Northfield’s Economic Development Plan – Retirement Community for Lutheran Ministers


Well, actually that plan was called the “Do Nothing” approach at Thursday’s EDA meeting. I’d call it the “Path of Least Resistance” Plan but I think the EDA members are right, if we do nothing, the retirement community for Lutheran Ministers is probaby our economic future.

The meeting was a progress report on the E. D. Plan by TIP Strategies. TIP is also known as “The Consultants from Texas” and “The Group with the $80,000 Plan”. I blogged about the topic back in July.

TIP pointed out tht there were existing market forces that were creating substantial economic development by creating housing for retired Lutheran Ministers. They suggested that this type of economic growth might not be sustainable or, by itself, desirable.

Dixon Bond shared his concern about depending on this type of approach to economic development. He said, in his opinion, it was not the way to grow the tax base. Mark Moors also had concerns. He said that he believes that our transportation infrastructure is inadequate for our current level of economic development, much less continued growth along those lines. Bill Cowles appeared ready to move beyond the “Do Nothing” approach. He said that he believes that Northfield was experiencing leakage in some service industries and these represent opportunities for economic development.

Among the competitive advantages that TIP cited for Northfield were its highly educated workforce, the education and medical industries and the authentic downtown. If you had heard some of the comments made in the initial sessions, you’d appreciate the irony in the recognition of this third advantage.

As a member of the Planning Commission, I heard a demographic report from another consultant on Tuesday night. There was an element common to both reports that caught my attention. People in the 20 to 30 year-old age group do not want to live in Northfield. The average age a of a Planning Commissioner, an EDA Member, and a hired consultant is probably north of 50. There was much speculation about what caused the outflow of 20 to 30 year-olds.

I’d suggest these folks ask someone in that age group. I have and I know the answer: “It’s boring”. Northfield offers relatively little entertainment for that age group.

We may not be able to turn the tide in this struggle. Small town life is of great appeal to people starting families or retiring Lutheran Ministers but not so much for those aged 20 to 30.

I don’t think we can ignore this group, however. At the very least, they are the entry level workers. But I think that they are much more. I think they are potentially the technical and artistic innovators that can create our economic future.

If TIP is supposed to produce an “Investment Document” for the city, I have a suggestion for them.

Build a Night Club.