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Pushing the limits

Fresh ideas spawn meeting of the minds

Madison’s leaders seeking ways
to achieve higher goals

 

 
(September 2008)
Read previous Don Ward columns!
Don Ward

In an effort to save money, operate more efficiently and better communicate strategic goals community wide, Madison economic development officials are pursuing ways to work more closely with others. The initiative has been spawned in part by the recently released strategic plan, created by a consultant for Economic Development Partners of Jefferson County, formerly known as MIDCOR.
Corey Murphy, EDP’s executive director who also sits on the Madison Area and Convention and Visitors Center board, explained the proposal to board members at the August meeting. He and tourism director Linda Lytle have been discussing various possibilities that even include the idea of merging EDP and the tourism office into one location.
But physically locating the two into one place is just one item on the table. The strategic plan focuses deeply on tourism as one of Madison’s known strengths for luring future businesses, industrial companies and retired couples to the area.
On Sept. 11, John Miller, a Madison-based business consultant with Quantum Leadership Development Group, will lead a session with more than 30 invited guests from all areas of Jefferson County’s business, industry, non-profit agencies, colleges, local government and tourism. Working with Murphy, Miller plans to hold a series of what used to be known as the Sustainable Communities initiative, which began as part of a program within the Madison Area Chamber of Commerce. Miller said that with all that is going on in the community now with the new EDP strategic plan and the city’s new tourism Branding Project with consultant Roger Brooks, the chamber “was not really the right group to implement this sort of thing.”
So now the chamber will be a part of a much bigger effort that combines many aspects and entities.
“We hope to have representatives – staff and volunteers – meet on a regular basis to communicate what is going on and what is available so that we don’t miss out on any opportunities,” Miller said. “This is just the kickoff meeting.”
The meeting will take place from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at Venture Out Business Center, with lunch provided by the chamber. Invited guests will participate in a roundtable discussion to better understand what is at stake, what goals are being set and what tools are available to achieve them, Miller said.
“Tourism is a key component of who we are; it is central to who we are, but we also have a solid industry mix, although we’d like to see that become even stronger.”
Much of the force behind the initiative comes from Murphy, a Mitchell, Ind., native and graduate of the University of Evansville.
Prior to taking over his current post in January 2007, Murphy served as a community liaison for the state’s Office of Community and Rural Affairs. He has worked in public, private and non-profit fields.
This year, Murphy has worked closely with newly elected Madison Mayor Tim Armstrong. The two recently traveled to Japan together to meet with automotive industry leaders who do business in Madison.
Murphy has also been credited with infusing new energy into the tourism board, said board president Lucy Dattilo. “He looks at everything through a different set of eyes,” Dattilo said. “He doesn’t speak with the political baggage of someone who is from here. He’s young and ambitious and idealistic, and he cares.”
Lytle said she has been discussing with Murphy ways of working more closely with EDP to pursue the goals outlined in the strategic plan. She is open to even moving the tourism office to another downtown location, if necessary, to better achieve both agencies’ goals.
“We’re just in the exploration stage right now, but Corey has a lot of good ideas,” Lytle said.
Near the end of the August CVB board meeting, Murphy told members about the strategic plan and its priorities on using tourism as a tool for recruiting. But a new facet of the plan focuses on luring retirees.
“Madison has a lot of things that retirees want, but they haven’t been fully developed. For instance, they want lifelong learning and recreation. We have two colleges – Hanover and Ivy Tech – so we can provide the learning opportunities, but we may need another golf course,” Miller said. Citing examples of Asheville, N.C., and Lancaster, Pa., Miller said “retirees have a significant effect on a community. They place no burden on the schools. They expand the residential tax base. They have savings so they contribute to the local economy. They want cultural and social activities. So (recruiting retirees) is something we are looking to develop.”
Murphy said EDP is organizing a committee whose specific task will be working and meeting regularly with tourism officials. Murphy emphasized that EDP is not trying to takeover the role of tourism; rather, he wants to join forces to do both jobs better.
“We’re all clamoring for more money, so we’ve got to find ways to save money,” he told the board. “We must be strategic in leveraging our assets here. Do I want to do tourism? Absolutely not. I want to do economic development. We can take those savings and invest them back into the community the right way.”
September’s meeting should be interesting for those who will get a first-hand look at some new ideas for a town that has long rested on its tourism laurels but is now being asked to step up to the plate and use its reputation to reach a higher goal.

• Don Ward is the editor, publisher and owner of RoundAbout. Call him at (812) 273-2259 or email him at: Don@RoundAboutMadison.com.

 

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