Ice Cream Social Indeed

The other night I had a special opportunity accept recognition on behalf of my late mother. The Annandale Ambassador program dedicated their new podium to my mother, Janet Nelson. It was also pretty cool for my candidate daughter, Abigail, to see how cool her grandmother really was. My family and I are very honored and I happy that my mother’s 4th of July spirit lives on. Below is my speech for the evening.

Thank you. My name is Dewey Gunnarson. I am the founder of ThinkUp Technologies. I am also the son of Janet Nelson.

We at, ThinkUp Technologies, invent, design, build, sell, and service web-application tools to specific industries throughout the nation. We are essentially modern day technology tool makers for common businesses.

Our first product, Contractor’s Cloud, is a web-application designed specifically for roofing companies and allows them to manage their entire business from scheduling sales appointments, estimating, invoicing, production scheduling, and much more. Parade Cloud, another product of ours, is the world’s first and only online management tool that helps organize parades. In fact, for the past 6 years, Parade Cloud has been used to help us organize our own 4th of July parade here in Annandale. Finally, we also created our own online e-signature app called Signeato. Signeato allows you to upload a pdf document and send for signatures to anyone around the world.

Being involved in an internet company, requires a lot of creative talent and thinking. It’s a daily routine of ThinkingUp solutions for complicated problems and puzzles with computer code and do it in a way where the end user experiences a function that is stupid easy and effortless while looking poised and classy.

Having said that, our name ThinkUp Technologies is a fitting name for what we do and ThinkUp comes directly from my mother Jan and her involvement with this Ambassador Program.

You see, my mother was an Annandale Princess in 1960. And for many years after, she was the etiquette coach for the ambassador program. She taught the candidates how to properly sit, stand, walk, talk, and waive. In her lifetime, she inspired and instilled self improvement, class, and confidence upon hundreds of young women.

In fact, one of the lessons she taught, has really stuck with me. She would tell the candidates at the time, whenever you feel nervous, stressed, or feel like you are going to lose total control of the moment, all you need to do is “Think Up”. By merely thinking up, your spine straightens, your chin rises, and your breathing regulates to allow more oxygen to the brain. Essentially, the act of “ThinkingUp” provides an instant jolt of confidence that is the first step in overcoming any challenge.

Since overcoming daily challenges is what we do, ThinkUp is a fitting name for our company. Thanks Mom.

On behalf of my family, I want to thank the committee for the recognition and podium dedication. Even though she recently passed, my mother Jan, loves this program tremendously and is proud of all of the candidates for taking a risk, and is proud of our current and past royalty for Thinking Up… and being amazing ambassadors of Annandale.

Chili Chili Chili

My goal this year was to visit all of the contestants participating in the Annandale Area Chamber of Commerce Chili Cook-Off held on the Saturday prior to Memorial Day.

I took my youngest daughter, Madelyn, out for the first shift and we tried 8 chilies. She got full, so I brought her home and took out my oldest daughter, Abigail for round 2.

Sad to say, we failed to try all of the entries. But we had a blast visiting all of the businesses and tasting all of the amazing recipes.

Great job to all of the participants and the Chamber for another successful event that promotes our wonderful city.

 

Downtown Renovation Open House

It was a good turn out at the Downtown Renovation Open House last night. It appears there was a consensus on what the businesses and the public would like to see for the downtown. This includes interest in possibly removing the canopy system and incorporating a decorative awning system, trees and shrubs, street furniture, decorative pavement, additional signage opportunities, and other amenities. These are all great ideas. I believe the steering committee has a clear direction to work towards.

Based off of the discussions, some businesses want a grand theme and complete overhaul and some businesses want nothing to be done and to be left alone. I believe the correct solution is somewhere in the middle.

Whatever the final solution is, the final goal is clear. We need to work towards keeping our downtown iconic in look and feel while creating an amazing and pleasant environment for the businesses to grow and thrive.

So, that’s what we are going to do. Wish us luck!

You’re on the Right Track, Annandale

During our downtown discussions over the past few years, many residents and business owners expressed to us that Annandale needs to become the next Nisswa. Therefore, on May 11th, the Annandale Area Chamber of Commerce hosted a tour of Annandale and round table discussion which included the chamber presidents from Nisswa, Detroit Lakes, and Fergus Falls.

For almost 3-hours, we discussed the importance of an active chamber and how to sustain great events. Since all three communities have gone through major downtown reconstruction, we discussed strategies, designs, and lessons learned by them during such a sensitive project. We discussed how to market your community and why it is so important to have an active and engaged chamber. Finally, we discussed what Annandale can do to improve our community and our local business climate.

Even though they provided some great information, our guests from those communities all agree that we are on the right track to achieving our goals. Great job to the Chamber, the businesses, service organizations, schools, and residents for making Annandale more amazing each and every day.

 

 

Time to Make Memories

Hey Annandale,

You know those really cool old pictures of downtown Annandale that are hanging up in various places? Well, this is the time for you to take those pictures now for future walls to adorn.

After 2 years of dreaming, discussing, meeting, and planning, we are now starting the process of working out the details of a new downtown plan. I’m really liking the direction we’re going with this and by the sounds of it, so are you.

However, there are going to be numerous implementation and construction challenges to overcome and our downtown businesses are going to be on the front lines. We’re going to do our best to make it business as usual, but our downtown is going to need our support more than ever.

Therefore, it’s important you take some extra time to rediscover and support our downtown while we embark on a transformation from something tired to being “the place to be”.

I ask that you kindly shop our downtown stores, buy a cold drink, have a bite to eat, get a haircut, check out a book, sign up for something, or just come down to meet some really cool people and chit-chat with fellow citizens.

Make some downtown memories today, so a few years from now while you’re enjoying an amazing new downtown experience, you can remember how things used to be.

Shop Local.

All City Get Out and Buy Stuff

What a great first weekend of May. The traditional all-city garage sale, sponsored by the Annandale Area Chamber of Commerce, occurred and it proved to be a tremendous value for our city. It not only draws hundreds of people to our community to spend money, but creates an environment for families and friends to spend time together. It’s on opportunity for one person’s junk to become another’s treasure. Garage sales are a pure American past time and no one does it better than Annandale. Great job!

Roads of the Future???

In 2005, the City of Annandale identified that some day, we need an additional east-west connection between County Rd 5 and Highway 55.

Our growth is going to continue to the south and southwest. Over time this will add additional traffic to our single stop-light intersection. If we don’t start planning for another route, these intersections will be super annoying and less safe. In addition, we are running out of room in our business park at the east end of town. This east-west connection could be an opportunity in spurring additional industrial growth south of the current business park across Highway 55. We are currently working with the land owner to see if there is an opportunity here.

Also, with the addition of our recreational park, it makes sense to some day extend Norway Drive north from Little Jim’s north to the recreational park. This creates better traffic flow, better watermain looping, additional trail connections, and opens those areas up for additional future development.

Right now these are just good ideas. We’ll see what happens.

Time is Right for Annandale

We have recently finalized the new concept plan for downtown Annandale. It is the document that highlights our quest to provide solutions for helping create an exciting downtown that promotes a positive business environment and a flurry of positive activity while looking and feeling amazing.

Why this is important

One of the biggest things a small town gets judged on is the look, feel, and viability of its downtown. A downtown that looks great and has a ton of activity is naturally more appealing and interesting. It shows the town has something to offer other than being a bedroom community. It spurs economic activity. It shows strength. It shows unity. It gives us pride as community members.

Having a great looking and functional downtown is an important tool in providing a nicer place to live, work, and play. Every day, we are in competition with neighboring communities. Great people and businesses that are on the move are going to reside somewhere. They have many choices within the area. Attracting new residents and businesses into our community is vital to the health of our local economy, schools, and organizations. Fortunately, we already have a viable downtown and that gives us an advantage that most small towns don’t have.

However, our unique canopy system is showing major signs of distress. They’re becoming an eyesore and a hazard. Our downtown businesses and property owners are wanting and needing a better environment that provides more opportunity. Our parking within the area is starting to show signs of inadequacy. Finally, we have some major infrastructure challenges that need to be addressed sooner than later. This includes our sewer and water utilities that are a hundred years old and our sidewalks which are not ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) compliant with the upcoming MnDot resurfacing of Oak and Park Streets in 2020.

Our downtown has a number of challenges and now is the time to confront them.

What is being done

For the past couple of years, groups of volunteers, business owners and leaders, residents, benefactors and the city council have been intensely working on solutions for the issues mentioned above.

Last spring, we conducted a public meeting for all businesses and residents interested in what can be done with downtown. We gathered valuable input which set the direction of where we needed to go with a concept.

Since then, we’ve assessed deficiencies, needs, and wants. We’ve asked questions, developed ideas, combined similar thoughts, and discussed differences. We’ve studied our downtown’s history while learning about modern design and logistics. We’ve worked with planners, architects, engineers and all governing agencies who have helped us transform our efforts into a workable concept.

Today, the concept plan is now complete and now it’s time to move forward.

What we know for sure

Whether a downtown revitalization project materializes or not, MnDot will be rebuilding Oak Avenue and Park Street in 2020. They will be resurfacing the streets and installing new curb, gutter, and sidewalk. This is a unique opportunity to combine projects and share costs.

The canopies will have to be removed in order to meet MnDot design standards, satisfy the mandated ADA regulations, and provide the downtown businesses greater opportunity for front-walk utilization, signage, and facade aesthetics. In fact, a few of the canopies will be removed this Spring due to safety and code issues.

It is the desire to install decorative sidewalks with bump outs, decorative crosswalks, landscaping, and other structural amenities. This will provide a more open street corridor which improves and attracts pedestrian traffic.

There is a general desire to continue the unique benefit of a themed and cohesive downtown similar to what the canopies have provided over the past 40-years. Therefore, we are proposing a decorative awning system that will provide the business owners a more attractive and lower cost alternative in which they have more control in implementing and maintaining.

Even though we have conducted an immense amount research, the exact detailed design components, construction materials to be used, costs, and timelines will not be available until the Fall of 2018. We are merely in the concept phase at this time.

What happens next

Before we can consider this an official project we need to all feel good about the concept and the direction we are going. Therefore, over the next few weeks, we will be presenting, educating, and promoting the concept via various formats mentioned below.

  • 7pm, Wednesday, April 11, 2018 (City Hall) – Presentation of Concept Plan to Downtown Business and Property Owners Only.
  • Saturday, April 14 (Annandale High School) – Concept to be displayed at the Annandale Expo at the City of Annandale booth.
  • 6pm, Tuesday, May 1, 2018 – MnDot Open House on 2020 Street Project for the general public. This meeting will focus more on MnDot’s proposed street project and less on the downtown canopies, awnings, and streetscape.
  • 7pm, Monday, May 7, 2018 – Presentation of Concept Plan to City Council and general public.

Once the concept plan is approved, the city council can start the implementation phase. This includes prioritizing design components and amenities based on value and cost, finalizing what infrastructure needs to be repaired or replaced, prepare plans and specifications, research funding sources, determine actual costs to all involved, develop construction timelines, and develop phasing plans to lower the impact on the downtown businesses and residents.

When the detailed designs are completed, costs are calculated, and timelines estimated there will be additional public hearings and meetings the Summer and Fall of 2018 before this project is considered by the city council.

In Conclusion

A tremendous amount of input, time, and work has been performed by a great deal of amazing people to provide a solution and we all understand this is an exciting, yet sensitive, project. It affects a great deal of hard working people. But one thing is clear, this project needs to occur in order for Annandale to remain relevant over the coming decades.

 

Hello 2018!

Brrrrrrrr. Another cold New Year’s Eve at the annual Annandale New Year’s Eve ball drop. Great job to Vicki Morgan and the group for bringing a little New York to Annandale.

Train Keeps Rollin’

I’d like to extend a sincere thank you to the CP Rail Holiday Train for coming to Annandale for yet another year. They do an amazing job for communities and food shelves around the holidays.

Also, great job Annandale Food Shelf for being so well run and for helping us understand that we still have people within our community that need our help.

Great job.