Perhaps it was too fragile a project under any circumstances. Perhaps it failed because of the pandemic.
But it is clear that the plan to establish the Minnesota College of Osteopathic Medicine in a shuttered elementary school in Gaylord has collapsed.
The project has defaulted on its bonds. The renovation of the building that began in the summer of 2019 has halted. The woman named that summer as the school’s dean says the project has disbanded.
And the hope that Gaylord — population 2,300 — would get a sudden economic transformation has faded away.
It was always easy to be skeptical of the project. Sibley County is a rather remote locale for a medical school, even if, as reported this week by MinnPost, osteopathic schools have opened in several other rural communities in recent decades. Gaylord city councilmember Scott Kuphal, who described himself as having been cautiously optimistic about the college, told MinnPost many in the community had been apprehensive about the plan, figuring it was too good to be true.
And indeed, the plan seemed almost too perfect. Many Minnesota towns have found themselves with a vacant school building and little if any economic growth. The proposed osteopathic school offered a fix to both problems for Gaylord.
That vision, while certainly worth pursuing, has now proven to be a mirage. Gaylord will have to return to the drawing board for a new use for the empty school. Economic development in small towns is never easy to attract, and setbacks are common. This setback, perhaps, stings a bit more because the reward was so large and it appeared so reachable in the summer of 2019.