Downtown is a powerful driver for the Northfield economy. Taken as a single entity, it is one of our largest employers. It is also home to most of the businesses in our community, more than two-thirds of all of the firms in Northfield are located in the downtown.
However, downtown’s contributions to the Northfield economy go beyond the many jobs and business located in our historic central business district. Downtown is one of Northfield’s most powerful assets in attracting new businesses and new residents.
The NDDC Board has conducted monthly business visits for several years. This year they visited Monster Games, Oolala, Community Resource Bank, Aquatic Pets, Fit 2B Tri’d, Mandarin Garden, Life Skills Education, Vivus Architecture/Design, Labor Arbitration Institute, Granite Equity Partners, Ashworth Factory Services, and Premier Bank.
In the course of our business visits, when asked what attracted them to Northfield, almost all of the respondents mentioned the downtown. Along with the good schools, safe neighborhoods, the two colleges, arts, cultural and recreational opportunities, and proximity to the airport, the downtown is near the top of these entrepreneurs’ lists of attractive assets. In fact, several of the business owners said that they’d searched for a location in a fifty-mile radius around the Twin Cities and within minutes of arriving in our downtown, knew that Northfield was the place for them.
Once they’ve opened for business in downtown Northfield, their appreciation and praise gets more specific. They applaud the historic architecture and wild and scenic river. They talk about the “walkability” of the downtown and advocate for more pedestrian-friendliness, bike racks, and increased all-day parking for vehicles. Finally, almost every business owner mentions the number of restaurants, coffeehouses and fine shops as providing a quality atmosphere and experience for their workforce.
Other aspects of the downtown are raised. The river as the perfect site a spontaneous picnic, or just a quiet place to take a mental break, was mentioned by several people. The creative energy that comes from the Arts Guild, Historical Society, and Carnegie Library is often noted. The welcoming nature of people on the streets, for mothers with children, young people, college students, retirees, out-of-town visitors, and people from around the world, is considered uncommon and powerful. Finally, the mix of a cosmopolitan outlook with small town values is something viewed as almost unique to Northfield.
In fact, according to several business owners, the amenities of downtown help their businesses generate visits and/or sales. The district provides an excellent experience for their clients and creates collateral foot-traffic. They noted that some of their customers insist on driving to Northfield for a face-to-face meet just so they can spend a little time in our great downtown.
Based on our interviews with local entrepreneurs, downtown is one of the most important and powerful pieces of the Northfield economy. We believe that the community should recognize its contributions, strengthen its components, and invest in its future.