By Adam Quandt
Despite the cold weather of winter, Long Lake area businesses are already looking toward the spring, when phase one of the County State Aid Highway 112 construction project is expected to begin.
The construction will include projects such as putting in a new sidewalk, creating a new bike path and other various road working that will take place in three phases.
Upon the announcement of the construction, many local businesses experienced flashbacks to 2003-2005 and the construction of the nearby bypass.
“Businesses felt there was very little communication from the state and the Minnesota Department of Transportation during the construction process, which made them feel abandoned,” Long Lake Mayor Marty Schneider said.
Schneider and the Long Lake Chamber of Commerce are working hard to make sure that is not an issue during the CSAH 112 project.
Together they worked to procure a grant from the county to help businesses thrive throughout the construction project.
“Phase one really goes through the heart of what is considered downtown Long Lake and could be very disruptive to the business community,” Schneider said. “We want to make sure we are as prepared as we can be.”
In early his early efforts, Schneider worked with the county to maintain two-way traffic throughout the entire construction project, rather than the originally proposed occasional one-lane traffic in the project plans.
Schneider also plans to hold regular meetings to update business community members and others on what is happening with the project and provide businesses with information and tools in order to help the thrive.
Schneider recently held the first of these meetings on Jan. 11, where he discussed detailed construction plans, his plans and goals for clear communication between businesses, the city and county, and resources from cities that have been in similar situations, explaining how they worked around construction.
“The main goal I have leading up to construction and beyond is to create a very clear line of communication between businesses, the city and the county,” Schneider said. “I want businesses to know what’s happening a bit ahead of time, so that they can let their customer base know.”
So far, Schneider said that the county is working hard to act as an advocate and a part of the project, rather than as a separate entity. He said that this is because the county benefits from seeing business not only survive, but also thrive through times of construction.
In addition to working with the county, Schneider recently asked the city council to approve a new business district liaison, which they obliged. Schneider then volunteered to take on the position himself.
“The position is designed to interact between the business community and the council,” Schneider said.
Schneider said that this would make it easier for businesses to voice their concerns to the city, rather than waiting a certain amount of time to try to get an item on the city council’s agenda.
“Businesses know who to reach out to and express concerns to and then the liaison brings it to the council, straightforward and seamless,” Schneider said.
Schneider’s passion for local business stems from his time working for a family owned business for his first waged job.
“Many of businesses are owned and operated by residents,” Schneider said. “This is their livelihood. They’re not working for a larger entity. These are many sole proprietorships dependent on this working out and I get that.”
Schneider is already planning for February’s meeting with the Long Lake businesses owners and operators. He said that meeting will be more of a business resource meeting, which will feature a variety of consultants and vendors who can offer businesses help in succeeding.
Schneider said many of the consultants who will attend the meeting have experienced times of construction in the past and they will use those experiences to help businesses thrive during their own times of struggle.
The date for the February meeting has yet to be set, however meeting information will be released as soon as the date is set.