Editor’s note: Because of COVID-19, the annual Business and Industrial Appreciation Day in Alexandria won’t be held this year and the spotlight will not shine on one particular business. Instead, throughout the month of October, newspaper articles, advertisements and social media posts will spotlight the importance of all business and industry to the local community.

By Tara Bitzan, director of the Alexandria Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce

Douglas County businesses support much more than the Douglas County population. They offer goods, services and employment to many people outside of the county as well.

In fact, Douglas County businesses draw nearly 19,000 people from throughout the region to work here. Many of those jobs are in the service industry.

Alomere Health, Alexandria Public Schools and Knute Nelson make up three of the top five employers in the county. Education and health services alone account for 27 percent of the local workforce, employing more than 4,800 people

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That’s one of the reasons that nearly 20 years ago the service industry was added to the Business and Industrial Appreciation Day (BIAD) recognition program, which originally only recognized businesses within the manufacturing and distribution sector in the county.

Since then, several service businesses have been recognized through the program, including Geneva Capital (2019), Anderson Funeral Home and Cremation Service (2017), Ecumen Bethany (2014), Gardonville Coop Telephone Association (2010), Knute Nelson (2007), Arrowwood Resort & Conference Center (2003), Independent School District 206 (2002) and REA-ALP Internet Services (2001).

What are service businesses? These types of businesses provide intangible products such as health care, insurance, education, banking, landscaping, construction, etc. that are vital to support the needs of a community.

They play an extremely important role in ensuring a community is strong, healthy and able to grow, and these businesses are one of the reasons that the Alexandria Lakes Area is thriving.

Alexandria is a regional hub for health care, with a nationally recognized regional hospital and numerous chiropractic, mental health, natural health, dental, vision and other health care focused businesses operating here.

There are many reputable businesses operating locally to support the other businesses and residents in the community with their basic service needs and beyond.

And many other businesses service the various other sectors that make our community strong – agriculture, education, manufacturing, government and more. For these businesses to thrive, quick access to quality services is vital.

Imagine a community where the residents have to drive hours for health care, or businesses have to wait days for products or supplies to arrive to fill their needs, or educational opportunities need to be accessed online due to distance, or where online services aren’t available because of lack of internet service providers.

Many of these examples are things that are often taken for granted. But they all add up to the reason that the Alexandria Lakes Area is healthy and continues to grow.