With the rise of consumerism and the web, the final 25 years have seen Bemidji exhibit vital progress and interconnectedness with the world, putting it ready of affect as a posh regional hub in northwestern Minnesota.
The altering occasions have seen some Bemidji companies come and go whereas others have risen to the event and persevered by means of a brand new shopper panorama.
The unprecedented web speeds of Paul Bunyan Communications’ GigaZone, together with the rise of social media platforms like Fb, have additionally proven Bemidjians that the remainder of the world actually is only a click on away.
“We’re seeing extra folks from extra cultures, extra nationalities, and totally different backgrounds transferring to the group,” mentioned Jorge Prince, Bemidji’s mayor. “The web has pushed so many various kinds of industrial alternatives, and loads of folks can now make money working from home that by no means might previous to that, which I feel has additionally fuelled a number of the range we have seen in our group. It actually has related Bemidji to the world.”
Within the early 2000s, leisure alternatives turned extra plentiful with town’s rejuvenated give attention to creating and accentuating Bemidji’s parks, trails and pure sources.
Following a $3.3 million renovation in 2008, Diamond Level Park as soon as once more turned the crown jewel of the Bemidji metropolis park system after years of wear and tear and tear left it in determined want of an replace.
“Within the final 25 years, town has made a really giant funding in parks, trails and recreation, and I feel we have seen the fruit of that,” Prince mentioned. “Actually, as I turned a father and raised my youngsters in the neighborhood, I began actually valuing utilizing the paths, fishing on Lake Bemidji and being in any considered one of our 29 parks.”
Nate Dorr, who grew up in Bemidji and now works on the Northwest Minnesota Basis, mentioned the parks and trails are a number of the metropolis options he makes use of most. In 2010, Dorr spearheaded the Bemidji Skate Park, one of many first concrete skateboard parks in Minnesota. He mentioned the challenge is considered one of his fondest reminiscences from that point, as he helped give native youth a leisure outlet.
“The skate park has been actually massive as a result of, previously, folks have been getting tickets and skateboarding the place they should not be in public,” Dorr mentioned. “They only did not have a spot that they might name their very own as a way to have that sense of id.”
The Bemidji Skate Park was in-built 2010, giving children one other outside leisure choice. (Pioneer file photograph)
Prince mentioned town’s redevelopment of the lakefront round Lake Bemidji was a precursor to the event of the Sanford Middle, which broke floor in April of 2009 and formally opened its doorways in October of 2010. The venue was renamed from the Bemidji Regional Occasions Middle to the Sanford Middle after Sanford Well being bought naming rights.
Sanford continued to go away its mark on the group when Sanford Well being merged with North Nation Well being Providers in 2011 and created Sanford Well being of Northern Minnesota.
“We went from having a smaller, extra rural hospital and clinic to now internet hosting Sanford and all of the various kinds of medical companies that it is dropped at our group,” Prince mentioned. “We have been all the time a hub, however I feel we have actually turn out to be a severe medical hub due to the expansion of Sanford, which has been good for our residents as a result of now they will obtain various kinds of therapy and supportive companies, the place earlier than, perhaps they needed to go to Fargo or the metro.”
The Sanford Middle, which opened in October 2010, has hosted quite a lot of sporting occasions, concert events and group celebrations such because the Bemidji Excessive College commencement. (Pioneer file photograph)
A continued growth of retail on the northwest facet of city additionally sprung up, with standard massive field shops like Goal opening in 1996 and Walmart opening in 2002.
“To see growth of the massive field shops, it exhibits Bemidji actually is turning into a regional financial middle and retail middle,” Dorr mentioned.
Nevertheless, with intense competitors amongst massive field retailers and the rise of on-line purchasing, some companies ceased to prosper in Bemidji. Paul Bunyan Mall noticed a retail downfall with Kmart closing its doorways on account of poor efficiency in 2012 after 35 years of operation. Its closing marked the second giant retailer on the town — Pamida was the primary — to liquidate that yr.
On the alternative facet of city, Bemidji’s downtown space flourished with small native companies and eating places taking over residence. Interesting to residents and vacationers alike, they supplied distinctive flavors, clothes and specialty objects not discovered in town’s extra chain-centric northwest facet.
“Our downtown went by means of a interval of modernization, the place you noticed a number of the extra longstanding companies that had been there leaving and new kinds of companies taking their place,” Prince mentioned. “I feel our downtown has really turn out to be fairly vibrant for a group the scale of Bemidji.”
Dorr mentioned locations like Bemidji Brewing, which opened its doorways in 2013, instantly inspired a way of group amongst locals.
“It’s a spot for socializing and for folks to fulfill one another,” Dorr mentioned. “I feel having a spot like a brewery is that high quality of life facet the place you are in a position to join and construct social networks. And for me, that is the place to go hang around.”
Numerous new occasions cropped up that motivated further group togetherness. A few of them embody the Bemidji Sculpture Stroll in 1999, the Lake Bemidji Dragon Boat Pageant in 2006 and the Bemidji Blue Ox Marathon in 2013.
The Bemidji Blue Ox Marathon, which started in 2013, attracts runners from all through the area. On this 2018 photograph, half marathoners run by means of Diamond Level Park. (Pioneer file photograph)
Academic alternatives that introduced youth collectively in new methods expanded within the space as nicely with constitution colleges like TrekNorth Excessive College, Voyageurs Expeditionary College and Schoolcraft Studying Group all being based within the early 2000s. Additionally throughout this time, the brand new Bemidji Excessive College was unveiled. The outdated BHS was demolished in 2008, though considered one of its two important archways was preserved and is being resurrected on the brand new highschool grounds.
“There may be that sense of group id as a result of all people went to that outdated highschool for generations,” Dorr mentioned. “I feel seeing that college torn down gave us a way of eager to protect issues in our tradition and our group.”
Bemidji State College, which celebrated its one centesimal yr in 2019, has tailored to new expertise previously 25 years with expanded distance studying and up to date majors based mostly on altering workforce wants.
Bemidji State College President Religion Hensrud speaks at a kickoff occasion for the varsity’s one centesimal anniversary celebration. (Pioneer file photograph)
Whereas 2020 was a yr of problem for Bemidji — and the world — due to the coronavirus pandemic, it additionally marked the city’s first presidential go to, a landmark event that additional illustrated Bemidji’s increasing affect in Minnesota and the nation.
“Bemidji definitely has a heritage, and loads of what’s occurred over time has been constructed on that heritage. We stand on the shoulders of those that have come earlier than us,” Prince mentioned. “A whole lot of the work that was carried out a long time in the past actually set the stage for a lot of what is occurred within the final 25 years, and I am grateful to those that have come earlier than us and created the inspiration that we have continued to construct on.”