After nearly six years as a tireless supporter of the Staples-Motley area, Mel Nefstead is stepping down as the chamber of commerce executive director.
Nefstead will leave the part-time position at the end of this month. Part of the decision to leave came with income restrictions associated with Social Security.
In the end it will undoubtedly be the personal connections that will be missed by Nefstead and those he worked with. Whether the contact was with a Staples or Motley resident or some far-flung traveler, Nefstead showed real enthusiasm for the people.
Recently, Nefstead met with representatives of the Swedish Landowner's Association.
The group, which strives to promote and strengthen private farm ownership, visits a different area of the globe each year. They have been to South Africa among other areas and this year chose the United States. That visit brought them from Fargo, N.D., to the Staples area and Mel Nefstead in September. Days later, Nefstead spoke enthusiastically about the people he was able to meet in the group.
The visit was coordinated through the Minnesota International Center. The Swedish group went for lunch at Little Morran Hunting Club and toured area farms, including a 500-cow dairy operation. From Minnesota the group is expected to go to the San Francisco and Los Angeles areas.
Recently reflecting on the Swedish group's visit along with his other duties, Nefstead's most enjoyed part of the work was obvious.
"I just loved that -- being with people," he said.
Of area activities, like Railroad Days, chili cook-offs, canoe races, home tours and holiday lighting, Nefstead noted the chamber worked on community events, increased membership and developed a variety of partnerships.
"I would hope that all these continue and expand. Yes, I will miss this activity as I leave the chamber, but I will remain a chamber member and would expect that I will continue to become involved in the chamber activities in the months to come."
No one has been chosen as a replacement as of yet. Nefstead said his recommendations for the future include a focus on the needs of the membership.
The Pine River Information Center is nearing completion, the chamber of commerce reports. The building was completed and opened in June and landscaping and a gazebo were recently completed. Bricks from the old depot were used for a floor under the gazebo and for a bicycle parking area to the rear of the information center.
The annual "Go Pine River" dinner is set at 6 p.m. Oct. 16 at Piney Ridge Lodge. Entertainment is planned along with a silent auction.
The Minnesota Department of Agriculture released its latest edition of the Specialty Meats Directory, which features more than 120 Minnesota livestock producers who sell directly to consumers. An area producer highlighted in this year's edition is Wild Acres of Pequot Lakes. Consumers can request a free copy of the directory by calling Minnesota Grown Answerline at 800-657-3878. The directory can also be requested online at www.mda.state.mn.us/mngrown.
Minnesota Power was named one of the top 10 great places to work in the state by Corporate Report magazine. The magazine sent surveys to more than 400 companies with 500 or more employees and sifted through stacks of employee responses to identify top employers. Minnesota Power received employee praise for personal and professional growth opportunities, a positive work environment, survivor benefits, sick leave, corporate involvement in the community and an extensive wellness program.
Minnesota Careers 2001 is already available to more than 100,000 students in the state and copies are available for others interested in career choices.
The publication helps people explore career options with readers able to assess abilities and interests and then match their qualities to careers. Minnesota Careers then answers questions such as required education in a particular occupation, expected wages and how many job openings may exist. There are also tips on resume writing and interviewing.
The guide also explains what skills are most marketable in today's job market and may provide needed information for someone who wants to make a career change.
Copies are available for $5 from the Minnesota Department of Economic Security Research and Statistics office by calling 888-234-1114. An Internet version exists at www.MNWorkForceCenter.org/lmi/careers. Copies are also available for viewing at all Minnesota WorkForce Centers, such as the one on South Sixth Street in Brainerd.
Grants were announced by the Rural Utilities Service at the American Indian Telecommunications conference in St. Paul for distance learning and telemedicine. Seven grants went to American Indian tribal organizations with more than $1.3 million in grants to improve educational opportunities and medical service.
Two area grant recipients were Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe, serving areas including Mille Lacs and Aitkin counties. The grant of $106,305 is for the Mille Lacs Telepharmacy project to provide band members and other reservation clinic patient's access to pharmaceuticals and medication where traveling to the nearest pharmacy may be an 85-mile trip. Remote controlled packaging and bottle dispenser equipment will be provided in each district, as well as video teleconferencing equipment for consultations.
The Longville Lakes Clinic also received a $93,822 grant. The clinic serves Cass and Crow Wing counties. The nonprofit organization contracts with the Cuyuna Regional Medical Center. Grant funds will make a remote pharmacy service available to people at the clinic at the time of service. Through the miracle of computer software, prepackaged multi-dose bottle are dispensed at the remote site.
Wells Fargo Bank of Minnesota received $150,000 bank enterprise award to contribute to Minnesota Investment Network Corp., a venture capital firm that makes equity investments primarily in rural Minnesota companies.
The award came from the Community Development Financial Institutions Fund of the Treasury Department. MIN-Corp evolved from Minnesota Technology with a goal to promote economic development in rural Minnesota. To date, MIN-Corp. has provided more than $7 million of equity funding of 18 Minnesota businesses. In July, Wells Fargo contributed $1 million to the organization.
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