What do an Olympian, top notch orchestra program and a bunch of Gnomes have in common? They all call the southwest Minnesota community of Dawson their hometown. Our Board of Directors held its December meeting Thursday in Dawson and we received a warm welcome from this progressive community. It’s no secret that SWIF has lifted up Dawson as a shining example of what a community of its size can do when its people—about 1,500 of them— work together and support what they feel is important.
We started the meeting with great conversation led by three community leaders.
- Scott Quick of AGP, a soybean processing co-op that has been in Dawson since 1983, shared about the facility and industry. The plant was actually built in 1951 and at that time crushed 600 bushels of soybeans per day—today, they’re at 90,000 bushels per day. But even more impressive than that is low turnover of their 75 employees. AGP has an outstanding compensation package both with wages and full family benefits.
- Kristin Wicht of Johnson Memorial Health Services shared news from this award-winning service provider. With the hospital, e-consult access to specialists, a 56-bed care center, and other services, they meet not only the health and wellness needs of local residents but also provide 220 jobs. The Johnson Memorial Foundation, one of SWIF’s more than 80 funds, is also making an impact through giving and grantmaking.
- Dave Bovee, Dawson City Manager, has seen a lot of the community’s progress during his 28 years in the position. Even though he’s retiring next month, he’s keeping busy these days with an industrial park expansion, which the city received a major grant to help support. Since AMPI, a dairy co-op, announced about six weeks ago they were closing the Dawson plant by April, many city and state leaders have been working to make sure there’s a good plan in place to get another business in the plant and find opportunities for the 130 people who work at AMPI.
We also had a great turnout for our community lunch. I especially want to thank former SWIF board members Dr. Phil Maus and Jim Bakken for their continued support in the Dawson community and beyond.
A few of the things other community members say makes Dawson a special community include:
- Spirit of collaboration – like with the local library system
- Strong retail – two car dealerships and a full Main Street are just a couple of examples
- Celebrating good people – for 25 years, they’ve awarded a Gnome in honor of a community member who has gone above and beyond
- Quality hospital system
- Strong ag-based businesses
- Vibrant arts culture – Dawson-Boyd Arts Association brought the Nutcracker Ballet for performances over the weekend
- History of music in the schools and community – John Solie started the first orchestra in the 1940s and they still have a full orchestra at the school today, plus, they do great musicals, from The Sound of Music to Les Miserables, which give “oldies” the chance to often play in the pit again.
- Involved youth – Beyond music, Dawson-Boyd was the winner of the Minnesota State High School League’s Class A Cup of Champions in 2012 honoring schools that have the most success in section and state fine arts and athletic tournaments throughout the year – they were 2011 State football champs
- Hometown of Carrie Tollefson, U.S. Olympian
- Generosity – local people give back through the Dawson Community Foundation and other SWIF partner funds, as well as other efforts like the Farmers for Dawson group
Something I noticed at the luncheon was the number of young adults who shared they had moved back to Dawson to raise their families. What a testament to the experiences this community is creating for many generations.
What else do you think makes Dawson a vibrant community?