No story is an island.
Rather, each is part of an archipelago of ideas, issues and facts. Some might be small and isolated, like the Azores. Others might the Malay Archipelago. Honestly, it is difficult to explain how one action or one event might impact all the other related issues around it.
This is the challenge I faced this week when writing about a new apartment building.
Win-win in Zumbrota
On the surface, the story is about the city and a developer working together to get a 57-unit, $8 million apartment building project off the ground.
Some folks, we'll call them Libertarians, would probably ask why a city is working so hard to make a private deal happen. Well, that's part of the archipelago.
So, yes, when this deal is done, Keller/Baartman Properties, the developer, will own this building and make money off the rent being charged. But the city has a stake in this as well.
Cities need amenities, and included in that are things like grocery stores, pharmacies, restaurants and retail shops. Now you might say these are just other private businesses, and that's true, but a city the size of Zumbrota is always concerned about keeping these businesses.
So, really, a story about an apartment complex is really also about economic development, quality of life, small businesses, and – since the city is involved – local government.
Grocery store example
A few years ago, I wrote a series of stories about grocery stores in small towns.
- Where does rural Minnesota get its groceries?
- 'We have to go there for more than milk or bread': How cities can keep small grocers in business
- 5 spaghetti dinners bought and made in small towns
If a small town doesn't have a grocery store – at the time, Byron didn't have one and Eyota had been in danger of losing its grocer – it can start th exodus of other things. First, the town becomes less attractive to homebuyers, so development dries up a bit. If there's no development, the school system might see its enrollment plummet.
So, how do you keep your small-town grocer? Well, one option is to build a 57-unit apartment complex across the street from the grocery store.
Building a better community
On Wednesday, I stopped in Winona where the Habitat for Humanity Winona-Fillmore Counties folks were busy working on a new home for a family.
To be more precise: Students from the construction technologies program at Minnesota State College Southeast were busy framing the house for the family as part of their lab work in the education program.
John Corcoran, the construction manager for Habitat in Winona and Fillmore counties, said the partnership is a win for the nonprofit and for the school and its students.
The students get hands-on, fingernails-dirty experience that goes atop their resumes, and the nonprofit gets a helping hand and something of a jumpstart on the house they're building.
Corcoran said the partnership is such a benefit for Habitat that the organization may look into doing two houses a year instead of one.
Like the apartment story, the Habitat tale talks about education, a nonprofit organization and, of course, a family getting a home.
A good story is something for everyone, at least if I'm building them right.
Regional Reporter Brian Todd covers Goodhue, Wabasha, Winona and Houston counties along with some cities in Olmsted County. In the After Deadline column every Thursday, he shares behind-the-scenes tales from the newsroom.