Weather Forecast


Focus 2013: Rising to the Challenge

Across the board, a changing economy and changing demographics are impacting the way we live — from government, medical and educational services to the way we do business and even to the way we live our everyday lives.

We are constantly being challenged to come up with new ways of doing things and new ways of stretching the dollar, whether in our personal lives or in our professional lives. Everyone is being challenged to “do more with less,” and the way people in west central Minnesota are meeting those challenges is the focus of our special edition inside today’s West Central Tribune: “Rising to the Challenge.” (Look for three additional sections D, E & F.)

Economically, the west central Minnesota region continues to rebound from the recession that began in 2007. The recession affected nearly every job industry, from manufacturing to health to entrepreneurship.

A major strength in the region’s economy is agriculture.

In Minnesota, the agriculture industry accounts for about $16 billion of state revenue. There’s a high demand for ag workers, but if you want to become a farmer, take note: Data show that today’s farmers need significant acreage and nearly $120,000 annual income to pay the costs for an average family.

On a local government level, Minnesota has long been known as a national leader in innovative public service delivery because local leaders have been willing to work together across geographic areas and jurisdictions to find the best possible solutions for citizens.

Today, the state is facing a “new normal’’ as a number of circumstances are calling local units of government to innovate again as the population increasingly ages and the work force changes.

In Minnesota, aging is the dominant demographic trend. In the next 25 years, the number of Minnesotans over the age of 65 will more than double as the baby boomer generation retires.

Boomers want to be active in their retirement, whether that means volunteering, focusing on personal fitness or picking up a new hobby. Attributes such as these will challenge the region to offer the types of programming that will attract retired boomers. Some organizations, such as Bethesda in Willmar, have already begun to address the need for services tailored to older adults.

While the baby boomers look to retirement, the younger generations hope to make their mark on the region. They are increasingly looking to assume positions as local elected officials, active community volunteers and leaders in their career field. In the near future, they will present west central Minnesota with new opportunities and new challenges as they replace retiring boomer workers and volunteers.

Diversity also continues to grow throughout the region. In Willmar, you don’t have to look further than the variety of ethnic businesses downtown or the makeup of the school district to see this trend firsthand. About 44 percent of the district’s students now come from ethnic or racial minority groups.

These are just a few of the many ways the region has changed over time and in more recent years. Join us as we take a look at some of the ways the residents of west central Minnesota are “Rising to the Challenge” of a changing economy and the changing demographics.