Public and private sectors coming together in Blaine

Blaine businesses could already call or email their elected officials, speak during the public forum at a Blaine City Council meeting or stop by Blaine City Hall Tuesday afternoons to visit with Mayor Tom Ryan.

The new Blaine Business Council met for the first time Jan. 23 at the TPC-Twin Cities Golf Course. The group of leaders in the city government, school districts and businesses will meet quarterly to discuss important community topics. Photo submitted

The new Blaine Business Council met for the first time Jan. 23 at the TPC-Twin Cities Golf Course. The group of leaders in the city government, school districts and businesses will meet quarterly to discuss important community topics. Photo submitted

The new Blaine Business Council is a forum where everyone can come together to discuss the pressing issues of the day or contemplate what the big topics in the future may be.

The mission statement reads: “The goal of the business council is to make Blaine a better city by bringing the right people together, to talk about the right topics, and ultimately make better decisions through mutual advocacy, education and information.”

Tom Newland, owner of Blaine-based Allegra Printing and one of the founders of this group, emphasized that “there are no axes to grind at these meetings.”

The first meeting Jan. 23 at the TPC-Twin Cities Golf Club was focused on receiving updates from the city, the superintendents of the three school districts that have schools in Blaine, the National Sports Center, Fogerty Arena, TPC-Twin Cities and Twin Cities Gateway.

There was time to discuss the future of Highway 65 and 109th Avenue intersection and the community center.

Business signage, impacts to properties and routing traffic during and after construction were issues that had to be addressed by the city of Blaine, Anoka County and the Minnesota Department of Transportation when Main Street at Highway 65 became an interchange. Newland said lessons learned from this project could be applied to the Highway 65 and 109th Avenue intersection whenever an interchange project moves forward.

Voters turned down a new city center proposal, which included a community center, in 1998. Local athletic associations are resurrecting this idea, but the city council’s position to date has been to see if a community grassroots efforts takes off before the government gets too involved.

Newland said if the community center discussions pick up, it would be great to have the business community involved in the planning.

“We don’t want the public sector competing with the private sector,” Newland said. “We want them to work hand-in-hand.”

Not a new concept

Chris Hasling, a financial adviser with Northwestern Mutual, brought the Blaine Business Council idea to the MetroNorth Chamber of Commerce after seeing first-hand a similar concept work well for the TwinWest Chamber of Commerce membership in St. Louis Park.

It was through these meetings that St. Louis Park businesses were first able to learn about the Southwest Light Rail line proposal. The annual state of the city address gave them a snapshot of what would be on the city’s radar for the coming year, Hasling said.

Blaine City Manager Clark Arneson hopes the meetings will be more than updates from everyone.

“I hope it evolves more into a strategic discussion on the issues facing businesses,” Arneson said. “The feedback we get is on a specific issue, but what we don’t get back is a lot of feedback on issues the city may not be aware of.”

Business owners do not always have the time to contact public officials. The quarterly meetings of the Blaine Business Council gives businesses a chance to set aside an allocated amount of time to hear directly from city leaders and avoid multiple one-on-one conversations, said Hasling and Newland.

“There’s no other forum for businesses, education and the city (people) to gather and have a productive conversation,” Hasling said.

Newland lives near the Anoka County-Blaine Airport and said a plane was landing as he was being interviewed over the phone. Airport noise and development is always a big issue for Blaine residents and businesses so the Blaine Business Council could hear from the airport’s manager, Joe Harris.

“There’s so much information out there,” Newland said. “People don’t always have the opportunity to ask what’s going on.”

Eric Hagen is at eric.hagen@ecm-inc.com

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