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Alexandria businesses take a bow

Representatives from all the past recipients of the Business and Industrial Appreciation Day Award gathered for a photo after Tuesday’s banquet at Arrowwood. (Al Edenloff/Echo Press) 1 / 2
Vern Anderson (right), CEO of Douglas Machine, accepted a Business and Industrial Appreciation Day Award Tuesday on behalf of the company. Todd Emmons, Chamber president, handed out the award. Other past BIAD honorees were honored as well. (Al Edenloff/Echo Press)2 / 2

Twenty-nine Alexandria businesses each took a piece of the spotlight Tuesday.

They were honored for providing the economic clout that’s helped Alexandria achieve the kind of success that other communities can only dream about.

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The accolades came at the 30th annual Business and Industrial Appreciation Day (BIAD) Banquet sponsored by the Alexandria Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce and the Alexandria Area Economic Development Commission (AAEDC).

In past years, the BIAD event has singled out one honoree to recognize for their contributions to the community. But for the 30th celebration, organizers presented awards and updates from all the past honorees, dating back to 1984.

“Thank you for taking the time to recognize this area’s success,” AAEDC board President Kevin Kopischke told the crowd of 450 that gathered at Arrowwood. “While other rural communities are struggling, we’ve emerged as a shining star of success.”

Most of the 29 honorees began years ago with just a handful of employees but today, all combined, they provide 6,186 jobs in the area.

Alexandria Technical and Community College, for instance, grew from six employees in its first year, 1961, to more than 220 full and part-time positions today. Douglas Machine grew from two employees to more than 700; Alexandria Industries (formerly Alexandria Extrusion) expanded from four to eight employees when it began to 580; and Tastefully Simple surged from two founders to 288 team members at its Alexandria headquarters, plus more than 24,000 independent consultants nationwide.

In his opening remarks, Kopischke traced Alexandria’s economic success back to December 14, 1953 when Alexandria Developers, Inc. was formed to encourage industry start-ups. The first four officers were Ray Tapper, Julian Newhouse, Donovan Johnson and L.W. Denstedt.

Kopischke said that kind of visionary thinking sparked success that can’t be left to chance or luck. He said it helped create a climate of investment, entrepreneurship and risk taking that has distinguished Alexandria as a leader in not only the packaging manufacturing industry but in retail, information technology, education, regional health care and more.

Kopischke emphasized that the community’s success goes beyond the 29 businesses that were being honored that day. He credited the many other small businesses that dot the countryside and the emerging entrepreneurs that contribute to the economic vitality of the region.

Alexandria Mayor Sara Carlson also stressed the importance of regional partnerships and cooperation.

Douglas County Commissioner Dan Olson continued that theme, saying that the area’s amazing growth and vitality can be attributed to towns supporting each other and creating a better life for everyone.

Todd Emmons, president of the Chamber board, said that Alexandria reminded him of the kinds of strategically built cities that are made in the SimCity computer game. He said that through visionary leadership and partnerships, Alexandria has been able to take full advantage of its finite and renewable resources to maintain a perfect balance without collapsing.

After the speakers, videos were shown highlighting the histories and growth of the 29 honorees. Representatives from each of the companies were then called to the stage to accept their BIAD award.

Al Edenloff
Al Edenloff is the news and opinion page editor for the Echo Press. He was born in Alexandria and lived most of his childhood in Parkers Prairie. He graduated with honors from Moorhead State University with a degree in mass communications, print journalism. He interned at the Echo Press in the summer of 1983 and was hired a year later as a sports reporter. He also worked as a news reporter/photographer. Al is a four-time winner of the Minnesota Newspaper Association's Herman Roe Award, which honors excellence in editorial writing.  
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