City solicits input on street banners

You may have noticed them over the years, or maybe they were in your subconscious.   But, street pole banners have helped foster community awareness and engagement while helping brand Pine City for decades.  For example, leading up to Christmas, holiday greetings appear on banners adorning the light poles; and during the summer concert season, the Pine City Arts Council hangs banners on poles around Robinson Park.  Even the college has used banners along 4th Street SE to give its grounds more of a campus feel.

PTCC Banners

Pine Technical & Community College ca. 2012

For the past decade, Pine City has used a busy banner filled with a sunset/sunrise, a voyageur, a canoe and the words “Welcome to Pine City”.  These banners have become obsolete since they used an old logo never sanctioned by the City, and many of them are beginning to tear or fray.

Today’s technology allows banner-makers to provide sharper resolution, brighter colors and greater weather-resistance.  Needless to say, the time is now to get new banners.  Then, the City can explore what to do with the current, aging banners, including auctioning them off, framing them as gifts for donors, or donating them to local heritage organizations such as the Pine City Area Historical Association.  Perhaps any money raised could be used to help fund the new set of banners.

When we speak of “Main Street America”, we speak of the shared experiences of Americans across the country.  It is not surprising that we look to Main Streets as a source of cultural, as well as economic, renewal.  Not only are they geographic centers.  They also provide continuity across generations by uniting an area’s traditions, values, and aspirations.  As time moves forward, preservation can be a constant struggle.  New banner usage and production can keep historic areas current while tapping into the iconic image of Main Street America.

Alternating Pole Banners

The Public Works Committee’s Recommendation:  Alternating Banners

The Public Works Committee of Pine City has made this recommendation:  The Committee recommended alternating banners, using the full-color, vertical version of the City’s logo, as well as alternating solid Pantone Reflex Blue and Pantone 357 Green, the City’s official colors.  What do you think?

Pole Banner

Example of New Logo on a Banner

Other options have been offered up too.  Zumbrota’s Area Arts Council had Zumbrotan artists create its main street banners.  See more information about that here.  The Pine Center for the Arts discussed this at its last Board meeting.  What are your thoughts?

Chamber Hosts 2nd Annual Tasting Night

The Pine City Area Chamber of Commerce will host their 2nd Annual Beer, Wine & Liquor tasting event on Friday, February 26th from 6:00 – 8:00 PM.  The event is our mid-winter fundraiser for the Chamber’s General Fund.  Profits from this event are used for marketing of community events through Explore Minnesota, the Citizen of the Year reception, Holiday Madness parade, and networking and training sessions for the business community.

Tickets are on sale for this event at the Chamber Office and Voyageur Bottle Shop.  Purchase tickets in advance for just $15 each… purchase at the door and tickets are $20.

The event is made possible through a partnership with Voyageur Bottle Shop and the American Legion.  “Last year’s first event at the Legion space allowed us to include more beer and wine vendors than ever before as well as include a variety of Chamber Member booth spaces,” said Bonnie Menigo, event chairperson.  “This year we are including even more local businesses.”

The American Legion, Northern Hollow Winery, Scotty’s Parkside Cafe, Tupperware, Norwex, More Than Sprouts, Chris’ Food Center, and Anytime Fitness have all confirmed their space at this year’s event.  In addition, Voyageur Bottle Shop has secured 8 vendors to showcase their products.

2016 Promo Flyer

New options for online learning available with PTCC

PINE CITY, Minn. – Pine Technical & Community College has a new program that makes it easy for businesses to provide high-quality training for their employees—no matter how many employees they have or where they’re located. Pine Technical & Community College has partnered with ed2go to offer hundreds of online, instructor-facilitated employee training courses.

Through well-crafted lessons, expert online instruction and interaction with fellow students, employees gain valuable knowledge they can immediately apply on the job. They’ll have the flexibility to study at their own pace combined with enough structure and support to complete the course. And they’ll be able to access the classroom 24/7 from anywhere with an Internet connection.

New sessions of each course run every month. They last six weeks, with two new lessons being released weekly, for a total of 12 lessons. The courses are entirely web-based with comprehensive lessons, quizzes and assignments. A dedicated professional instructor facilitates every course; pacing learners, answering questions, giving feedback and facilitating discussions.

Pine Technical & Community College and ed2go host the entire operation. That means participating businesses don’t have to hassle with purchasing, integrating, administering or supporting the technology. They can reap the rewards of this unique online training tool without any behind-the-scenes headaches.

These courses are thoroughly market tested with more than a million learners having taken one. Pine Technical & Community College is pleased to offer this catalog of courses, which provides the most convenient, affordable and accessible employee training available anywhere.

Interested businesses can begin offering these exceptional courses right away. To learn more, call Pine Technical & Community College at 320-629-5176 or visit them online at

EZ Box Becomes Pine Innovation Center’s First Tenant

PINE CITY, Minn. – Pine Technical and Community College is pleased to introduce the first tenant of the Pine Innovation Center, EZ Box Electrical System Solutions, to the community. The family-owned business began operations in January with CEO Glenn Liubakka and Tanner Liubakka, president of sales and business development, setting the groundwork for the operation. Pine Innovation Center is the business incubator located on the PTCC campus.

Innovation Center

Liubakka’s family-owned and operated business will produce a product that Liubakka hopes will have an impact on the electrical construction industry. EZ Box will target electrical contractors with outlet, switch and light boxes that provide stud wire protectors and do not require special tools for installation. Once the company reaches full production, Liubakka estimates they will employ more than 200, and the company will stay in the area.

“One of our goals is to give back to the area,” Liubakka said. “When we graduate from the Pine Innovation Center, we will remain in the community. We also want to give local investors the opportunity to invest at the ground level.”

During the start-up phase of the operation, Liubakka and his son Tanner have been pursuing an aggressive schedule to get a prototype to market by spring. They’re also creating org charts for each phase of the business, which provides Tanner, who is currently seeking a business management degree, a unique educational experience.

“I’m learning how to start a business from the ground up,” he said. From researching and writing position descriptions for every role on the org chart to helping to build the company’s website, Tanner recognizes this first-hand experience is something he couldn’t get in a classroom.

“That’s really the unique thing about having a business incubator on a college campus,” said PTCC President Joe Mulford. “You can work in the office, and then run over to campus for a class, and Customized Training is right down the hall.” PTCC’s Continuing Education and Customized Training is housed in the Pine Innovation Center.

“EZ Box is really a good fit for the college and its programs,” said Jason Spaeth, PTCC’s Dean of Continuing Education and Customized Training and executive director of the Pine Innovation Center. Liubakka is able to access expertise from the college’s IT department, as well as use plastics and manufacturing equipment and assistance from faculty and students. They can also consider student internships for accounting and business technology students.

While having education and training opportunities just around the corner and access to resources is certainly a great benefit to a new business, it’s only part of what drew Liubakka to PTCC’s business incubator.

Start-ups with business incubator support generally have an 87% success rate, according to the National Business Incubation Association. The lower rent costs, coupled with the access to professional services, helps start-up businesses survive and grow during the initial, most vulnerable stages.

“Knowing the supports were available and the reputation of the college gave me a confidence boost,” said Liubakka. “It was a tough decision – do I leave a successful career to start a new business? Just knowing there will be the support there gave me the confidence to move forward. We have a lot of experience and background, but this is a safety net.”

It’s not just a business to Liubakka – it’s a legacy he hopes to leave to his family and the community. “It’s very much a family business. I see future generations taking over and growing in this community,” he said.

How To Build Community

I came across this postcard today while organizing my office.  The text was written by the Syracuse Cultural Workers Community and the watercolor and colored pencil art was by Karen Kerney.  I thought it was definitely worth a read:

How to Build Community

Car charger means business!

Kudos to Pine City!

As our municipality was looking to make our city more of an attractive destination/stop along I-35, it teamed up with Zef Energy to look for ways to attract residents and visitors to our local businesses and our downtown.  By offering smart EV charging in our city, local businesses claim we have driven more traffic to their restaurants and stores and, further, we have established our city as a green leader.

Electric vehicles (EVs) are coming faster than one might think with 10X growth in the last four years and analysts predicting that EVs are expected to comprise over 5% – 15% of all car sales by 2020.  Do you think Pine City is EV ready?EVs

Mixed Blood Theatre’s Dr. King’s Dream Comes to Pine City

PINE CITY, Minn. – Dr. King’s Dream, Mixed Blood Theatre’s acclaimed celebration of the life and career of Dr. Martin Luther King, will be performed in Pine City at Pine Technical & Community College auditorium on Monday, February 22. Sponsored by Pine Technical & Community College’s Diversity Team, the performance begins at 5:30 and is free and open to the public.

Dr. King’s Dream features Warren C. Bowles in a stirring solo performance that movingly chronicles King’s career from its beginning during the Montgomery bus strike to his death in Memphis. It captures all of the dignity, courage, and humanity of a unique American leader.

Both the external events in King’s career (the marches in Selma and Birmingham, winning the Nobel Peace Prize) and his thoughts on topics ranging from Malcolm X to the police to President Kennedy are included, as his soaring “I Have a Dream” speech. Yet for all of the historical significance, what emerges is the spirit of a man dedicated to equality through non-violence, to an ideal, and to a dream.

Dr. King’s Dream is produced by the Mixed Blood Theatre Company from its home in a century-old Minneapolis fire station. Founded in 1976 and dedicated to the spirit of Dr. King’s dream, Mixed Blood is a multi-racial professional company promoting cultural pluralism, individual equality, and artistic excellence.

The show is one of four programs toured nationally by Mixed Blood. The others include Minnecanos, a look at Chicano cultural history in Minnesota; Daughters of Africa, a music-driven history of African American women; and Theory of Mind, about a college-bound young man on the autism spectrum.

Warren C. Bowles, the talented actor featured in Dr. King’s Dream, has toured for Mixed Blood since 1981. Among the most memorable of his scores of credits at Mixed Blood are Lucien in The Boys Next Door, the title role in Cyrano de Bergerac, and the professor in Oleanna. He directed Daughters of Africa and both wrote and directed African America and Black Eagle, a biography of Challenger shuttle astronaut Ron McNair.


Spaghetti Dinner for “Rush to Plunge” Team

A local team has signed up to take part in the “Rush to Plunge” Special Olympics event in March on Mille Lacs Lake and are planning a spaghetti dinner fundraiser this month. Team members are seeking silent auction donations that will be part of their fundraising efforts on Friday, February 19th.  The event is being held at the Pine City American Legion.

Silent Auction begins at 5:30 PM and the all-you-can-eat Spaghetti Dinner begins at 6PM.  Cost for the dinner is $15 per person.


Pine City High School One-Act Performs

The Pine City High School Theater will host an open rehearsal on Friday, February 5th at 5:00 PM for family and friends that would like to see the production of “Wiley and the Hairy Man”.

The cast and crew of 11 students at PCHS recently attended their sub-section contest where the competed against other schools.  Pine City placed 2nd and now advances to the section tournament this Saturday, February 6th.  They’ll compete with 7 other schools one-act shows and the top finisher will advance to the state competition on February 11th.

The cast has been rehearsing the 35 minute show over the last 6 weeks, along with their director, Becky Schueller, and feel prepared for the tough competition on Saturday.

Friday’s open rehearsal will be held in the Pine City High School Auditorium and is open to the public at no cost.


Kanabec/Pine Health Hosts Traveling Health & Screening Fair

In an effort to provide additional health resources for the aging population in the community, Kanabec/Pine Health will host a traveling health and screening fair in April at locations in Pine City and Mora.  The collaborative effort is done in partnership with: Central MN Council on Aging, Pine Technical & Community College, FirstLight Health System, UCare, Family Pathways, Lakes and Pines CAC, and Catholic Charities.

The Pine City location will be held at Our Redeemer Lutheran Church on Tuesday, April 5th from 9:00 AM – 1:00 PM.