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Brainerd Lakes 4th of July Update with Chamber of Commerce President Matt Kilian

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Matt Kilian, President of the Brainerd Chamber of Commerce, spoke with Heidi Holtan on the KAXE Morning Show to discuss the state of the economy in Brainerd now that summer has reached peak season with the 4th of July approaching. To hear all the details of the conversation, click the "Listen" player at the top of the page.

This time of summer is a special one in the lakes areas of northern Minnesota: long sunsets, waning mosquito clouds, and the 4th of July all make these weeks memorable. To get a sense of how this time of year impacts the local economies of the Brainerd Lakes area, the Brainerd Chamber of Commerce President Matt Kilian took some time to chat with Heidi.

Predictably, the uptick of people in the area has been noticeable. "Brainerd is absolutely packed with visitors. I'm looking at Highway 371 and seeing that people are getting an early start of the 4th," Kilian said on Wednesday morning. "Tourism has come roaring back; it never really left us. Tourism is back and better than ever."

The roar of tourism has given Brainerd's small businesses a leg-up, especially the ones that are part of Downtown Brainerd's "renaissance." Often, when people think of Brainerd Lakes area, you think of the lake communities. But Kilian is hyped about the downtown area. "Over the past few years, we've focused on the revitalization of downtown Brainerd," he said. "We were able to take 20 empty storefronts and turn it into zero empty storefronts."

Kilian mentioned three shops in particular that are part of that renaissance: Knotty Pine Bakery, Purple Fern Bath Company, and the Crow Wing Food Coop. "Don't overlook downtown Brainerd," he said. "It's making an epic comeback."

With the 4th of July upcoming, there're lots of events that will bring people together to celebrate. "Every community has a 4th of July celebration. Pequot Lakes has their Stars and Stripes Days. Nisswa has a series of events down there. Brainerd has had a 4th of July parade just about forever. It's great for families, it's great to reflect on our independence, and it's one of my favorite times of the year."

To learn all about the different 4th of July events happening in the area, check out Explore Brainerd Lakes blog post here.

You can also check out the Chamber's website to learn about the different services that are provided to area small businesses.

Heidi Holtan is KAXE's Director of Content and Public Affairs where she manages producers and is the local host of Morning Edition from NPR. Heidi is a regional correspondent for WDSE/WRPT's Duluth Public Television’s Almanac North.