Moving Forward

Madison advances in America’s Best Communities contest

Overall winner to receive $3 million

(February 2016) – The spotlight shined brightly on Madison, Ind., on Jan. 13 when it was announced that the town of 13,000 residents had advanced to become one of 15 semifinalists in the $10 million America’s Best Communities contest. About 30 people gathered at Madison City Hall to attend the announcement, made by Frontier Communications Southern Indiana Regional General Manager Mark Evans.

Photo by Don Ward

The City of Madison’s team behind the America’s Best Communities contest application pose at Madison City Hall on Jan. 13 upon learning it had advanced to become one of 15 semifinalists. The team now has one month to prepare for a live presentation in front of the judges on April 26-27 at Durham, N.C. Pictured from left are Madison Mayor Damon Welch; Madison Community Relations Manager Andrew Forrester; Frontier’s Southern Indiana General Manager Mark Evans (who made the announcement); Frontier Southeast Indiana General Manager Cassandra Pierce; Matt Wirth, executive director of the Jefferson County Industrial Development Corp.; Linda Lytle, executive director of VisitMadison Inc.; Kim Nyberg, director of Madison Area Arts Alliance; Trevor Crafton, executive director of the Madison Area Chamber of Commerce; Whitney Wyatt, director of the Madison Main Street Program; Valecia Crisafulli, Envision Jefferson County Coordinator; and Lindsay Bloos, executive director of the Madison Area Chamber of Commerce.

“Great communities don’t just happen; they work together for the common good. And since we launched this contest, what has happened in Madison is truly inspiring,” Evans said in announcing the award. “This community came together to unite behind a public, private and nonprofit sector initiative. And I am happy to announce that your hard work has paid off.”
Madison earned $50,000 last summer when it was selected from more than 400 applicants as one of 50 quarterfinalists in the contest. City officials spent that money on a Community Revitalization Plan by hiring Ratio Architects of Indianapolis to create it. The plan was required to compete for the next round and was submitted to the judges on Nov. 6.
No cash award was associated with this latest advancement to become a semifinalist. Now the team will make a live presentation to the judges at the America ‘s Best Communities Summit, scheduled for April 26-27 at a resort in Durham, N.C., in hopes of advancing the final eight, with each team earning $100,000 to bring their plans to life. They will have one year to implement their strategies, and the top three communities that make the largest impact and show the greatest potential for achieving sustainable revitalization will be selected as the grand prize winners.
In April 2017, the final eight teams will be reduced to three finalists, with third place receiving $1 million, second place receiving $2 million and the winner collecting a whopping $3 million.
“Everything we do, we get the community involved, and this is no different,” said Andrew Forrester, Madison’s Community Relations Manager who helped lead the effort. “We believe we know what it takes to be America’s Best Community – to be the last one standing. And we’re ready to take next step.”
Forrester said the team will likely use a Powerpoint presentation or videos to present the plan to the judges. He said the city will cover the cost to send three team members to the April summit.
Forrester took a moment to introduce the core team members: Linda Lytle, executive director of VisitMadison Inc.; Trevor Crafton, executive director of the Madison Area Chamber of Commerce; Whitney Wyatt, director of the Madison Main Street Program; Nathan Hadley, former executive director of the Jefferson County Industrial Development Corp.; Matt Wirth, newly hired JCIDC executive director; Valecia Crisafulli, Envision Jefferson County Coordinator; and Kim Nyberg, director of the Madison Area Arts Alliance.
Forrester said the team worked on the comprehensive plan and used social media to its advantage. Team members have been working with Ratio Architect staff members to revise the plan.
“It’s not only an ambitious plan, but it reflects the dreams, desires and goals of this city,” Forrester said. “And when we combine it with the bicycle plan, we will really have something to be excited about.”
Madison’s plan incorporates the Hatcher Hill Project, which involves opening the now-closed hill to pedestrian and bicycle traffic to and from the hilltop to the downtown.
Madison Mayor Damon Welch has said that regardless of the outcome of the contest, the exercise of creating a Community Revitalization Plan will help the city move forward in accomplishing many goals and drafting a Comprehensive Plan, with which the city can compete for grants. He complimented the team on its work, adding, “I won’t be surprised if we move forward in this contest.”
Cassandra Pierce, Frontier Communication’s Southeast Indiana General Manager, explained that each city’s plan focuses on four aspects: economic development, housing, healthy living initiatives and job retraining. “While this is a competition, with this initiative (to create such a plan), we all win. But there is much work to be done for Madison to move forward.”
Madison was one of three Indiana cities to advance to the semifinals. Valparaiso and Angola/Fremont also advanced. The other 12 semifinalists are Lake Havasu City, Ariz.; Charleston, W.Va.; Statesboro, Ga; Valley County/Meadows Valley, Idaho; Chicago Lakes Area, Minn.; Huntington, W.Va.; Portsmouth, Ohio; DeKalb, Ill.; Fort Dodge, Iowa; Darrington/Arlington, Wash.; Tualatin, Ore.; and Wenatchee/East Wenatchee, Wash.

Sponsored by Frontier Communications, DISH Network, CoBank and The Weather Channel, America’s Best Communities is a multi-stage, three-year competition that aims to revitalize small towns and rural communities across the country. For more information, visit: www.AmericasBestCommunities.com.

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