Worthington Vs. The World

Talking to people in my age range, I hear a not-so-small amount of pessimism about Worthington.

“There’s nothing to do here.”
“Worthington is so boring.”
“We don’t even have a movie theater!”

Based on my own experience, I can’t exactly tell them they’re wrong. It feels like I spend half of my weekends in Sioux Falls, whether it’s visiting friends, family or even just seeing a movie or two. Then there’s the weekends I spend in the Twin Cities to see the Evers side of my family — and perhaps a Twins or Timberwolves game.

A significant portion my reporting relates to the topic of economic development, in which I hear city leaders talk about the struggle of attracting and retaining workers my age and older. It’s funny to hear both sides talk about it, because it seems like everyone — the 23-year-olds and the 60-year-olds — is on the same page.

Everyone agrees the city could use more things to do and better places to live. I know more about the city’s recent struggles than almost anyone, whether it’s the saga of bringing a movie theater to town or getting decent water from the Lewis & Clark water pipeline. Then, of course, there’s the ever-present housing shortage.

I know just how hard the city’s leaders, whether they work in the public or private sector, want the city of Worthington to grow. They all believe in Worthington, and they know the city has the potential to boom.

The fact is, it’s an uphill battle. It may seem unfair, but when millennials are surveyed about where they want to live, I can personally guarantee Worthington is not on the list. Any city smaller than 100,000 people probably isn’t.

Worthington is not going to become Sioux Falls overnight. It probably never will be, and I don’t know why I hear people complain about Worthington in relation to Sioux Falls or Mankato — as if they’re even playing in the same league.

But when I think about the things I travel to Sioux Falls for, I also think to myself: would it be hard to get some of those here? And if they were in Worthington, would Sioux Falls still be as much of a destination?

I think when people say there’s nothing to do in Worthington, it shouldn’t be taken literally. It just means the city doesn’t offer that one thing they really want. Depending on the person, that might be a zoo, waterpark, paintball field, JCPenney, or even an Aldi supermarket. Or a movie theater, which looks to be on its way.

Is it impossible to get some of those things here? Absolutely not. And perhaps just one of those things coming to town might make someone my age reconsider: does Worthington have nothing to do?

I’m not saying a zoo is coming to Worthington. Actually, I’m pretty sure a zoo isn’t coming to Worthington. But there is quite a lot in the works — it’s just going to take some time before everyone sees it.