Northfield’s Convention and Visitors Bureau: What needs to be changed?

In today’s Northfield News – Promoting Northfield’s identity: Convention and Visitors Bureau presents strategic plan

In addition to approving the CVB’s budget at its Feb. 5 meeting, the council said it wants to direct the group to reexamine its bylaws and look at potential options for an increased downtown CVB presence. The council also brought up concerns on how the CVB plans to engage various stakeholders and how to hold the group accountable to those plans.

Visiting Northfield homepageThe article goes on to quote Councilors Jessica Peterson White and Suzie Nakasian, and notes how some councilors question the interconnectedness between the CVB (public website VisitingNorthfield.com) and the Northfield Area Chamber of Commerce (NACC):

For example, the group’s policies and procedures currently state that those allowed to participate on the CVB advisory board must be members of the NACC, unless appointed by the mayor and city council. Some council members said that that strong overlap limits who can be on the CVB board, narrowing the pool of potential stakeholders involved.

See pages 3-28 of last night’s Council packet where the CVB was discussed in the work session.

Let’s scrap ‘Small Business Saturday’ and ‘Be Local, Buy Local’ in favor of something simpler

BLBLBannerFinal

I’m not sure what happened to promotion for this year’s Small Business Saturday here in Northfield but it seems to have tanked right along with Be Local … Buy Local (BLBL), the campaign by the Northfield Area Chamber of Commerce and the Northfield Downtown Development Corporation “that promotes the importance of shopping locally for products and services in the Northfield area.”

My suggestion?

Keep it simple:

Buy-more-local-stuff

Northfield citizens decline to help capture robbery suspect; severe impact on tourism feared

America's Best Value Inn & Suites - NorthfieldWhen the word of this morning’s robbery at America’s Best Value Inn & Suites on Hwy 3 began trickling out via police scanners, most Northfielders were sound asleep.

When KYMN Radio and Northfield Patch began sounding the alarm at around 6 am that one of the suspects had fired at police officers and fled, members of the Northfield Police Department assumed that citizens would respond in droves to help capture one of the suspects who was still at large and believed to be in the Sechler Park area.

By time the Northfield News began covering the story several hours later, gloom was apparent on the faces of the police officers on duty.  “We had extra department staff ready to handle the flood of citizen volunteers by deputizing them and issuing them firearms,” said Taylor Marcus, Northfield’s Public Safety Director. “No one showed up. No one emailed. No one tweeted. We had no choice to but to call other law enforcement agencies for help. It was embarrassing.”

robberWhen the suspect was finally apprehended mid-morning, the Defeat of Jesse James Days and Northfield Area Chamber of Commerce boards of directors were already in an emergency joint session.  “It’s a Category 4 public relations nightmare,” said Chamber Executive Director Marie Schmaltzy. “If word of this colossal failure of our citizens to respond gets out, we’re likely to see a devastating impact on attendance at DJJD next year.”

“I’m not surprised at all,” said Dewayne Reddy, DJJD board member.  “Northfielders have essentially become a bunch of yellow-bellied, lily-livered, milk-toasted, panty-waisted wimp chickens.  We’ve been riding on the courage of the town’s ancestors from the 1876 bank raid for over 100 years and we’re now morally bankrupt, no pun intended. It’s a sad day. I feel like turning in my spur.”

Noting that the weapon used in today’s robbery had not yet been found, KYMN radio’s Jim Friedman, organizer of the annual DJJD Horseshoe Hunt, said he would attempt to mobilize the citizenry in the morning to help find the suspect’s gun. When asked what he would do to motivate people to participate, Friedman said, “I haven’t got a clue.”

It’s true. Working alone sometimes stinks. Therefore…

The Spur: Working alone stinks. Let's work together. The Spur: Working alone stinks. Let's work together. Grand Opening: The Spur Jack Hoschouer, Arlen Malecha, Megan Tsui, Mary Schmelzer
The Spur, the Northfield Enterprise Center‘s new coworking and incubator/accelerator facility in downtown Northfield, had its grand opening last Thursday. Among the attending dignitaries (right photo above on the Spur’s back deck): Jack Hoschouer, Arlen Malecha, Megan Tsui, Mary Schmelzer.

The Spur’s sidewalk sandwich board proclaims:

Working alone stinks. Let’s work together.

 Megan Tsui, Shafi Shahriar Megan Tsui, Shafi Shahriar raffle winner
NEC Executive Director Megan Tsui and intern Shafi Shahriar picked the raffle ticket for the Kindle Fire, donated by Community Resource Bank. The winner: Carla Hansen.

Tami Enfield of Brand Yourself Consulting, presenting at the SpurSummer of Social Learning - FacebookTami Enfield of Brand Yourself Consulting, presenting at the Spur

Earlier in the day in the Spur’s conference room,Tami Enfield of Brand Yourself Consulting, hosted a free Lunch ‘n Learn session on ‘Facebook for Business,’ part of the ‘Summer of Social Media’ series sponsored by the NEC and the Northfield Area Chamber of Commerce.

The Chamber wants voter approval for Safety Center financing. I do, too.

In Saturday’s Nfld News: Chamber board wants voter approval for Northfield Safety Center financing:

Northfield ChamberThe Northfield Area Chamber of Commerce board believes voters should decide whether to use bonds to finance a new Safety Center. Failing to do so, says board President Rick Estenson, could completely derail the project, in the works for more than four years.

The board, according to Estenson, will submit a letter to the council Monday, detailing its concerns about the vote set for Tuesday night. If the council agrees to finance the project with Capital Improvement Bonds, voter approval isn’t required. The bonds do allow for taxpayers to weigh in however, by calling for a reverse referendum. A referendum could come if opponents of the proposed bond issue get 398 registered voters to sign a petition calling for a referendum.

See pages 155-184 of the Council packet for Tuesday’s Council meeting and public hearing:

Public Hearing on the Capital Improvement Plan (Bonds);

b. Consider Approval of a Resolution 2012-054 Giving Preliminary Approval for the Issuance of Capital Improvement Plan Bonds (not to exceed $7,280,000)

Are Northfield businesses leveraging bricks with clicks?

Hans Muessig and Ross Currier Hans Muessig presentation in Northfield
Northfielder Hans Muessig is a Director with the Minnesota Intelligent Rural Communities program at University of Minnesota Extension. Last week, he was the presenter for Doing business online, the first in a series of three workshops on ‘Reaching Customers in the 21st Century’ that’s sponsored by the NDDC, the EDA, the NEC, and the Northfield Area Chamber of Commerce.

See Ross Currier’s posts on his NDDC blog:

Northfield Area Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Kathy Feldbrugge resigns

Kathy Feldbrugge, 2008I first heard about Kathy Feldbrugge’s resignation last night via Suzy Rook’s tweet. I got the press release below this morning from Leah Rich at Neuger Communications.

It’s all nicely worded, of course, but I’ve long been a critic of Kathy’s leadership and her departure is long overdue IMHO. For example, see my remarks in this 2008 blog post and the attached thread of 100+ comments.  I’m guessing that the Chamber’s ongoing drop in membership numbers had something to do with her resignation.

Might this be an opportunity for the Chamber Board, the NDDC board, and the NEC Board to do something creative, organizationally speaking?

CHAMBER EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR STEPS DOWN
 
NORTHFIELD, MINN. (February 28, 2012) – After 31 years of service to the Northfield Area Chamber of Commerce, Kathy Feldbrugge announced this week that she is resigning her role as executive director effective at the end of April 2012. She informed the Board of Directors on Monday at its monthly Board meeting and the Chamber membership was notified through an email from Chamber President Rick Estenson.
 
Estenson said, “On behalf of the members of the Chamber, we thanked Kathy for her tireless work and guidance to the business community. Thirty-five years of service in Chamber work – all but four of them with the Northfield Chamber – is a wonderful feat. We will be looking for ways to express our appreciation to Kathy in the days ahead.” The Chamber Board will meet again later this week with Feldbrugge to begin an Executive Director search and explore the ingredients of a smooth transition, according to Estenson.  

The Northfield Area Chamber of Commerce is a business organization that promotes the Northfield area and the local business community. Feldbrugge said, “The Chamber is comprised of local businesses and business-minded individuals who have banded together with one goal in mind: to advance the commercial, financial, industrial and civic interests of the community. In short, the Chamber is here to help businesses thrive.”

Feldbrugge emphasized that she is not retiring, but is merely looking to take on another challenge in her career. “I feel as though I have one more stop left in my career and I’m looking for a new challenge to energize me,” she said. “This was a very difficult decision for me. I knew if I was going to make a career shift, now was the time. I grew up in this Chamber. I’ve seen its highs and lows. I’ve come to love this community and the businesses it nurtures. I’ll miss my leadership role in the Chamber, but I’m looking forward to my next challenge.” Feldbrugge said she does not yet know what that challenge will be. “I’ve always been 100 percent committed to the Chamber’s success and the vitality of the business community in Northfield,” Feldbrugge explained. “I couldn’t maintain that commitment while at the same time looking for my next career move so I decided this announcement was the best for all involved.”

Estenson added, “This is a courageous move by Kathy. I wish her nothing but the best as she identifies her next opportunity.”
 
Estenson also said the Chamber is moving full speed ahead. “Although Kathy’s departure will leave a void,” he said, “it also creates opportunities, which is true with any transition.” He said the Chamber Board remains “committed to improving the business climate in Northfield and we are aggressively seeking ways to enhance the Chamber’s value to its members.”
 
Businesses and individuals interested in joining the Northfield Area Chamber of Commerce are invited to call 507.645.5604 or visit online at www.northfieldchamber.com.

Photo album: Le Tour du Chocolat 2012

Le Tour du Chocolat 2012 participating retailers

On Saturday, Robbie and I did the Le Tour du Chocolat in downtown Northfield. What’s it about? According to the posting on the Be Local Facebook page Wall:

Le Tour du Chocolat 2012Stroll the shops of Division Street in historic downtown Northfield and taste the chocolate delights while signing up for drawings.

See the large slideshow of 20 photos (recommended) or SLOW CLICK this small slideshow:

Northfield City Hall to open at 12:01 am on Black Friday; Chamber/CVB reluctantly follows suit

City of NorthfieldNorthfield City Administrator Tim Madagascar announced last week in his Weekly Memo that City Hall will open for business at midnight (12:01 am) on Black Friday.

"Since it’s the busiest shopping day of the year, our customers—sometimes known as citizens—are demanding that we be responsive," Madagascar said. " Northfield Target is opening at midnight and we want to be ready to serve those folks who might want to apply for a license, make a reservation, or submit an application for the council vacancy when they’re done shopping.  It’s part of our mission—striving for excellence, committed to service."

On Tuesday, Northfield Area Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Katarina Fellbore announced that their Northfield Convention and Visitors Bureau office at 205 3rd St. West would open just after midnight on Black Friday as well.

Northfield Chamber "Buy More" card"My Board of Directors thinks it’s an opportunity for us to tell the out-of-towners who will be heading to Northfield Target all the great things about shopping in Northfield," said Fellbore. "Frankly, I think that’s a stretch, since no other stores are opening at that hour. Nonetheless, we’ll be open, handing out CVB brochures and selling our line of Buy More cards that we have left over from last year."

When asked whether it might be more cost-effective for the City and the Chamber to be offering these services via their websites 24X7, both indicated that e-commerce was something they’d be adding in the next five years or so. "Online shopping is likely to catch on with the public by then and when it does, we’ll be ready for it," said Fellbore.

Crazy Daze is today. Someone tell the local media… and the Chamber

Ross Currier’s NDDC blog has the announcement about Crazy Daze today: Alaskan Doughnuts…er…uh…Crazy Daze, this Thursday!

NDDC's Ross Currier with his Crazy Daze doughnut from Quality BakeryBut, yes, this Thursday (July 28th) is Crazy Daze in downtown Northfield.  Starting at 8 a.m. with activities until 8 p.m., it’s a whole lot of fun brought to you by the Retail Committee of the Northfield Area Chamber of Commerce.

This year’s events include a Watermelon Seed Spittting Contest, 11:00 a.m., Just Food; Bean Bag Toss, 1:30 p.m., Fine Threads; Hula Hoop Contest, 2:00 p.m., Rare Pair; and Classic Cars, 5 p.m., on Division Street between 5th and 6th Streets.

But a glance at the home pages of Northfield.org, the Northfield News, Northfield Patch, and KYMN at 6:15 am this morning reveals a complete lack of information about Crazy Daze.

The Northfield Area Chamber of Commerce (the main sponsor of Crazy Daze) lists the event on its community calendar page but  with this feeble, generic paragraph:

Don’t miss this crazy shopping spree in downtown Northfield every July. Fantastic bargains are provided by local retailers. Call for details and times for special events taking place all day! (507) 645 5604 or (800) 658 2548.

The featured event page on the Chamber’s Convention and Bureau’s site is even more cryptic:

Don’t miss this crazy shopping spree in downtown Northfield every July. Fantastic bargains are provided by local retailers.

nor is there any mention of the event on the Visiting Northfield Facebook page, nor on the Be Local Northfield Facebook page.

Last year, the Chamber had a Crazy Daze poster/flyer.  Was there one this year? I’ve not seen it in store windows, but maybe I’ve just missed it.

Something has failed.

Chamber staff took off early on (Good) Friday for, um, Earth Day

Northfield Area Chamber of Commerce - Earth DayGiven the US Chamber of Commerce’s position on climate change (Forbes 2009 opinion piece), I found it a little ironic that staff at the Northfield Area Chamber of Commerce took Friday afternoon off in honor of Earth Day, not Good Friday.

In case their Calendar page gets updated, seen the screenshot.

Chamber of Commerce raises concerns about the proposed Land Development Code

Land Development Code Board and Commission Review Draft-April 7, 2011 Zoning Map draft
The Planning Commission-Zoning Board of Appeals web packet for April 7 contains, among other things, a letter from the Northfield Area Chamber of Commerce concerning their issues with the Land Development Code Board and Commission Review Draft-April 7, 2011 (312-page PDF). These concerns surfaced at last week’s Northfield City Council meeting (see pages 1-23 of the April 12 council packet).

The Planning Commission packet states on Page 33:

The letter from Chamber Board of Directors contains five broad points that are not specific but contain content that the Commission should be able to respond to. These five broad points can be summarized as follows:

1. Land Development Code needs more flexibility for commercial areas to allow for business diversity.

2. The Code needs to identify areas for industrial development, specifically the proposed Business Park.

3. Restrictions on college owned property undermines their ability to effectively utilize their property.

4. Residential zoned areas need more flexibility so property owners can build what customers want to live in.

5. The LDC should include a statement that contains a streamlined process to change the LDC.

The Chamber of Commerce also stressed that specific comments from builders and developers be viewed as comment from the Chamber as well. The comments from the builder/developers are much more specific and contain 18 comments in total, 13 comments relate to commercial regulations, and five comments relate to residential regulations.

The letter from the Chamber starts on page 37 of the packet.

Audio: Legislators Kelby Woodard and Al DeKruif at NDDC/Chamber forum

Kelby Woodard and Al DeKruif at NDDC/Chamber forum  Kelby Woodard and Al DeKruif at NDDC/Chamber forum  Kelby Woodard and Al DeKruif at NDDC/Chamber forum

Our new legislators, Representative Kelby Woodard, District 25B, and Senator Al DeKruif, District 25, spoke at the NDDC / Chamber forum at Community Resource Bank yesterday morning.

Here’s the audio:

Click play to listen. 1 hour, 25 minutes. Or download the MP3.

Campaign websites: Al DeKruif; Kelby Woodard.

Nfld News: Woodard, DeKruif at Northfield area business forum.

Convention and Visitors Bureau seeks information on money owed. Is retribution part of the story?

chamberlogoI’ve not kept up on this issue of delinquent payments to the Northfield Convention and Visitors Bureau (a department of the Northfield Area Chamber of Commerce) and their request for information from the City of Northfield. 

I do wonder, though, whether the delinquent payments are related to the angry reaction from local hoteliers to the City’s hiring a Hampton Inn-connected consulting firm for $9,600 which ended up saying that a Hampton Inn and conference center was warranted for Northfield. See my Jan. 2010 blog post and the attached 47 comments: On deciding to spend $9,600 for hotel market study.

Additional background:

Nfld News Dec 23: CVB request fulfilled — sort of

On the advice of city attorney Chris Hood, the city initially declined to release the data, saying it was private and couldn’t legally be distributed. But by the second council discussion, city officials realized that some of what the CVB had asked for could be made public. That information, which includes the total delinquencies of more than $11,000, is enough to help the CVB move forward, said Feldbrugge.

Nfld News letter to the editor Dec 10: Northfield hoteliers must support CVB

Nfld News editorial Dec 7: Info withholding hurts CVB, city

Nfld News Dec 3: Without city data, visitors bureau says its hands are tied

Chamber/NDDC ‘Be Local … Buy Local’ campaign turns it up a notch

Buy moreBe Local … Buy Local (BLBL), the campaign by the Northfield Area Chamber of Commerce and the Northfield Downtown Development Corporation "that promotes the importance of shopping locally for products and services in the Northfield area," has a new initiative. 

They’re selling these ‘buy more’ cards and putting up similar posters in store windows around town.

Roscoe Curry, VP of Public Relations for the Northfield Area Chamber of Commerce, had some reservations about the initiative when it was first discussed at a staff meeting with Executive Director Katarina Fellbore. "I thought some of the merchants might think it a little too doomsdayish," said Curry.  He did an informal straw poll, going door-to-door with the merchants along Hwy 3, and all were in favor.

"I like that it’s direct," said Hugh G. Wreckshun, proprietor of Northfield Kwik Kondom (‘Kows, Kolleges, Kondoms, Kontentment’) near the intersection of Hwy 3 and Heritage Drive. "No sense pussyfooting around."

Small Engine Unlimited: Dan Lien turns an unused Hwy 3 building into a thriving business

Mitsubishi minibikeI borrowed a buddy’s minibike last weekend and promptly lost the gas cap.  Duh. I searched locally and online for a replacement (Mitsubishi motor) to no avail. 

Dan Lien, Small Engine UnlimitedOn a whim, I stopped by the new (it opened in the spring) Small Engine Unlimited shop at 1203 S. Hwy 3 adjacent to Northfield Lampert’s.  Owner and longtime Northfielder Dan Lien promptly dug up a spare cap and gave it to me for free.

Dan will soon have a website (naturally, I nagged him to get a blog) but in the meantime you can reach him via email smallengineunlimited@gmail.com or 507-645-5300. His business card includes this info:

  • Small Engine Repair: All Makes & Models
  • Small Hand Tool Repair: Rechargeable, Electric, and Pneumatic
  • Sharpening Service
  • Scooter & Moped Repair and Much More

The Northfield Area Chamber of Commerce Ambassadors paid him a visit in July. Here’s a photo from their Flickr Ambassador Visits photo set:

Northfield Area Chamber of Commerce Ambassadors visits owner Dan Lien of Small Engine Unlimited

Should Crazy Daze be two days?

Division St, 6:30 am, 7/22/2010 Division St, 6:30 am, 7/22/2010 7-22-2010 6-29-13 AM radar
The scene on Division St at 6:30 this morning was rather bleak.  The radar doesn’t offer  much encouragement, nor does Paul Douglas’ forecast.

Should the Northfield Area Chamber of Commerce’s Crazy Daze (PDF of today’s schedule of events) be two-days long in case of inclement weather, like the 2010 Taste of Northfield?

Oil Can Henry’s morphs into Castrol Premium Lube Express

Castrol Premium Lube Express Oil Can Henry’s at Hwy 3 and Honey Locust Drive has become a Castrol Premium Lube Express.

OCH International is the parent company of Oil Can Henry’s and has some kind of an alliance with Castrol, as the Castrol logo is visible at the bottom of their website.

The franchise is owned by Jeff Hasse, also the proprietor of the CountryInn Northfield and AmericaInn Northfield. Jeff is also on the boards of the NDDC and the Northfield Area Chamber of Commerce.

Green collar economic development: Faribault 2, Northfield 1

green-jobsToday, Faribault’s Sage Electrochromics was cited in the Strib for winning “a $72 million federal loan guarantee for a major expansion of its manufacturing facility, where the company has developed ‘smart’ glass for windows and skylights that reduce energy use.”

Two weeks ago, Faribault’s McQuay plant was cited in the Strib for “using $1.3 million in new federal tax credits to revamp a manufacturing plant to make more energy efficient air-conditioners.”

In January, Northfield’s Cardinal Glass was cited in the Strib for receiving “$7.7 million of new federal funds to convert its residential-glass factory into a solar glass-coating plant.” (A tip of the blogger hat to Larry DeBoer for alerting me to it.)

I don’t know to what extent the people involved with Northfield’s economic development ecosystem (see organizations below) are pursuing green collar manufacturing jobs. I found a few mentions:

Continue reading Green collar economic development: Faribault 2, Northfield 1

Northfield Visitors Guide, Winter 2010 edition: a well-kept online secret

winter visitors guide sshot I got a tweet in mid-January from NHS ED Hayes Scriven that the Jan-Mar 2010 Northfield Visitors Guide was available. The flash version is embedded on the NHS home page

But I can’t seem to find it on the Northfield Area Chamber of Commerce site nor on their Convention and Visitors Bureau’s Visiting Northfield web site. It’s not linked to or mentioned on the City of Northfield’s visitor page and I couldn’t find it on the Northfield.org or NDDC blogs either.

I know, I know, the print version is the main thing and it’s distributed about town. But why not make it easy for Northfielders to email it, blog it, tweet it, and post to their Facebook Walls about it so that their non-Northfield friends and colleagues take a look at it?  It costs virtually zero to do this. Plus, the thing is full of great photos, BTW. Heh.

So allow me to do my part. Here’s the PDF version, courtesy of LoGroNo. Here’s the Flash version, courtesy of Hayes Scriven and the NHS. Go forth and multiply it, by which I do NOT mean what Brits mean when they say go forth and multiply.

On deciding to spend $9,600 for hotel market study

Highland Group logo It’s not clear from the story in the Sat. Nfld News, New Northfield hotel feasible, market study indicates, how the $9,600 decision was made to hire an Atlanta-based consulting company,  Highland Group Hotel Investment Advisors, to conduct the study.

A search of the phrase “Highland Group” on the City’s website only comes up with the disbursements to the company in October and in December. I can’t find anything that indicates there’s been Council discussion of this. I checked with Jim Gleason, new president of the Northfield Area Chamber of Commerce/Convention and Visitors Bureau, who indicated that he wasn’t aware of the market study being done.

I’m not ready to argue that conducting a study is a bad idea. I’m questioning the process.  It seems like the Council should be involved in a public discussion about an expenditure like this, especially one that’s likely to ruffle the feathers of local business owners. According to the Nfld News, City Administrator Joel Walinski said study was done to facilitate the conversation among local developers and hotel owners. Seems backwards to me.

Snow, Localmotive arrive just in time for Winter Walk

Snow downtown Northfield Localmotive email newsletter, Dec. 1, 2009I took this photo at 8:25 am.  The “no parking downtown after 1pm” signs are up. Winter Walk rules, baby!

On Tuesday, the first issue of Localmotive, the Northfield Area Chamber of Commerce’s new e-newsletter, arrived. Sign up for it here.

Continue reading Snow, Localmotive arrive just in time for Winter Walk

Photo redux: Winter Walk 2002, 03, 04, 05, 06, 08

winterwalk09-sshotNorthfield’s 11th Annual Winter Walk is coming up this Thursday, Dec. 3. See the schedule of events (PDF) on the Northfield Area Chamber of Commerce site.

I’ve taken quite a few photos of the event since 2002. (Alas, I missed ‘07). See the albums for 2002, 03, 04, 05, 06 and 08. See the large slideshow for 2008 or this small slideshow:

Continue reading Photo redux: Winter Walk 2002, 03, 04, 05, 06, 08

Chamber/NDDC ‘Be Local Buy Local’ campaign embraces the local blogosphere

Be Local … Buy Local (BLBL)I’m thrilled to see that the Be Local … Buy Local (BLBL) campaign initiated by the Northfield Area Chamber of Commerce and Northfield Downtown Development Corporation is not only web-savvy but recognizes the role that the local blogosphere plays in both the local economy and the information ecosystem. The HTML code they provide for BLBL images includes these explanations:

Continue reading Chamber/NDDC ‘Be Local Buy Local’ campaign embraces the local blogosphere

Photo album, audio: City of Northfield takes some heat from Chamber audience of local employers and property owners

Chamber forum agendaThe Northfield Area of Commerce sponsored a forum this morning at the Community Resource Bank‘s Community Room. Purpose: "… for local employers,  property owners, and our city government leaders to hear from each." See the agenda screenshot on the right.

I captured the audio and took two dozen photos. (continued)

Continue reading Photo album, audio: City of Northfield takes some heat from Chamber audience of local employers and property owners

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