Ron and Diane Fagen unwrapped an early Christmas present to the Granite Falls area community during a press conference held this week to announce the relocation of Pioneer of Public Television (PPTV) from Appleton to Granite Falls.

Ron and Diane Fagen unwrapped an early Christmas present to the Granite Falls area community during a press conference held this week to announce the relocation of Pioneer of Public Television (PPTV) from Appleton to Granite Falls.

The news comes in light of what PPTV General Manager Les Heen referred to as an “extraordinary” and “amazing” “lead gift” by Ron and Diane Fagen in the form of the construction of a new, 15,000 square foot television studio that will be located at the southwest corner of the intersection of Highway 23, Highway 67 and Yellow Medicine County highway 39 not far from the

Yellow Medicine County Museum.
The Fagens were joined by Heen, Station Manager Jon Panzer and PPTV Board Chairman Pat Kubly to announce the gesture at the Granite Falls City Hall on Monday afternoon. Also on hand were Mayor Dave Smiglewski, City Manager Bill Lavin and representatives of the Granite Falls EDA.

According to Heen, PPTV has  spent the past four to five years developing a long-term facility plan that would allow the non-profit organization to position its television operations for the future.

“The main issue for us is that the facility we currently have is really too small for analog studio work and is even more inadequate for high-definition production. We’ve been working on this for a long time––trying to figure it out, and you guys came in and saved the day and we’re excited about that,” said Panzer.  

How it happened
Having just entered the early of stages of capital fundraising campaign, Heen said PPTV was seeking to finance the project through both state bonding requests and major donor contributions that would likely involve a time-line of another three to four years before the project would be able to come to fruition––but then the Fagens made the game-changing offer.

“I think I said something like, I  won’t give you a nickel for your capital fundraising campaign, Les. ...But I will build you a new building in Granite Falls,” Ron recalled with a laugh.

The Fagens had gained familiarity with PPTV during a recent “Postcards” program showcasing the family’s Fagen Fighters WWII Museum, “Warbirds: A Family Journey,” which would end up being nominated for an Emmy. It was this experience working with the PPTV staff, in tandem with their appreciation for the station’s other locally produced features that made the family want to support the 23 employees’ efforts in Granite Falls.

“We all see the quality of television these days which is not much to brag about, but you can always go to Pioneer and see something decent for your family,” said Ron. “And talk about a bright group of people,” he continued. “These are the type of people that we want to offer a job to in this community. These guys are great, and they just impress the heck out of ya’. Quality, quality jobs. Quality people. And that’s what we need more of.”

Credit Appleton
The Fagens said that hardest part of the decision was that the investment would relocate an asset from Appleton, but that ultimately they realized this avenue provided the best opportunity to facilitate the highest quality product to the benefit of the entire region.

“The biggest thing we struggled with was Appleton and the relocation, but we also realized that they had a challenge ahead of them to modernize and of course our goal was: If we’re going to modernize, let’s do it in Granite Falls,” said Ron.

Heen and Panzer agreed with the notion, calling the gift “transformational” in that it will allow time, energy and resources that would have been expended on fundraising to be entirely directed toward the people, programming and equipment that serve to comprise PPTV.

“Through all of this we have to credit the people of Appleton for the first 50 years,” said Kubly. 

“They got the station off the ground ... and now you have 50 years of broadcasting and where it was the people of Appleton that had the vision and went with it... and, now, we have a new vision and hopefully opportunities for another 50 years.”

Construction plan
Serving as the in-house Project Manager for the Fagen Engineering-led building construction will be employee Chris Howard. And though discussions even considering the possibility of the project were said to have only begun a few weeks ago, the development of the site is already underway with the Fagens commenting that survey work was ensuing at the site as they speak.

“The goal is to have these folks in their building December (of 2016) or first quarter of 2017––so we’re going to move full-boar on it right away,” said Ron, adding: “It’s going to be a beautiful building. A real bragging point for the community. And it’s good. Good for our employees, gets our engineers and construction people working. It  puts a lot of people to work.”

Ron said Fagen Engineering will consider architectural proposals from four different firms from which Fagen Engineering will draw upon its extensive resources to design and build the studio, even covering the cost of running utilities to the site––a $500 - 700,000 expense on its own.

“This is a terrific opportunity for the community Granite Falls,” said  Mayor Smiglewski. “You have the city’s full support,” said Lavin.
Award winning staff
A lengthy list of existing connections to the Granite Falls community should make PPTV’s transition in the area easy.

Ron noted that he shared the same hometown of Maynard with Heen and also said that he was unaware of Granite Falls resident Pat Kubly’s place on the board––even joking that people would think everything was all a set up. The connections, however, exist beyond that with local resident and former Granite Falls Chamber of Commerce Director Nicole Zempel serving as a PPTV Community Relations Representative while Montevideo resident and PPTV Communications Director Patrick Moore continues to be an active member with local non-profit Granite Falls Riverfront Revitalization.

Heen said that he anticipated that the number of jobs at PPTV to increase from 23 to 26 in time for the new opening by spring of 2017.

“We’ve got a staff of go-getters who have won Emmy’s the last three years in a row,” he  said. “It’s a good bunch and they’re excited about this.”