CEDA Team Member Collaborates to Create Collectively Cannon Falls Project

Article by: Laura Qualey

It’s no secret that local small business owners are twitching to reopen. The uncertainty of reopening was looming and for those living in small, rural communities, many have been wondering ‘when’ and ‘if’ they will be able to reopen and more importantly, ‘if’ they will be able to survive the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Cannon Falls, MN City Council Member Matt Montgomery and CEDA team member Laura Qualey both wanted to do ‘something’ to give their local business owners a platform to talk. They wanted to offer them the opportunity to talk about how things have been going, responses they’ve seen/heard from customers, how they’ve modified their service and product offerings, etc. So, they literally took to the streets of Cannon Falls and conducted socially distant interviews with the local merchants. Qualey initially contacted the Chamber to get the word out and then started making calls and emailing a variety of organizations and businesses that she felt would give a well-rounded view of their community. Overall, the team interviewed 24 people from 14 businesses in a 3-day time frame and with the help of the local community television media director, Mike Gesme, the video “Collectively Cannon Falls” was created and streaming within one week’s time!

When Montgomery and Qualey asked business owners how the pandemic had impacted them, all were very willing to share. Many of the businesses expressed optimistic comments about a ‘silver lining’ during their closure–indicating that it gave them an opportunity to tell the community about any exciting changes that they have made to their business. Some businesses remodeled, touched up their building, deep cleaned and one business took the opportunity to dive into their new Point-of-Sale system to do some training. It has also given them the time to find new ways to connect with their customers and reevaluate how they do business and what they need to do to update their business model.  Some of the services they have begun offering may even become a new way of doing business because of their success.

Television media director Gesme  was able to edit the video down to about 10 impactful minutes, and it has received rave reviews. The video was shared on social media over 40 times and had an audience reach of 5,000 people in under 48 hours! Gesme is currently working on a full version to air on the Community Television channel as well as on YouTube.  The businesses that participated appreciated the platform to get in front of their customers; it was an valuable way for them to talk about what their customers can expect upon re-opening and most importantly, it gave everyone a sense that we are all in this together and collectively, Cannon Falls will survive this!

A link to the video can be seen here: https://youtu.be/MX7UUWMcI10