…and the Last shall be First.

At least the last person I had expected to be up and at ’em this morning, Paul Niemisto, organizer of the Vintage Band Music Festival, was the first person to arrive at this morning’s Downtown Forum. Yes, as you can tell by my shaky photography, I helped close down the Festival too (the NDDC co-hosted the Opening and Closing Ceremonies with the City of Northfield), and was at the Archer House, setting up the technology, a half hour before Paul and the other attendees arrived.

Actually, it was fitting that Paul was there, participating vigorously. At last night’s closing ceremonies, Paul spoke of the “Third Option” for a cultural symposium. As part of his strategy for making the Band Festival a success, he consciously decided to move beyond the first two options, St. Olaf and Carleton, and hold the activities throughout Northfield, particularly it’s authentic downtown, with its historic river inn, The Archer House, its historic theater, The Grand, and its historic gathering place, Bridge Square, getting maximum leverage from Northfield’s cultural assets.

Unintentionally building on Paul’s remarks, the ArtsPlan’06 consultant, Tom Clough, of Horizon Associates, started his presentation by talking about Quality of Life and Economic Development. He said that increasingly the economic development community talks about the “Recruitability Index”, using the quality of life to attract talented individuals to their communities and then watching these individuals spur economic development. He contrasted competing on the quality of life with competing on price, low taxes and limited regulations, and that said that this approach appears to be more effective in attracting the Creative Class. Tom also pointed out that the Creative Economy is the fastest growing sector, in terms of job creation, of the U. S. economy, suggesting that investments in this area will produce the greatest returns.

Tom, supported by City of Northfield Director of Resource Planning, Howard Merriam, downtown building owner and ArtsPlan’06 Committee member Bart DeMalignon and retired St. Olaf professor and ArtsPlan’06 Committee member Philip Spensley, had so much information, from inteviews with members of the local arts and culture community and arts to arts and economic development research from all around the country, that audience members asked for a follow-up session.

The NDDC is working with the ArtsPlan’06 Committee to set up another session in the near future. In the meantime, you can see materials from their presentation on the City’s website.