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Friday, June 12, 2009

New Volga Mayor Accepts "Bedroom Community" Status

Jill Fier at the Brookings Register gives good press to Mary Bjerke, the first female mayor of Volga and perhaps the first female city exec in the history of Brookings County. Of course, she's not the first elected mayor: she was the only person to take out a petition this spring. By Bjerke's recollection, Volga hasn't had enough interest to spark a municipal election since the early 1990s. Ah, small-town government....

Bjerke is a realist about Volga's relationship with Brookings:

The mayor called Volga's proximity to Brookings a good thing, and says the city has a partnership with the Brookings Economic Development Corporation. "They're doing what they can to bring in industry. As a smaller community , we don't have anyone on staff for that. So we can form these partnerships with Brookings, and it's a win-win for both of us."

She said the six-mile drive to the east is an easy one when residents need something that can't be found in Volga.

"It doesn't help our retail, and I think Volga, over the past few years, has come to realize that. We're not going to have a big retail sector.

"We are a bedroom community, and that's OK. Our strength lies in residences. Our housing continues to grow. People like to live here not only because it's a great community and it's quiet and well kept, but we have a great school system" [Jill Fier,"A First Time for Everything," Brookings Register, 2009.06.10].

Being a bedroom community may be "OK," if it's the best you can do. And one can do a lot worse than being one of Brookings's nice quiet neighborhoods... even if your neighborhood is separated from the other neighborhoods by six miles.

Still, it's important to remember that "bedroom community" is, at some level, an oxymoron. A town perhaps cannot afford to do and be all things when the jobs and shops of Brookings are less than ten minutes away. It's o.k. to take what you can get, but it never hurts to aim higher. Why not build retail in Volga? Remember, Highway 14 runs both ways. For years, Volga's gas stations have carved a healthy niche in the market by consistently lowballing the pump prices of whatever cartel inflates gas prices in Brookings. Surely other entrepreneurs could identify niches where they could compete with Brookings prices or even provide goods and services that Brookings doesn't. Volga does it now with gas and housing, so where else could Volga succeed? Maybe build complements to the market Schadé Vineyard draws? Build more recreational sales to fit marketing as "Gateway to Oakwood Lakes"? There are always possibilities!

Good luck as mayor, Mrs. Bjerke. And don't you and Volga be afraid to think big!

1 comment:

  1. She may be right on, but it does make you wonder why they couldn't attract an employer since they are so close to Brookings. Often I wish Madison was closer to Sioux Falls.


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