Craig Lindvahl, executive director of the Midland Institute for Entrepreneurship in Illinois, speaks Tuesday at the auditorium on the MinnWest Technology Campus in Willmar.
encouraged audience members to find the spark that can make their community a boomtown.
Rand Middleton/Forum News Service
WILLMAR - A small town in Illinois that expanded its infrastructure to the nearby interstate highway is earning six times the revenue of the sister city on the other side of the interstate that did not expand its infrastructure.
Participants attending a discussion on how small towns can use their resources to attract new businesses were told Tuesday morning that the project was controversial at the time.
But the city is reaping the reward of those who had the entrepreneurial vision to take advantage of a situation and make things better in their community, said Craig Lindvahl, a former teacher, a filmmaker, author and executive director of the Midland Institute for Entrepreneurship in Illinois.
spoke Tuesday morning at the MinnWest Technology Campus auditorium in Willmar to 60 business and government leaders, along with 17 area high school students who are participating in an entrepreneurship program.
The "Boomtown USA" discussion of community development was organized by the Willmar Lakes Area Vision 2040 collaborative effort.
discussed using local resources and engaging younger people in the business community.
His discussion was based on two books: "Boomtown USA: The 7 1/2 Keys to Big Success in Small Towns," by Jack Schultz, and "The Things You Wish You Knew Yesterday," by Lindvahl
own hometown of Effingham in south central, Illinois, Lindvahl
said visionaries promoted the idea of constructing a lake, which was named Lake Sarah, because that area of the state is not blessed with many lakes like Minnesota.
The project was controversial and some of the "backward thinkers" didn't think this was such a good idea, Lindvahl
"It was too much money, it was too much effort.
But now it's grown its own cottage industry around the lake.
It's made our town a very attractive town for new business, for people to retire in and move in," he
talked about individuals who pursued a vision that eventually became a major business or led to business expansion in their towns.
In an interview, Lindvahl
said it's important to have buy-in from all major stakeholders, such as local government.
"However, there are times when you have to do disruptive things.
You want a buy-in.
But sometimes if it's the right thing, you have to have the vision and the fortitude to just get it done,'' he
"When you have the opportunity to think about your community in a new way, and not just think about 'I wish this was better or I don't like this,' you get sort of immune and blind to the best things about your community sometimes,'' Lindvahl
"Having somebody from the outside come in and just trigger those thoughts about, 'Wait a minute: We've got this and we've got that.
We've got this wonderful thing and that wonderful thing,' we can leverage those things and maybe build industry or build business that we haven't built before.
We can appreciate who we are and really value what a great community we live in," he
Besides discussing keys to small-town success, Lindvahl
explained the entrepreneurship program he
founded for students interested in business or starting their own businesses called Creating Entrepreneurial Opportunities.
said students learn to think and learn to view the world like entrepreneurs.
said entrepreneurship is not a collection of business skills and knowledge.
said the class never meets in a school, but always meets in a business.