Sara Sturgis laughs as she describes the new Chatfield Alliance as a “yodeling cowboy.”
Sturgis, who is currently serving as the interim Alliance coordinator, explains that The Alliance serves as that cowboy, lassoing the cows to keep the herd together, helping the herd by providing everything it needs and then standing on top of the hill and shouting that Chatfield has the best cows around.
Sturgis is joined by five other board members as the Chatfield Alliance is being established. They include Melissa Burnett, owner of Big Girl Stickers & Stems; Brayonna Berry, owner of Bick N Berry Boutique; Lee Novotny, a Chatfield lawyer; Mike Sogla, a property investor; and Jeff Springer, a resident of Chatfield.
The beginnings of this organization were simple – with conversations between many different people who saw a common need in Chatfield. Sturgis explained that she and her fellow board members felt the Chatfield Alliance could provide increased collaboration by already existing organizations and businesses within the community. The Alliance will focus on marketing and promoting Chatfield as the best place to “live, work, visit and invest in Southeast Minnesota.”
Sturgis explained that when she first moved to town, it wasn’t always easy for her to find those “access points to information.” She wants to be sure The Alliance becomes that “access point.” If they don’t know the answer to a question, at least they will know how to find the answer.
“Choose Chatfield” is the group’s current slogan and that is what Sturgis hopes many will do when looking for a place to visit, shop or even buy a home.
By working with other “community partners,” Sturgis added that The Alliance will serve as an information hub. “We want to be out there – watching and learning and connecting people,” Sturgis said. “Chatfield has a lot of the right ingredients, but we weren’t seeing them come together.”
The founding members of The Chatfield Alliance reached out to the Chatfield EDA for initial startup funds, which will provide money to hire a part-time employee in 2021.
“We looked at what a lot of other communities were doing to make it happen,” Sturgis said. “We didn’t want to replace what we already had, but we wanted to find a way to make it work better.”
Conversations have begun with other local organizations and businesses about how The Alliance can best serve them. Sturgis also noted that The Alliance has applied for its non-profit status to help in grant applications for further work planned in the future.
“We’ve been asking a lot of questions,” Sturgis said. “We can all see ‘what could be,’ but we are asking ‘what is missing?’”
The group has a Facebook page, a website and is developing an email network for further sharing information. One may sign up for email updates on the website chatfieldmn.org.
The Chatfield Alliance plans to hold “partner meetings” where representatives from the other community organizations will come together and have planning meetings to promote and develop Chatfield. She hopes these meetings will draw people from the business community, school district, community foundation, church councils, commercial club, city council, emergency services and beyond.
“The goal is cooperate with them, not compete with anything they are doing, but to take responsibility for marketing their work,” she said. “We want to be able to provide a more effective platform, no matter who we are working with.”
Another need Sturgis and the other members of The Alliance hope to fill is to serve as a destination marketing organization. This will include maintaining the community website, an events calendar and advertising in print and digital media outlets.
“We see all these assets Chatfield has and we want others to know about them too,” Sturgis said. “We really want to begin marketing Chatfield’s outdoor assets. We are the northernmost put-in point of the Root River water trail; we have nine trout fishing accesses in our zip code; we have hiking trails and ATV trails. It’s an outdoor person’s paradise,” she added.
The visitor center, located in City Park, will also be staffed as The Alliance will use this as its office space. Sturgis said they will begin promotion with advertisements in regional tourism guides, but ultimately hope to produce it’s own business, visitor and information guide to be used as a direct marketing tool, but also provide Chatfield residents with information about what is available in their own community.
“We want to educate and assist,” Sturgis said. “Our priorities are hiring a part-time person next spring, getting our office set up and continuing to build partnerships and email lists.”
The Alliance hopes to hold a partnership meeting early in 2021 and do some strategic planning with its interested partners.
If one is interested in becoming involved, or would like to be included on any future notices of those meetings, email email@example.com.
In the meantime, Sturgis and her fellow Alliance board members will put on their cowboy boots, pick up their lassos and yodel from the top of the hill that the right thing to do is “Choose Chatfield.”