Contributed photo
Approximately 40 people went on a tour of the Brunswick boat company in New York Mills as part of the 2023 Minnesota Newspaper Association summer board meeting.

Publisher’s Perspective

Chad Koenen

One of the best ways to judge not only yourself, but your community, is through the eyes of outsiders. Since we typically have an inherent bias through what we experience in our everyday lives, having people from outside of our community come to town can yield some valuable information. It can also lead to a new appreciation of some of the things we often take for granted in our own backyard.

Last week Dani, Kendall, Korie and myself hosted the annual Minnesota Newspaper Association summer board meeting. Essentially, 52 people who are associated with the newspaper industry were in Otter Tail County for three days to go on local tours, hold meetings and just visit the region. From what I was told this was the largest gathering of past newspaper association presidents since before the COVID-19 pandemic, and if the feedback we received from those who attended the board meetings are true, we have a lot to be proud of in our region. 

One of the unique aspects of being president of the Minnesota Newspaper Association is having the ability to host a board meeting for the past presidents of the association, their family, current board members and newspaper association staff members. Rather than hosting the board meeting at a resort “up north,” we opted to have it at Thumper Pond in Ottertail. Our goal was to showcase the true heart of lakes country (during my research for the meeting I learned that Otter Tail County has the most lakes in any county in the entire country) and some of the places that makes this place so special. 

From the time people showed up last Wednesday, until they left on Friday, we heard nothing but positive remarks about the area. Many of the people who came here last week are from much larger communities in the Twin Cities area so it was interesting to hear about what they had to say about our area. A number of the people commented about how much there was to do and see in communities that have 1,000 people or less. 

Prior to the board meeting, Dani had the idea of really showcasing our region as part of welcome bags, which included everything from chips to candy, whipped honey and meat sticks from local businesses. It’s really eye opening when you step back and think about all of the items that are made from start to finish in the Otter Tail County area. 

Even our breakfast on Friday morning featured locally made caramel rolls that were brought to Thumper Pond. 

One of the highlights of the week was a tour of the Brunswick boat plants in New York Mills. Through the years I’ve had the opportunity to see parts of the boat factory, but I have never gone on a full tour of the plant. To be honest, going on a tour has been one of those things that us locals talk about doing ad nauseum, but never do since we can always do it “tomorrow” or “another time.”

What struck me was how big the factory is inside. Anyone who drives through NY Mills likely will drive by the boat factory, but you don’t realize how big it is inside until you actually start walking around. I was left with no doubt that I would never be able to work there as I would get lost in about 5 minutes. 

Another thing that really stuck out was what it was like to see 600 people working in a town of 1,200 people. What was one of the more ironic parts of the tour was the fact that the first person I saw when we walked through the door of the factory was none other than Derek Braukmann. I mean what are the chances you see someone you know almost immediately in a plant full of 600 people. 

Following the tour I heard from several people that they can’t believe how many boats Brunswick (Lunds and Crestliner) make each day and the positive atmosphere in the factory throughout the tour. It was also amazing to hear how many people either own, or had owned, a Lund or Crestliner boat that went on the tour. 

In the end it was fun to be able to showcase our area and take a closer look at places like Brunswick, as well as some of the stores that make up the greater Ottertail area. It’s interesting to watch people’s faces when they walk into a place like Periwinkle and the Williams Company Store, as well as eat at some of the diners up here, and see what they think of our area.