Stop for a minute and think about what really makes our community unique? There are so many things. Chahinkapa Zoo, North Dakota State College of Science, our amazing schools, great people. When you’re making your list, you can’t forget the retail stores and restaurants that you can only find right here in Wahpeton and Breckenridge. The stores and restaurants with one of a kind food and merchandise that makes our community unique.

Last week one of these unique businesses closed its doors. After 5 ½ years of service to our community, Dakota Coffee Company made the very difficult decision to close. Losing a business like Dakota Coffee Company is like losing part of our identity. The hometown coffee shop where we met with friends and business associates is gone. The closing wasn’t due to lack of support from the community but a direct result of what has become one of the biggest problems for businesses not only in our area but everywhere — workforce.

We continue to see the impact of lack of workers here in the Twin Towns. There are many businesses that have needed to adjust their hours or be closed extra days each week because they are dealing with limited staff. The employees that do show up are working hard to make up for the shortage of staff. Lack of employees is also hindering the ability of local manufacturing companies to expand and grow their businesses. Many of these companies are in a position to expand but are unable to do so because of lack of employees.

We are at a point where the growth of our area is vital. There was a time that bringing businesses to the area was how you grew a community. New businesses brought workers. Things have changed. We have the jobs but we don’t have the workers. In addition, many people are able to work remotely and where they live is not necessarily where they work.

The question we need to answer is, “Why Wahpeton-Breckenridge?” How do we encourage families to move here to be a part of our wonderful community? We have so much to offer and community leaders are doing their best to try get projects approved that will help attract people to the Twin Towns.

The Wahpeton Rec Center and the Breckenridge School Referendum are two projects that will be up for vote in less than a month. These projects would have a huge impact on our communities. It is important that everyone educates themselves with what is being proposed. Ask questions, go to meetings, make an educated decision on what you are voting for. Nobody wants their taxes to increase but what will it cost us if our community continues to decline? What is the cost of losing more businesses? What is the cost of declining school enrollment?

Take pride in where you live. Support our local businesses. Be patient with the struggles they are currently facing. Educate yourself on what is happening to try to grow our communities. Support your local leaders in their efforts. “If you’re not growing, you’re dying.” Let’s make sure the Twin Towns are heading in the right direction.

Lisa Kunkel is the executive director of Wahpeton Breckenridge Chamber of Commerce.

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