at

In short, I have absolute confidence in our direction, our talent, and our commitment. The real estate market is picking up. The economy will rebound. Our community will thrive… together.

Albers is the 2012 president of the Long Lake Area Chamber Of Commerce