Winona Mayoral Candidates responded to the following questions
1. Winona has a long history of being a transportation, business and manufacturing hub in the region. Winona has experienced a new surge in tourism and arts industry in the last decade. What strategies do you embrace for the future of Winona? (You may pick more than one)
Peterson - Winona has turned a corner in the past decade in promoting the arts and culture. We have long been a city that embraces it arts and culture but the opening of the Great River Shakespeare Festival should be given much of the credit for this resurgence. Since GRSF opened 14 seasons ago we have seen the introduction of the Minnesota Beethoven Festival, Boats and Bluegrass, Frozen River Film Festival, Dakota Gathering, Midwest Music Festival, the opening of the Marine Art Museum and the expansion of the Winona County History Center. We are about to see a partnering with Hurry Back Productions to upgrade the Masonic Temple into a downtown state-of-the-art performance space along with improvements to our riverfront. Throw in the new Brew and Que event, the successful Main Street program funded through the Port, the excellent work of Visit Winona, and the support from the Chamber of Commerce and you have a formula for success.
The commercial harbor should is being improved on a continual basis. Recent improvements have been made to the dock and the area has been dredged.
Truck traffic should be directed on appropriate routes. I’m open to reviewing this as needed.
Winona has very limited land available for new commercial and industrial use. I believe the Port is doing the right thing when it explores developing land they own in the downtown area, especially if the land can be developed without a loss of public parking. Winona in the long haul should logically look for opportunities to expand in the I-90 and Highway 43 area where relatively level topography exists.
• Expand Port, rail, trucking and other transportation facilities and related infrastructure.
I favor data-driven decisions. If the numbers justify expansion, then that is an easy decision based on a foreseeable return on investment.
• Enhance tourism development with focus on downtown, limiting truck traffic and encouraging new small business in downtown.
• The job of our tourism board, Visit Winona, is to bring non-Winona residents to Winona for our economic gain. We should encourage that Visit Winona keeps a strategic focus on supporting and promoting those uniquely Winona places and activities that appeal to the visitor. Downtown is certainly a draw. I would be interested in learning how limiting truck traffic would support tourism.
• Pursue additional commercial/industrial land for future expansion of Winona’s existing and emerging manufacturing businesses.
2. What do you believe are barriers for business growth and what would you do to influence how the City addresses these barriers?
Peterson - Businesses face many challenges for growth in Winona. Among the most pressing is the need for more workers. Winona enjoys historically low unemployment and is in fact usually lower than the state average. I support the Chamber’s “Hot Jobs, Cool Companies” effort to try and encourage students to think of Winona as a great place to live, work or start a business. While Winona can’t compete in land we can certainly compete when it comes to quality of life. The recreation bond the council has proposed is a step in that direction.
The city is undertaking a new housing study that I believe will note that housing is an issue. If that is the case then we will work to pursue programs to assist with housing development. We know our workforce needs housing. We have staff that sits on a regional housing board that is working to address this issue.
Tropple - Business needs advocacy. I balance an appreciation for our city and our culture with an understanding of the need for business growth. One of the first items on my list is to gain a better understanding of opportunities for facilities and space available for development to new and existing business growth and the specific skills gaps. Collaboration and with the existing organizations (Opportunity Winona, Chamber, Mainstreet, Port) would areas that I would put more focus.
3. What is the role of City government to improve the start-up business environment in Winona?
Peterson - The City and Port Authority work closely with the Chamber and other entities to help direct individuals and businesses to the resources they need and to help them navigate through the development process. It may be by providing capital through loan funds such as the Port Authority’s Revolving Loan Fund or other state, regional or local resources. The city’s role is to help in any way we can and to collaborate with partners in doing this. One example would be Gypsoil, an Illinois company that was looking for a home to start-up. They worked with the Port Authority, Chamber and Winona County EDA and found a location in Winona. The city is also looking at other communities and what they are doing to create space for entrepreneurs. Winona is in the initial stages working with WSU, SMU, County EDA and Chamber to look at models that may work in Winona.
Tropple - To improve the start-up business environment, the City should ensure that appropriate licensing and supporting information for starting a business in Winona is readily available, city staff is knowledgeable and can help facilitate the process. In addition, the process should be streamlined and work in conjunction with any State and County requirements. The administration mechanics of starting a business in Winona should not be cumbersome or an impediment.
4. In your opinion, how do Tourism, Winona’s transportation hub and strong 100+ manufacturing businesses co-exist and thrive in the future?
Peterson - The diversified manufacturing base is very important in Winona and has a ripple effect on our economy. Our manufacturing businesses support our arts, cultural and recreational programs and vice versa. The arts, cultural and recreational programs support our business community by making the community more attractive to their employees. I believe they co-exist and thrive together.
Tropple - Winona’s tourism, transportation hub and manufacturing businesses should mutually benefit from each other. The transportation hub needs to support the needs of the manufacturers to ensure that their materials and products are received/distributed in a timely manner, while the tourism ensures that business visitors can easily get in and out of Winona and have a good experience while in our city, so that they can
5. How would you address traffic planning, commuter safety, pedestrian and bike safety while serving the truck route needs for commercial and manufacturing businesses?
Peterson - The city continues to support and improve our truck routes. A couple of examples would be the city’s share of the new Interstate Bridge and the redoing of Franklin St. The city has been working with WSU on pedestrian safety issues around the campus and has recently installed pedestrian crossing lights and speed signs on Broadway along with better stripping of crosswalks. We also made Wabasha Street a Bike Boulevard.
Our Planning Department is working on a Bike and Pedestrian Master Plan with a Complete Streets Policy. Complete Streets is an approach that considers and balances the needs of all transportation users. The city has also been talking with WSU about creating an “Arts Corridor” from the campus to the Levee along Johnson St.
Tropple - A commonsense approach to traffic planning, commuter safety and pedestrian/bike safety should prevail with periodic reviews and input from the community.
6. What is your vision for the future of Winona?
Peterson - My vision for Winona includes:
A downtown that that thrives by day and night with workers, visitors and people living in the downtown
A growing manufacturing and retail sector
A city that is safe
Thriving arts, culture and recreation
Tropple - My vision for the future of Winona is to have a city that
• fosters community 2-way engagement and involvement in the decisions that impact their lives and businesses
• welcomes and delights visitors through support and promotion of recreation, arts and cultural activities
• proactively manages and maintains city assets
• is ready for the challenges of the future
7. Each of Winona’s three higher education institutions has distinct and unique issues as we move into the future. How do you see the City working with the colleges and universities issues?
Peterson - The city has a long history of working with our local schools of higher education. The city has been a key player in the proposed WSU Education Village, shared recreational facilities, the new Laird Norton Center for the Arts, and as mentioned earlier, safety issues around campus. The economic impact of the schools is huge.
Tropple - As mayor, I would engage more with the student organizations to better bridge the generational gap. The universities and colleges are assets to the City and we should be leveraging and recognizing the expertise, youth and assets that they to our community, so that the perception is positive throughout the community.
8. As a City leader, what approach would you take to balance community growth and the rights of private property owners?
Peterson - It’s all about balance in reaching community growth and community goals. We must all work together. The recent work to update our downtown zoning has included significant public input. Zoning can help provide guidance on future development. Municipalities commonly follow a plan developed by citizens called a Comp Plan. The Comp Plan sets the standard for quality development, and contrary to some opinion, is used and followed by the city staff and boards and commissions. Our Community Development Office is often praised for its efficiency.
Tropple - Aside from the city zoning and ordinances, specific situations may arise which need to be addressed on an individual basis based on the merits of the proposal. The objective being a win-win for the community and property owner.