We have strong pockets of entrepreneurship in southeast Minnesota that are making a real impact on their communities. A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to visit Blooming Prairie, a small town about forty miles southwest of Rochester. This town is dominated by locally grown businesses that serve as a cornerstone for the community, not only creating jobs that may not have existed otherwise, but enriching the community and inspiring innovation.
While manufacturing rules the employment scene, Blooming Prairie has a pretty well-rounded business ecosystem. And most of these businesses were started by people born and raised in Blooming Prairie. Of the three largest manufacturing employers in town- Minimizer, Tandem Products, and Arkema- only the latter was not founded by a Blooming Prairie resident. Emerging manufacturers, like Smooth Move Seats and Heavy Metal, were started by Blooming Prairie entrepreneurs. Non-manufacturing businesses built in Blooming Prairie, like Extreme Powder Coating and Sportstitch, round out the scene creating a strong, Blooming Prairie grown business base.
Entrepreneurship must be in the water.
One reason for the success of Blooming Prairie born-and-bred businesses may be due to a strong, hardworking workforce explained Luke Swenson, President of the Blooming Prairie Chamber of Commerce. The town serves as an employment hub for the surrounding communities in Steele and Mower counties and draws employees in from as far away as Rochester, Mankato, and even Eden Prairie.
“We’re doing something right, I think, in Blooming Prairie,” explained Luke.
The Chamber of Commerce itself plays a role in the business success of the town. The Blooming Prairie Chamber of Commerce has 140 members from the town and areas that service Blooming Prairie like Owatonna, Austin, Geneva, and Ellendale. Workforce development is one major push for the Chamber, helping to address one of the largest issues in Blooming Prairie.
The Chamber also supports and runs several community events to engage and encourage interactions between business leaders and help to attract and keep high quality workers in the region. Their most popular event is an Old Fashioned Fourth of July, which attracts over 30,000 people to Blooming Prairie every year. The Holiday Dazzle is the next event on the docket on December 2nd. This festival will take place along Main Street and includes displays from local businesses and games for children.
Blooming Prairie is a unique place both to live and to do business. The town has a well-rounded business community with a mix of both young and more mature companies that collaborate and support each other, a hard find these days. The Chamber itself is progressive and “understands that what’s good for the community is good for the businesses in the community,” explained Luke.
While Blooming Prairie continues to draw in workers, it still maintains a small town feel.
“We’re not a bedroom community. A lot of the smaller communities surrounding Rochester and Mankato have turned into bedroom communities, where a lot of people don’t even know their neighbors. Everybody [in Blooming Prairie] knows everybody, so it’s easy to do business with each other,” said Luke.