area business leaders
develop strategies for future growth
riverfront and historic preservation
(January 2007) Madison area chamber and business
leaders are steadily working to guide future economic development and
have formed committee to study what they consider to be the most immediate
needs of the region.
The group met Oct. 5 at the Venture Out Business Center to discuss ideas
and hear from consultant Gwen Hallsmith who had been hired to lead the
daylong forum. The event, sponsored by Duke Energy, was a continuation
of a similar forum on regional growth held in September 2005.
Our goal is to get leaders to think proactively to anticipate
the future, not to just react to it, as is the traditional way in which
communities work, said Hall. She heads Global Community Initiatives,
a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping communities become more
sustainable. She attempted to help community leaders focus on the challenges
the future presents and set up strategies for achieving a sustainable
community in the future.
She said her organization helps communities assess their assets and
build on them with do-able, practical and concrete plans. We help
expose people to new ideas, and we get them to think outside of the
box, she said.
In Madisons case, the group was asked to gather together to create
a vision for the community for the year 2050 to make it
a sustainable community.
The 28 participants formed four groups to work on key development areas:
education, riverfront, promoting the citys recent National Historic
Landmark District designation and expanding the regions industry
Hallsmith said one challenge in a sustainable community initiative is
to create a sense of teamwork and shared community goals for people
with diverse interests and objectives. Our job is to get people
in a community to work together for a common goal.
John Miller, chairperson of the Madison Area Chamber of Commerces
Task Force on Sustainable Communities, said many communities in the
country are dying. The sustainable community movement helps smaller
communities survive by building around the local assets. He said the
movement is environmental friendly and involves the entire community.
Miller said the participants in the recent workshop were community leaders
from a broad mix of areas. Each of the working groups pulled together
and by the end of the cycle had created concrete plans for their targeted
Galen Bremmer, the Madison chambers executive vice president,
said communication was the most positive aspect of the forum. People
were amazed at what all the other organizations in Madison were currently
Bremmer said it is always a challenge to overcome turf barriers in a
small community where resources are limited. Competition among
the various organizations and businesses is stiff, so working together
for the future is a major shift in thinking for many people.
He says some of those barriers were bridged as people melded together
to create solid workable plans.
Education. This committee has set lofty goals, which include
developing a world-class education system that will graduate 100 percent
of high school seniors. They are hopeful that the current expansion
of Ivy Tech Community College will prove to be a positive and critical
step in the right direction for the areas future.
Riverfront. This committee identified several areas of concern,
including the development of a well-planned marina and a possible port
for business. Miller said the community needs to leverage its assets
in the waterfront and enhance both recreational and business transportation.
One concrete goal is to build a gas station for boats because the nearest
one is many miles away.
A critical issue for the waterfront, however, is the location of the
future Ohio River Bridge. The location is expected to have a major impact
on the economy of the area. Building the bridge just a short distance
away from where it is currently located could really cause havoc on
the economic development of the area, said Miller.
Historic preservation. This committee wants to develop ways
to capitalize on Madisons recent designation by the National Park
Service. They want to focus on the expertise in the area instead of
on actual historical development.
We need to leverage the expertise that has been acquired and attract
other people to our area by possibly offering high quality training
for historical restoration and preservation. A possible school for heritage
crafts, restoration and preservation technology and techniques was suggested
as one idea to attract industry professionals.
Another suggestion that came from the forum was to use the second and
third stories of the downtown retail buildings to attract highly skilled
and well-educated professionals. With the national trend moving
towards a creative economy instead of a manufacturing economy, Madison
is poised with its high quality of life to attract those professionals
who can work anywhere as long as there is high-speed Internet access,
She noted that by 1999, the number of people in the creative industry
had exceeded the manufacturing population and actually taken over as
a core driver of the economy.
Miller said the forums committees plan to continue meeting to
keep the sustainable community initiative alive. Keeping the momentum
going and actually doing something will be the continued challenge,
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