Why Pelican Rapids is a Smart Rural Community
Diverse, connected and small-town proud
It’s not just a farm town, it’s not just a lakes town and it’s not just a place known for tourism and recreation.
Residents of this Otter Tail County community of about 2,500 people will tell you that, if you look, you’ll find a little of all of that in Pelican Rapids. But there’s more to their economically and culturally diverse city than a single identity.
“That is what I think is so unique about Pelican,” says Paula Waller, a lifelong resident and mortgage professional. “We’re a little bit of everything and it all works. It’s pretty wonderful.”
Part farm town, part lakes town and now, a Smart Rural Community.
Pelican Rapids was recently named a 2019 recipient of the Smart Rural Communities Showcase Award by NTCA—The Rural Broadband Association. The award recognizes the city for its work to use advanced broadband technologies for the betterment of economic development and commerce, education, health care, government services, security and energy production.
Arvig nominated Pelican Rapids for the award, but we couldn’t have put together a winning submission without the contributions of local residents.
My colleagues Caitlin Stoecker, Corporate Communications Professional, and Adam Saltmarsh, Videographer, had an opportunity to hear Pelican Rapids’ story first-hand from residents, city leaders and business owners.
Over the course of several months beginning in April, our team put together an in-depth written application and video detailing what makes Pelican Rapids a Smart Rural Community.
Local voices, national recognition
We couldn’t have told the Pelican Rapids story better than the community did. Their voices and efforts earned their community national recognition.
We’d like to thank everyone for their time and contributions to this project—from the phone interviews and emails to the on-camera time and in-person visits. We felt welcomed, but also encouraged to know how you’re using broadband every day to grow, develop, improve and advance an already vibrant community.
“It’s a great, growing community,” Waller told us. “We have no desire to be a large city, but we are always looking for ways to be a better small town. I feel that Pelican Rapids is a Smart Rural Community because we are constantly looking for ways to grow and compete in our area, and yet still remain a small town and keep our same values.”
Pelican Rapids City Administrator Don Solga echoed that sentiment, telling us, “There’s so many people that care so much about this community that they get involved to try and make some type of positive change happen. In my opinion, what makes Pelican Rapids a Smart Rural Community is how we continually have looked at how we can use broadband to make how we do our jobs more efficient and more transparent.
Small, strong, smart
Pelican Rapids showed us that a community doesn’t need a large population to reach the world. All it needs are ambitious and engaged people who actively embrace technology and pursue the possibilities broadband gives them access to.
“I would love to see us be able to stay competitive, and broadband is the key,” Waller said.
High-speed internet has enabled local companies to access national and international customers, created work-from-home opportunities for people who want to stay rooted in the community and gives the city the edge it needs to grow, develop and sustain a competitive economy.
“We feel that (broadband technology) just helps us do what we do to serve our community that much better,” Solga said.
Broadband isn’t just an economic tool. Residents use it to stay connected to friends and family across the world, access social media and entertainment and connect to the same innovations everyone else does. But the best part for them is, they can do it without leaving the place they love.
“Broadband truly is a compliment to everyone’s life here in Pelican Rapids,” Mayor Brent Frazier told us.
Looking to the future
As the city works to grow and develop—attract new residents and businesses—having advanced broadband technology at the ready offers a competitive edge.
For them (prospective businesses and residents) to know that they don’t have to worry about the broadband technology that they need to do their job—that it’s right here—that gives us a leg up,” Solga said.
Arvig and the city have maintained a strong working relationship, which includes meetings to discuss what’s happening—how infrastructure and access are being improved and what new technologies are available.
“It shows that Arvig has an interest in Pelican Rapids as a community,” Frazier said.
Check out Pelican Rapids’ Smart Rural Communities video at Arvig’s Facebook page.
Editor’s note: Boushee is Arvig’s Marketing Content Coordinator.