Kal Wysokowski

Episode 55: Giving Your Destination a Sense of Place, with Kal Wysokowski

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In this episode, you will learn about ways to grow economic development and give a destination a sense of place that thrills residents and visitors alike.

Kal Wysokowski is president of the Canal Society of New York State, Commissioner for the New York State Canal Corporation, and Commissioner for the Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor.

With all of those volunteer roles, Kal still has time for her day job as Director of Grants Development at the Finger Lakes Community College. Kal was previously the Executive Director of the Fairport IDA and Office of Community and Economic Development, and prior to that, she was the director of the Fairport Village Partnership and Economic Development Program she helped to launch, which is modeled after the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s highly successful Main Street Program.

Before moving to the Rochester area, Kal was Vice President for Marketing and Development for Tompkins County Area Development in the Tompkins County Industrial Development Agency in Ithaca, New York. She also worked as director of community relations and development for Family and Children’s Service of Ithaca and the Ithaca College Office of Admissions.

Kal graduated from Ithaca College’s School of Communication with a Bachelor’s Degree in Corporate Communication and earned a Master’s Degree from Binghamton University. She has been a guest lecturer at the Roy Park School of Communications at Ithaca College and a guest speaker and facilitator for the Excellence, a nonprofit leadership and management series for the Learning Institute for Nonprofit Organizations and PBS.

In addition, she has been a presenter at the World Canals Conference, the New York State Canal Conference, the Western New York Landmarks Societies, Preservation Workshop, Design Matters, strengthening city and village centers for the Reshaping Rochester series, served as the chairman for the New York State Canal Conference in addition to numerous business and community lectures on downtown revitalization and business development.


More on Kal’s Background

Thank you for joining me, Kal.

Thanks for having me. It’s a pleasure.

I know listening to your own bio sometimes is really interesting, right, and a little bit surreal.

Mm-hmm, that’s correct.

I’m really excited though to have this conversation with you today and to learn from your insights, this whole connection to economic development and the tourism industry, and how your past has brought you here, but before we get started, could you share with our listeners in your own words a little bit more about your background and your journey?

Sure, I’d be happy to. It’s a pleasure to be here and to talk about things that I value highly. One, economic development. Two, hospitality and tourism. I’m fortunate to live in a beautiful part of the country, the Finger Lakes region. I was born and raised in Trenton, New Jersey and Philadelphia. I went to high school there. I went to college at Ithaca and just fell in love with this area. I was a major in communications and enjoyed myself so much in Ithaca that I stayed there for decades and found some really, really good opportunities in terms of moving forward.

I didn’t want to go into broadcast news. That was just a little bit too competitive. I didn’t want to live in a big city, so I chose corporate communication. My journey has been very interesting from that point on, working in economic development in Tompkins County. It’s a beautiful place. It’s right at the base of Cayuga Lake. It really started to open up my eyes about the possibilities of what a downtown could be and how folks could be attracted to a small community like Ithaca, a quirky little community.

The intertwining of hospitality and economic development started there and then continued after I left and came to Fairport, which is a canal community located about 20 miles south of Rochester. I worked really hard for about 17 years in Fairport. Again, I was trying to connect tourism and downtown revitalization, and I learned a lot along the way about good design, designing a public realm, visitor services, recreation, what you need to do to entice people to come. It’s a very competitive area. Visitors have lots of choices of places to go, and how do you get somebody to choose to come to where you are? It’s been an interesting journey, and I’ve learned a lot.

That’s incredible, and I’m imagining because of your connection to the canal in Fairport being a canal community that that’s what led you to these various canal roles that you now play.

That’s correct. I got bit. I got bit. It’s really hard to not love the waterway — the Erie Canal. Once you get on a boat and get on the water, it’s transformative is the only way that I can put it. I used to, again, live in New Jersey. I thought it was the ocean. It’s the ocean. It’s beautiful, and I still do love the ocean. But there’s something about that man-made waterway, the Erie Canal, and its story — the story that it has to tell about not only New York State, but our nation. It gets you. It just gets you. It’s authentic. It’s real, and so yeah, that’s where that began. Now, I’m involved with the Canal Society, the history of the canal, and being appointed as the commissioner on both the state and the federal commissions. It’s been amazing. It’s really been an amazing journey.

That’s really awesome, and we’re going to dig into what you’ve been working on for those organizations as we go through this conversation. I guess I didn’t know you were from Trenton, New Jersey, so you moved up to the Finger Lakes and just never looked back.

Correct. That’s correct. There’s a bridge in New Jersey that goes over the Delaware that says, “Trenton makes; the world takes.” They made me, and the world took me, so it’s pretty funny. Yeah, Trenton, New Jersey. I have an accent. If you ask me to say the word W-A-T-E-R, water. That’s definitely from Jersey. I can’t get rid of that one.

That’s pretty awesome. As you were talking about your work in Fairport and of course, in Ithaca actually, but just talking about these ideas of designing for the public realm, how people recreate, visitor service, and then you talked about how there’s lots of choices out there, and how to competitive it is.


Utilizing Assets to Compete on the Global Stage

That’s really a great segue into my first question because we like to explore on this podcast the whole topic of creativity and definitely creative ways that people have marketed, or reached out, or appealed to, the traveling public, and so I’m really interested to hear your perspective on it.

Let’s start with talking a little bit more about tourism and understanding that it is a very competitive industry. What are some of the things that you have done throughout your career in your various roles that have helped those communities maybe stand out from the crowd?

Okay, that’s a great question. I’ll back up just a second. I went to World Travel Market. I think that’s in London. It was held in London, and that opened my eyes to the competitive nature of the hospitality field. The number of places that were there and their exhibits, trying to lure visitors and travelers, it opened my eyes. I was like, “Oh my, we have this tiny little village called ‘Fairport.’ How are we going to compete with Dubai?” What occurred to me is, “Well, maybe we can’t compete with Dubai. I mean, they have their own message, but we have a message too, and we can compete in our own way with our own assets.”

[bctt tweet=”“Dubai has their message, but so do we, on the Erie Canal. We have a message too, and we can compete in our own way with our own assets.” – Kal Wysokowski #WhyCollaborate #podcast”]

It began with a look at what it is that we had. It’s not necessarily a spot analysis, the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities as direct, but more like an audit of what exists in the community or what exists as Fairport or Ithaca as an attraction not just from the visitor’s standpoint, but from the resident’s standpoint. What do they value, and what’s real? What direction do we want to go on? By real, I mean those things that exist that aren’t necessarily manmade.

In Fairport, it was a beautiful, quiet community, tree-lined street. Although, the canal is a waterway, and it is manmade. It’s been around for 200 years, and it’s part of the community, so we thought, “Well, instead of shunning that, let’s look at the waterway as an asset to the community. Let’s look at the buildings and the way that the land is laid out as an asset, and then capitalize on that.” That’s what we did, and we engaged a lot of people and did a lot of research early on, maybe a couple of years, taking a look at what we have and where we want to go.

I was fortunate enough in both communities, in Ithaca and in Fairport, to work with a group of visionaries that just said, “Let’s go do it. Now, we can go and execute,” and that’s what we did. That’s where the economic development tools came into play. They became very useful, whether they were grants, or whether they were loans, or whether they were planning experts, zoning experts, all of those economic development tools come into play when you’re looking at downtown revitalization and the authenticity of your community.

That was really important to us. We didn’t want to build or create something that didn’t have the sense of place that didn’t fit in. We wanted it to fit in and enhance the sense of place, so that’s where economic development started to come in in downtown revitalization.

I think that’s a really great example of that connection. I’ve never been to World Travel Market, but as you were describing that experience, I had a similar thought when I attended the New York Times Travel Show in New York City, which is a consumer show, and the number of destinations that were there marketing to that audience from all over the world. It really is a good illustration of just how competitive the worldwide travel market. It really is.

100%. I think rather than get discouraged and walk away and say, “Well, this village is never going to be able to compete,” it was encouraging. “No, we can compete. It may be on a different level.” The other thing that happened, Nicole, and I love to give a shoutout to I Love New York. At that same time, I Love New York, which markets the entire state, pulled together all of these smaller places, and created one venue and marketed it under the I Love New York logo, which really did help pull all the pieces together.

Up until that point, I don’t think that that occurred. So in a place like London, people understood the canals because, in Great Britain, canals are very popular, but it was very hard. I remember saying to the folks at I Love New York, “You know, it’s really hard for a little community like Fairport to carry all the water because they would say, ‘Oh, I get the canals, but where’s Fairport?’ ‘Oh, it’s in New York.’ ‘Oh, where is New York?’ ‘Oh, it’s not New York City.’” By carrying the water, I would have to spend five minutes describing New York, the geography, where we were, and what we were doing, which was something that would be much easier for a logo like I Love New York to do, you know?


They pulled us together. They really helped pull that piece of it together for us, and that went a long way.

I think that’s a really great point too because as you are having these conversations and you’re trying to create the sense of place, and if you’re sitting there with your Fairport logo or your Fairport name on your nametag, it is much easier to get that recognition if your first start at the state level, and then narrow it down.

Correct, and when you have a limited time, particularly at travel trade shows and things like that, you have a little bit of time with people, so it’s difficult to spend the first three minutes talking about something else that’s not Fairport, and then by the time you get to Fairport, the person is like, “Okay.” Eventually, “Goodbye.” “No, wait. Get back, get back.”


It’s been really helpful in Fairport to go under that umbrella. My day job is in here Canandaigua, and we’re on beautiful Canandaigua Lake, and it’s the same thing. We have to talk about the Finger Lakes first and explain what the Finger Lakes is to visitors, and then they get it, “Oh, then there’s Canandaigua.”

It’s part of a bigger whole.

Correct, correct.


Put Retention First

I want to back up a little bit to the economic development tools that you were talking about. I guess I’d like to explore a little bit about tourism and how important tourism is to main streets. You mentioned when you started down this path of doing your research and figuring out what is valued, you talked about what the visitors value, but also what residents value.

What are your thoughts, or can you share with us a little bit about that balance in how visitors and residents … how you balance that, and then also how that impacts your main street businesses?

That’s a great question, and it’s complicated because you do want to strike a balance between what residents want and how much they can tolerate in terms of visitors in their community so to speak, so what we did was went first to research. We hired some folks out of Cornell University to do a study about where people were spending and what they were spending on.

It was similar to a retail poll study. I don’t want to get into too much detail, but suffice it to say around the village, there’s a destination mall. We have some high-end communities that bookend Fairport, so we wanted to know where people were spending their money. Cornell provided that to us, and we surveyed the residents. “What would you do? If you could spend more money, where would you go in Fairport, and what would you like to see happen?”

The third piece of research was we asked visitors. We did surveys for visitors who came through the canal primarily and asked them, “What kind of amenities would you like to see? Where do you want to go to eat? Do you want to eat here? What are the kinds of things do you want to do?”

Then, we put all that together in reports, took a look at it, and said, “Okay. Here’s a path forward. We want greater variety of restaurants. We want a pedestrian feel. We need to include festivals and events, which were very successful in that community. We need to incorporate the waterway into the daily lives as much as we can of residents.” We came up with the plan and went forward.

Like I said, some of it in terms of economic development was retrofitting buildings, doing façade improvements, making sure that we had adequate parking, making sure we had visitor restrooms and things like that. All of those were funded by both the municipality, and some grants, and some other ways. That’s how it got started.

I think that’s really a great example and almost like a roadmap in terms of using the research, the kinds of things that you looked at, and because this is economic development and we’re interested in bringing business and getting people to spend money, starting with that retail study makes complete sense, and then understanding where the residents are going, what they’re looking for, and then the visitors.

But then, also, what I think is great about that is then how you were able to take that information and identify some key areas where you wanted to improve. You mentioned restaurants, so maybe some business recruitment. The pedestrian feel, which I imagine has to do with maybe some more infrastructure.

Yeah, places to sit, places to walk, wayfinding signs. The one thing that I feel strongly about in economic development is to work with existing businesses, and so we made that a priority. While the headlines love new business comes to Fairport or new businesses come to Canandaigua, the real work is in staying with the people who have invested in the community, those businesses that are already there and working with them to strengthen their business and really shore it up.

Now, there are some businesses that are hobbies, and we identify that. I had no problem saying to people, “Look. You’re only open from 10:00 to 3:00, Monday through Thursday. You’re closed on the weekends. This is really not a viable business model. If you want, we can work with you to be open when people are shopping, and we have the data to show when people shop and what they were spending. If not, then this is as much as we can help you with.”

Then, there were other businesses that were very interested in the assistance that we could provide how to merchandise, how to do a storefront window, and then we backed that up with money to make those improvements. It’s a whole science about capturing people as they walk by, what your window looks like and what message you’re telling a potential customer.

We worked with existing businesses first and then did our business attraction effort, but really, retention first. It didn’t grab a lot of headlines, but in the long run, it really built the foundation.

[bctt tweet=”“Work with existing businesses on economic development. Retention should be a first priority.” – Kal Wysokowski #WhyCollaborate #podcast”]

Sometimes, businesses that have been there for a long time will see a lot of incentives going to a new business, and they say, “Hey, what about me? I’ve been here all these years, making investments, taking care of my customer, and you’re giving money, grants to new businesses. What about me?” By working with the existing businesses first and giving them that opportunity, that was off the table. It was really off the table. Those businesses felt, “Alright. They’ve worked with me. Now, it’s time for us to grow.” Does that make sense?

Yeah, absolutely, and I appreciate that, the retention first. I think that’s just a great model because you’re right, these are the businesses that are investing in your community, and I want to make sure listeners picked up on one thing that you said because you were talking about talking with the existing businesses, and some of them might have limited hours or be closed on certain times of the week.

As a small business owner myself, I know how challenging it can be to operate a business, but to have someone come in and say, “We can help you, and here are some ways that we can help you.” But then, also, to have that research to back up the why instead of just saying, “You should be open on Mondays.” You know? Instead, “Here’s this research that says this is what our visitors and our residents are looking for, and if you open up on Mondays, you will realize some increase in your revenues.”

Correct, so it’s not someone coming off the street saying, “You have to be open seven days a week, and you have to be open after 5:00.” A lot of people can’t do that. They’re at their store when they can. They have kids. They have obligations, but our bottom line was, “This is Main Street. You have a great location. Here’s how your business may be able to grow, and maybe you can hire someone so on those times when you have to leave if you’re a single proprietor, we can give you some assistance and show you how, but that’s your decision.”

Again, we never, and I don’t believe in regulating store hours like at a mall. We did discuss that. “Everybody on Main Street has to be open from 10:00 to 8:00 every day.” Malls. We looked at those leases. They have that up at Megamall, and we didn’t want to be that kind of a place. There are downtowns that do that. If you’re on Main Street, you have to be open. That wasn’t our thing.


How to Start a Successful Event

Yeah. That’s great. I also would like to hear and learn a little bit more about one of the other things that you mentioned, which was festivals and events being important for the community. Can you expand on that a little bit and what you did with that information?

Yeah, so one of the things that we learned is that festivals and events also bring a community together and provide not only a sense of place and celebration, but it’s a place where people can talk to each other and see each other, so that became really important. It’s not just about the activities, or the music, or the food. All of those are very important. It builds community and a sense of place for the residents.

[bctt tweet=”“Festivals and events build community and a sense of place for the residents.” – Kal Wysokowski #WhyCollaborate #podcast”]

Now, the visitors that come, they can feel that. They know when it’s a genuine event or festival. It has a heartbeat, right? You can tell that there’s something there and it’s meaningful. We worked really hard with our Merchants Association to grow the events, but also to include residents and make it real. It had to be real.

I used to talk to folks a lot, and they would go down to the waterway. We’re back to the canal, and I say, “Why do you go down? Why do you go down?” “I don’t know. I see my neighbor. We get to talk about our kids.” That was this real genuine place for people to share, and so we built events and other things around that, around the waterway as well because that provided the connection.

Yeah, absolutely. Now, I know Fairport has some really very successful events, and I’m wondering if you have any best practices or advice to others who might be either thinking about starting a new event or festival or trying to expand on one. Are there like one or two kinds of things that come top to mind that you think are important?

It’s okay to start small. It’s okay to start small and enjoy success. Two, in Fairport, that started small work. It was started by four people who remained street-closed for repairs — four people stepped up and said, “We’re going to have a festival. We’re going to celebrate.” For years, it was just ran on a shoestring. Now, it gets a quarter of a million people over three or four days. It’s ridiculously large. The Fairport Music Festival was the same way. They started very small, and now it’s a three-day event with … I think they’ve donated over a million dollars to Golisano Children’s Hospital, but it started very small.

The other thing I would suggest is make sure people have a good time, people who were coming. Just make sure they have a good time. If it’s small and you don’t have a big budget, just make sure whatever you do is quality, and it makes them feel good, and it’s fun. A lot of people try to do events, and it’s just not fun. It’s not happening, so those would be the two things that I’ve learned. Take care of your customer, the people that are going to the event, and it’s okay to start small.

Those are great. Very great points.


Building Through Collaboration

Okay, so I want to switch gears a little bit away from festivals and events, and then waterway because one of the things that we also like to focus on in our conversations is collaboration, and I know when it comes to the Erie Canal, there are all kinds of stories of collaborations, successful collaborations up and down that waterway, so I’m wondering if you can share with us about a project or a collaboration that has been very successful that you’re involved with.

Yeah. That’s a great question, and it would have to be the Heritage Park at Port Byron. That is a project, a collaborative project of the Canal Society of New York State, which I serve currently as the president. The New York State Thruway Authority, the New York State Canal Corporation, and in our inaugural season, Break the Ice Media and the Finger Lakes Travel Regional Tourism Council.

Yeah, because you stepped up. That group stepped up to really launch it. The Heritage Park at Port Byron is 22 years in the making, and it is a site that has restored lock, Lock 52, a brand new visitor center and a complex of buildings, the Erie Tavern, Blacksmith Shop, and Mule Barn, that have been all restored, historically preserved, and now open to the public. Without those partners, it probably would not have happened. Oh, I should include Cayuga County as well because they helped us with a lot of the grants.

Right, so can you talk a little bit about how that came together? 22 years, so that’s someone with a very long vision.

That’s correct. Yes. The Canal Society is historic and Education and Preservation Organization very much concerned with telling the story of the Erie Canal and interpreting the structures and the locks that made up the Erie Canal. The Canal Society has been around for 60 years. 20 of which, they worked on the Port Byron project. It’s a long story, but the bottom line is the society was able to purchase the parcel with the buildings on it that I just described and the lock structure and then went and got federal grants and state grants to stabilize those buildings and preserve them structurally and then worked with the Thruway Authority and the Canal Corporation to build state-of-the-art visitor center.

I think it cost about $13 million to pull that together, but over the course of these decades, all of the issues were worked out, and I’m happy to say that it’s the only park in the United States that’s directly accessible from a thruway. That’s not an easy feat, working with the federal government and the state government to get access from a federal highway directly on to a park, but it’s worked, and it’s taken a lot of patience. I think the bottom line is having the vision that this was going to open one day and people were going to love it, and it has opened and people are loving it, so it’s perseverance and partnership in this case.

Credit: Keith Boas

[bctt tweet=”“The Heritage Park at Port Byron is the only park in the United States that’s directly accessible from a thruway.” – Kal Wysokowski #WhyCollaborate #podcast”]

Yeah. I think that’s great, perseverance and partnership. Those are two things for sure that you need to make something of this size come together, and I also know because as you mentioned, we were involved in the inaugural season, but you have a very supportive friends group out there in Port Byron that is also helping with volunteers and operations, right?

Correct. Arguably, one of the biggest assets of the Heritage Park is a friends group. It’s 40 individuals who live in and around Port Byron who have loved the lock. For many, many years, have studied it, lock 52. When the park was about to open, they just stepped up to act as travel counselors to greet visitors off the New York State Thruway to provide tours, so they had to learn about not just canal history and the history of the site, but also about the region and about New York State, and they have just been, again, arguably one of the biggest assets to the operation of that park aside from the buildings and structures.

I would agree with that because finding fantastic volunteers is not an easy thing to do, and volunteers that are that passionate about the mission and the cause is very unique and rare.

It is. It is. I agree with you, and they have said genuine enthusiasm. Once again, we’re back to that word. They’re genuine. They are very excited about a lock structure. That’s not easy to find, so it’s good, good stuff.

Yeah. You mentioned that the Canal Society has been around for 60 years. Of course, this was a large project, but there are other things that the Canal Society does on an annual basis. Can you add a little bit more on that?

Sure. It’s a very active group. Apart from operating the Heritage Park and doing all the work and grants for that project. Every year, we have a winter symposium where we bring people from around the world in to talk about inland waterways or interesting topics. We also do a statewide conference. It’s called the New York State Canal Conference. This year, in honor of the bicentennial, we’re holding it in Staten Island. It’s our first time down in the New York City area, and that conference is held bi-annually at places all throughout New York State, again, to bring economic development people, historians, education people together to talk about the Erie Canal.

In addition, we do study tours. Sometimes, they’re in New York State. Sometimes, they’re in the region, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Delaware. We have done study tours in Europe, in France, Germany, Great Britain, Scotland, so we take people over and we write up a guidebook, a very detailed and thorough guidebook to whatever we’re going to see, whatever waterway we’re going to see, and all of that have been really successful.

In addition, we’re called on all the time. We get tons of phone calls and queries about the canal. Everything from, “My father worked on the canal, and I believe he passed away in such and such year. Can you help me find out what happened to him?” People will send us a picture of a culvert and say, “Do you know where this is? I think it’s in New York somewhere,” and our board and our members help identify those culverts by picture. It just blows me away how much people know, so we do that on a regular basis. We act as like consultants. People just call us up. There’s no fee for any of this. We just do it.

That’s great. Can you help us understand how the Erie Canal system and all of these organizations work together? You yourself are commissioner on two organizations. Of course, there’s New York State Canal Society that you’re also the president of. Can you just talk a little bit about how all of these players help support this waterway?

Okay. Yeah. In its simplest way, we have the national, under the National Park Service, the Erie Canal has been designated a national landmark, so the national government … that would be the Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor. That’s really the federal designation. That’s the federal body. We have a statewide body, which would be the New York State Canal Corporation. They’re really charged with the maintenance and operations of the canal. They are located in Albany and currently fall under New York Power Authority, and then there’s the Canal Society. There’s other organizations, Canal New York comes to mind, that work more not just statewide, but on education, wanted marketing, and works with businesses.

Over the years, we’ve been able to identify in our niche for each one of those organizations and more collaboratively, not competitively. I think it’s the love of the waterway that keeps us from just storming out of any meeting and saying, “I’m never going to talk to you again.” There’s a true love for this whirlwind, and so we’ve been able to make it work.

I think a good example that would be the World Canals Conference that was held Syracuse this past September. The Canal Corp and the national group, the Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor, they co-hosted this, the Canal Society event. Our expertise as well, but there were many, many organizations that made that a successful conference, so it’s putting things aside when we walk into meetings and, “What’s the best? What’s the best for this waterway? What’s going to benefit all of us?”

Source: Pexels

[bctt tweet=”“Collaborating is about putting things aside and figuring out what’s going to benefit everyone.” – Kal Wysokowski #WhyCollaborate #podcast”]

Right. Yup. I think that’s a really great perspective and good way to work harder.

Not easy to do. It’s not easy to do.

Yeah. Of course, of course. Just a little bit on that, we like to think about what are some ways that we can set up these collaborations or these partnerships for success, and I think that what you just said, “What is it that we want out of this, this shared love for this waterway?” of course plays into that. Do you have any other tidbits of advice that you can share that may help make these kind of collaborations and partnership successful?

Nicole, that’s a really good question, and I think I would use even our relationship, the Canal Society’s relationship with Break the Ice and the Finger Lakes Regional Tourism Council. There was an honesty. There always needs to be an honesty talking with someone, “This is what we want to get out of this project. This is what we need to get, and this is what we want to get.” Those are two different things, and having that open dialogue. Honestly, not trying to compete, trying to collaborate. It’s not an easy thing to do.

I think that’s number one, just having an open conversation about what it is at the end of the day that you want. We wanted the Heritage Park open, and we were able to accomplish that. With the Heritage Park, went having conversations with the Canal Corporation and with the Thruway Authority. It was, “We want to see this site open, and we want to work as hard as we can to get it open,” and so did they, and we got there eventually, so the bottom line is initially, just … You gotta be open and honest, and explain what you need, and then what you want, and you may be able to get both.

Trust is another, I think, important thing. You need to be able to trust your partners. I think we’ve come a long way in New York State in doing that. There’s a competitive funding that was just announced yesterday through the REDC, and I think folks are learning that it is a competition, but there is a lot of room at the table for people for different organizations. If you write a good proposal, you may get funded, and that’s a good thing. That’s a good thing.

Yeah. I think of those regional economic development council grants announcements like the one yesterday. It’s a friendly competition because no one really loses. Some people get more than others, but every community gets something.

You can look at the list of awardees, and they’re all over the place. There are some really big awards. There are some small ones. It might not be your year, but they come around next year as well, so it’s this friendly competition, and it seems to be okay, to be working okay. I know we’ve been able to use those funds to do a lot of important work. Again, we’re back to the economic development piece that our state has provided for us.

I think that’s really great advice just to sum it up, that whole idea of being honest and open, and I like how you broke it down into what you want and what you need, and understanding maybe you’ll get both, but maybe you won’t, but just understanding and putting that all on the table. Then, this whole idea of having a common goal, the example of the Heritage Park with your partners there. We just wanted it open. Everybody wanted it open, and so that helped. Then, the idea of having to have that trust and being able to trust your partners. I think that’s really great advice.

Actually, when you think about downtown revitalization and some of the examples that we talked about earlier. It comes down to that same issue of trust that we’re in this together. We’re going to be there together, and we’ll get this done. The fulfilling pledges becomes really important than to, “I can do this for you, and then you do that, and you complete it.” It’s very important.

Yeah, I think that’s great. Kal, this has been a fantastic conversation as I knew it would be.

Thank you. Thank you.

I really appreciate you being here. Do you have any final words that you’d like to share before we say goodbye?

Never give up. Never give up. You have no idea what’s around the corner, so that would be my advice. No matter whether it’s a project, or an event, or downtown revitalization, or trying to open up a park for visitors, just never give up.

Yeah, that’s a fabulous way to end this conversation.


Thank you very much for being with me today.

Thank you, Nicole. It’s been great.

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