Since colonists first arrived on American soil in 1607, this country has represented freedom to pursue religious, economic and social ideas. Those ideas made early European immigrants some of the first American entrepreneurs.

More than 200 years after initial settlement, French political scientist Alexis de Tocqueville wrote in his book “Democracy in America,” “The Americans always display a free, original and inventive power of mind.”

It is this power of mind that has shaped our nation from its birth.

I have spent the last five months sharing stories about some of southwest Minnesota’s “free, original and inventive” citizens. Entrepreneurship thrives in this little corner of America.

Walking through Worthington’s downtown, a visitor can observe a host of local businesses - from ethnic markets to handmade leather goods to self-serve laundry. And Worthington doesn’t have a monopoly on the entrepreneurial spirit. All over southwest Minnesota, small businesses begin with an idea.

To see these ideas through to completion, entrepreneurs take significant risks. It takes courage to pursue a dream and to turn an idea into a livelihood - but here they are, scores of local business owners, investing blood, sweat and tears into their goals.

I have been to a number of business openings in my time at The Globe. Each time, I see community members express overwhelming support for their neighbors’ new ventures.

At a grand opening I attended this week, I overheard a Worthington resident say to the business owner, “Thank you for investing in our town.”

I think that sentiment is a perfect way to describe the entrepreneurial spirit I have witnessed here.

Small business owners start with an idea. They have to believe that their idea is something the rest of us need or want. Then they plan how to make their idea happen. A new business can’t be born in a place where entrepreneurs don’t believe that they will garner community support.

Apparently plenty of people believe in southwest Minnesota. This has to be the case, because new businesses are opening all the time.

When I took a job in Worthington, I was stepping into the unknown, unsure what kind of community I would encounter. What I’ve observed is that residents of southwest Minnesota believe in each other. They understand that when a small business thrives, we all thrive. They support the difficult task of risk taking and vulnerability that is inherent in local business.

There is more need and more space for folks to pursue their ideas. (For example, Worthington could really use a market rate apartment developer, ha ha.) If anyone is looking for a place to be “free, original and inventive,” this is it.