A lot of people have been putting a lot of energy into a vision for downtown Sleepy Eye.

A lot of people have been putting a lot of energy into a vision for downtown Sleepy Eye. And, I suppose, there are people who are skeptical that anything can be done. They might even be actively skeptical. What do I mean by that?

I read several area newspapers, including the Redwood Gazette—our sister newspaper in Redwood Falls. Last week’s Gazette had an opinion piece written by Mayor Corey Theis. Redwood Falls has several big projects to tackle, just like all small towns, just like Sleepy Eye. Theis wrote something that I think says it all: “Are you an energy giver or energy taker?”

I am an optimist about Sleepy Eye’s future. I see young business people investing in our town and bringing the energy of their ideas and their busy young families.

Our EDA is concentrating their efforts on helping interested people invest in the revitalization of our downtown. I visited with EDA Coordinator Kurk Kramer before writing the front page article about consultant Ron Drake’s visit to Sleepy Eye.

Kurk told me what his answer is to those who are skeptics about development in Sleepy Eye. “Look at the water park, the bike trail, the Snow Farm development, the hotel renovation and the new Event Center. The skeptics didn’t support those projects.” Kurk has a great attitude about the development of Sleepy Eye. He doesn’t let skepticism get him down. He realizes it is a part of human nature. He knows the end result of successful projects will change minds. (Or, should change minds anyway.)

I visited with Sara Hunter also. Sara and her husband David own Prairie Pizza and Buffet—currently closed and undergoing its own revitalization (they hope to re-open in May, with a whole new look.) Sara’s been involved with the Downtown District Committee. After Kurk shared Ron Drake’s book with them, Sara was inspired to contact Drake and start talking about Sleepy Eye. Her effort to reach out and learn led to Drake’s upcoming visit to Sleepy Eye. Sara is very excited and encourages people to attend the April 11 presentation.

Through her conversations with Drake, Sara said she’s developed a network of connections in other towns where Drake has worked—people who can give us advice, tell us how it worked in their town, people who understand.

Sara also has some advice, advice that anyone involved in building restoration would agree with. “It doesn’t happen overnight. It will take years.”

We shouldn’t expect the buildings in downtown Sleepy Eye to get all fixed up and fill with businesses in a short time period. It starts with a project or two (expect to see action at the Pix Theater building soon) and grows as people with dreams and plans see it can be done.

Sleepy Eye is a wonderful small town. We have great schools, many job opportunities, excellent established businesses, recreation for young and old, and a lot of people who share an optimistic vision of the future—a future that can include a spiffy downtown, bustling with activity.