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Windom native helps promote city as Chamber president

Cheryl Hanson, a Windom native, has served as president of the Windom Area Chamber of Commerce since 2000. (BRITTANY WORKMAN/DAILY GLOBE)

WINDOM -- Cheryl Hanson loves promoting the city of Windom, not just because it's her job as president of the Windom Area Chamber of Commerce, but because she truly believes the city is a wonderful place to be.

A native of Windom, Hanson graduated from Windom High School and returned back to her hometown after graduating college. After occupying several jobs within the city, Hanson ventured out of Windom for several years. However, family reconnected her with the town once again in 2000 when she returned to assist her elderly mother.

Hanson noted how the town has preserved itself over the course of time.

"I think the trait in Windom that I am glad to have seen is that we have maintained," she explained. "A lot of small, rural towns in Minnesota, as well as in other states, are losing its population and losing business. We are very fortunate to have sustained our population."

In a community with approximately 4,500 residents, Hanson believes the chamber is fortunate to have local retailers who continue to conduct business in Windom, and she is thrilled with the development of new industries such as Toro Company and PM Beef Holdings.

"Both of these industries have grown since I've been here," she added. "It's nice that their presence in Windom has helped us expand as well."

Some businesses have expanded in Windom, while others have closed or left. Nevertheless, the town has prided itself in maintaining some town history.

"We're fortunate to have maintained our historical courthouse," Hanson explained. "A lot of communities chose to tear down their courthouses while updating their facilities, but I think preserving our courthouse was a wise decision for our whole community and the county."

The historical courthouse is the cornerstone of Windom's downtown. However, maintaining the community's historical charm while progressing into modern times can be a daunting task, according to Hanson.

"I hear comments from people who wish we had more retail remaining around the town square," she added. "Many of our businesses that are now out on the highway were part of our town square at one time. But that's progress, and it's understandable that bigger retail businesses want to attract more clients. I'm glad we have businesses, such as several lawyers and accountants and other professionals, that are still willing to locate and keep buildings around the square occupied."

In addition to promoting commercial activity, Hanson also helps assist the Convention and Visitor's Bureau, whose offices are also located in the Windom Area Chamber of Commerce building. The chamber also serves as the administering agent for the annual Riverfest celebration.

Hanson helps the chamber facilitate annual events such as the farm and home show, a craft show in the fall, the gun and knife show and other seasonal activities.

Sometimes the delineation of organizations can be confusing for residents, as well as Hanson. Despite the bustle of activity, she believes the community is fortunate to have such an array of events, and she enjoys how such activities bring community members together.

"The most rewarding part of my job is when people vocalize the fact that they appreciate that Windom is so busy," she said. "We do have activities, and our goal is to try to engage the public in the promotion of our city and inform them of all that we have to offer."

Community-wide events help bring residents together, but it is also the daily communication that continues to help the town thrive.

"We get daily calls from the public, and we try to connect individuals or businesses with each other," Hanson explained.

In addition to referring individuals or businesses with services, Hanson also helps advertise the city to people hoping to visit or plan to relocate to Windom.

"There is always planning to be done for the next event, and there's always organization that needs to be done," she added. "It's the little details that keep everything running."

Advancement in technology has made getting the little things accomplished much easier for Hanson during her tenure as chamber president. With the help of its website, the chamber is now able to help residents stay connected with upcoming community events.

Approximately 150 businesses are chamber members, with businesses ranging from small, home-operated businesses to major corporations.

"One of the things I personally believe that one of our roles as the chamber is to be a source of information. I think it is important we know our businesses and our organizations that are within our community," she said. "We should know what's going on within the city, and if we can't provide the direct answer or questions we can refer them to an agency that who can."

Hanson believes the future for Windom is promising. She looks forward to how technology will continue to impact residents and businesses within the community.

"We all need to progress into using technology more effectively to particularly market the products we have here in Windom," she said. "Technology will not only help us locally, but I think it's going to bring people back."

Hanson hopes these tools will ultimately strength community ties, as well as help attract future businesses.

"Technology has changed how businesses operate and industries can now run their business around the world from a central location," she said. "Why not choose Windom? Why not move back and take advantage of our small town, our good schools and good medical facilities available right here in Windom?"