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  Thursday January 29th, 2015    

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You can never leave Winona behind (10/03/2007)
I'm seldom at a loss for words, but writing this Positively Winona piece is difficult. It's not because there aren't many great things to say about Winona, it's because we're moving.

When I began my working career 22 years ago, I never expected to come back to Winona again. When I returned to accept a position with Merchants Bank in 1989, I expected it to be a temporary stop before moving on to the proverbial "bigger and better." Well, Winona can be surprising.

Now, as my wife Terri and I prepare for relocation to Cannon Falls and the great opportunity for growth the Merchants organization has provided for both of us, it's almost impossible to think about leaving Winona behind.

There are so many things that make this community extraordinary, and unfortunately we take most of them for granted. Winona enjoys a physical beauty that is priceless, but what truly makes Winona a beautiful place is far more than that. Other assets we enjoy that make our community the envy of other communities would include:

Economic Diversity and Stability - As I've had the opportunity to travel to communities throughout Southeastern Minnesota and West Central Wisconsin in my role as Director of Marketing for Merchants Financial Group, it's become increasingly clear that Winona is home to an entrepreneurial spirit that those other communities covet. Our economic assets are nearly endless and include " the evolution of composites manufacturing" the vibrancy that comes from the growth of a company like Fastenal" the presence of long-standing companies like Watkins and Merchants Bank" companies like RTP which have earned international acclaim" strong niche manufacturers like We-No-Nah Canoe and Coda Bow" and successful start-up companies like HBC" Now, that is an impressive list!

Unparalleled Educational Institutions - Find a community of this size that offers high school students a high-quality public high school and the choice of three faith-based institutions like Cotter High School, Hope Lutheran High School and Onalaska Luther High School. Think about the energy and economic stimulus injected in Winona every August when students return to Saint Mary's University, Winona State University and Minnesota State College Southeast Technical.

The Arts - The recent explosive growth of organizations like Theatre du Mississippi, the Great River Shakespeare Festival, and the Minnesota Beethoven Festival has led to greater visibility and appreciation for all the arts - from long-standing organizations to arts-related activities at our educational institutions.

A Truly Giving Spirit - Probably most important is being part of a community filled with people who genuinely care about other people. Non-profits here flourish because of the generosity of the entrepreneurs and locally-owned companies that call Winona their home. That spirit was tested again following our severe flooding. The outpouring of help offered by hundreds of individuals and businesses throughout the community is inspiring.

All of these assets and dozens more make Winona a special place, and I've been given tremendous opportunities to experience that which really makes Winona unique. My parents set a strong example of making sacrifices to help build a strong community. I'm fortunate to work for a company that truly understands that community leadership and giving back to others is what will lead to long-term growth and success. These values don't come from institutions. They come from people. Not just one person or a small group, but from the community as a whole. You" all of you... are what really make this such an extraordinary community. Terri and I will miss You the most.

Greg Evans has been with Merchants Bank since 1989 and was recently named Regional President for Merchants Bank - Cannon Falls.



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