Coming back to Alex — and bringing others along

Jordyn Cantalope recently made a decision that many people who grew up in Alexandria, Minnesota, eventually make. She moved back to her hometown — and she brought along her now-husband.

Jordyn is the first to admit she was nervous to return. After 10 years living in Brookings, South Dakota, she says, “I didn’t know who was still here. And I thought it might be hard to meet people.” But, now that she’s back, she says she feels great about her decision. So great, in fact, that she’s working full-time to help other Alexandria expats do the same.

Her new job with the Alexandria Area Economic Development Commission (the AAEDC) isn’t quite the same as some of her earliest ventures in Alexandria — like running lemonade stands with her sisters in their Lake Latoka neighborhood or, later, recruiting fellow college students to come to Alexandria for the Polar Plunge.

But then again, maybe it’s not quite that different. Jordyn’s always had a way of enticing people to join the fun. And if she can convince 50 young adults to jump into a frozen Alexandria lake in the middle of February, she’ll probably find her current role a whole lot easier — because this part of Minnesota has so much to offer to anyone who moves here.

For years, Jordyn (center) recruited fellow college students to come to Alexandria for the Polar Plunge. Photograph courtesy of Jennifer Guenther Photography

So what’s the AAEDC, and why does Alexandria need it?

It wouldn’t be off-base to think of Jordyn’s new team, the AAEDC, as a high-impact welcome wagon for anyone who’s considering a move to Alexandria — or anyone who’s already here but wants to get better connected. Jordyn and her team provide all kinds of free resources, tips, and support to help people and businesses thrive in this unique part of Minnesota.

“Jordyn will be a key part of helping people move to town, feel welcomed, and find support,” says Nicole Fernholz, director of the AAEDC.

I’m excited about it,” says Jordyn. “I’m not having to really sell Alexandria, because I genuinely like it. I can just talk freely about it with people.”

Helping high schoolers start strong

A significant part of Jordyn’s new role will be to support the career-driven curriculum at Alexandria Area High School. She’ll help run the annual Career Expo, and she’ll connect the school with local business leaders who can teach and mentor students in actual career skills. Alexandria High School is known around the country for its innovative approach to education, and Jordyn sees a big difference from when she was in high school.

“I’m so jealous of these students,” says Jordyn, who’s a 2012 graduate of the former Jefferson High School. “They don’t even know how good they have it. It’s amazing.”

Connecting neighbors to each other

Jordyn will also be helping people get connected. If you’re someone who wants to meet people in Alexandria — whether you’re new here or you’ve been around for years — Jordyn is the person to start with. She’s already working with the Chamber of Commerce on some creative new ways to bring people together through a new Douglas County initiative called, Hello Neighbor.

“I’ve always said it’s a great place to raise kids and have a family — I know that just from growing up here.

So much to love

“I have a million ideas!” says Jordyn about her new role — and she’s starting with her own siblings. Two of the seven kids in her family have already moved back to Alexandria, two never left, and at least one would move back in an instant if her husband’s job would allow it. “I have some ideas on satellite offices to try to get them here,” Jordyn laughs.

For Jordyn, talking up Alexandria is not a hard sell. “I’ve always loved Alex,” she says. “I’ve always said it’s a great place to raise kids and have a family — I know that just from growing up here. There’s lots of activities, and the people are great, and it’s just a really good community. And the lakes make a huge difference for me, just our environment here — it’s just amazing.”

Are you an Alex expat ready to come home?

The AAEDC is here to help. Get connected today!