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Our Opinion: Keep the momentum going for downtown Brainerd

It's unfortunate that Brainerd did not make it to the final five cities in the $500,000 Small Business Revolution contest.

That news early Tuesday morning was a disappointment for sure, but the months-long process of that contest also reaffirmed the enthusiasm that exists—an enthusiasm that hasn't been seen in decades—for downtown Brainerd.

Brainerd's Top 10 achievement out of thousands of cities nominated in the contest was just one part of a yearlong groundswell that has turned the narrative around for downtown Brainerd. What's happening downtown is now a source of pride for the city and the area.

The turning point started with reinvestment and renovation by property and business owners downtown, a theme that continues today. More steam was gained with the Destination Downtown business challenge last year, which was won by Brenda Billman-Arndt's Purple Fern Bath Company. The other two finalists in that contest also said they'd be locating downtown.

And now, with the Small Business Revolution contest in the rearview mirror, attention will turn toward the River to Rail Initiative. That initiative will be looking at the potential for trails, pedestrians, living space, and business investment in downtown Brainerd and linking the Mississippi River and the Northern Pacific Center.

Add it all up, and it's an incredible turnaround from just a few years ago and shows what can happen when a community puts its collective weight and determination behind something. There's an upward trend in community pride and attitude. It's refreshing to see and we hope it continues.

Up next will be a community update and brainstorming session. The event — dubbed #MyBrainerd Rally-River to Rail — is planned from 5-8 p.m. Feb. 26 at the Luminary Fern event space at the Northern Pacific Center.

Brainerd couldn't have done more to make its case to win the Small Business Revolution. But there is still more we, as a community, can do. We can now take that enthusiasm and keep pushing forward.

Brainerd Lakes Chamber of Commerce President Matt Kilian was right—it was nice to see the community rally around a good cause. And based on what's been happening in downtown Brainerd, the future looks bright for such endeavors. Keep it going, Brainerd.

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