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Paynesville, Minn., businesses look to take a proactive approach

PAYNESVILLE -- Downtown Paynesville businesses that have had thousands of vehicles drive by their front doors every day on state Highway 23 are not leaving their future to chance when the new four-lane bypass opens in a couple weeks.

The community is taking a proactive attitude to make sure people still come downtown, Renee Eckerly, Paynesville city administrator, said.

"I think it's a positive attitude," she said. "Let's make the best of it. It's an opportunity to benefit the city."

Business and community leaders began meeting this spring to come up with creative and coordinated efforts, including "flooding the Internet" to draw drivers downtown, she said.

Plans are in the works to develop Internet links and interactive maps to local businesses that will be easily accessed on mobile phones and GPS devises as people drive through the area. The city hopes to recruit Paynesville High School students to help small business owners with the technology side of the plan.

They'll like to put local trails, like biking and hiking paths and snowmobile trails, on the Internet to help lure tourists.

Because the heavy truck traffic will no longer be moving through downtown there will be more "freedom of movement" for walkers and bicyclists that the city hopes to take advantage of, Mayor Jeff Thompson said.

A website, is in the process of being developed and should be on-line in the next week or two, Eckerly said.

Volunteers will be put to work to develop new, seasonal community events, like a boat parade in the summer and a fall harvest festival, that will give people a reason to get off the bypass and come to town, Eckerly said.

She said landscaping and eye-catching signs will be used to attract people downtown and the city is in discussions with the Minnesota Department of Transportation to develop a new way-side rest on the east end of the bypass where the local Chamber of Commerce could also have a small office and provide tourist and business information to travelers.

Because so many businesses have the Highway 23 address, the city has gotten the OK to rename the old Highway 23 route through town "Business 23."

Carolyn Lange

A reporter for more than 30 years, Carolyn Lange covers regional news with the West Central Tribune.

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