Indy is committed to the community conversation

17 Jul

Like many communities, Indianapolis’s urban core is more than one thing to more than one sector of their population. It wears many hats, and is home to many voices. 

Lauren Nguyen, mySideWalk

Indianapolis is in a fight against suburban flight. The city needs to find a way to keep residents from leaving the urban core to take new jobs, make new homes, and start new businesses. A new approach to planning in their city could tie together the community’s vision and values with a long-range strategy.

To help move toward a brighter, more prosperous future, the City of Indianapolis created a bicentennial plan that encompasses issues from city culture, to transit, to bicycling. Creative promotional efforts and comprehensive public outreach through meetings, newsletters and social media have made that plan, known as Plan 2020, a success. Continuing to keep public input at the forefront will be key to its longevity.

“When we started Plan 2020, we committed to rethinking community engagement,” says Brad M. Beaubien, AICP, Planning Administrator for the city of Indianapolis.“

“Traditional public meetings work for a small constituency and are important for that group, but planning is too important to limit engagement to that small group,” he says. “We put together a family of engagement vehicles to try and reach a wide range of stakeholders, and mySidewalk was one of these vehicles that helped us rethink how we engage our community.”

mySidewalk allows Indy a way to engage in a public, two-way conversation that isn’t limited to only those who can attend a meeting downtown. Their mySidewalk page is open 24/7. Working parents, busy students, retirees, and young professionals all keep different hours balancing a variety of priorities. On mySidewalk they all can provide meaningful feedback to help the city move closer to its goal.

“We like that people can engage at their own time and pace, and that we don’t have the problem of a single voice dominating the discussion at the expense of those who may be more passive but equally passionate,” says Beaubien.

The importance of that engagement is front and center when it comes to ensuring the future of their downtown. Like many communities, Indy’s urban core is more than one thing to more than one sector of their population. It wears many hats, and is home to many voices.

“Downtown is one of the few neighborhoods that belongs to everyone,” Beaubian says. “People live there. It’s the economic engine of the Central Indiana. It’s the center of government and justice. It’s the home of the second largest University campus in the state. It’s a transportation hub for all modes. It’s the entertainment, sports, and culture hub,”

Plan 2020 uses mySidewalk to capture the feedback of their residents around the issues that matter most. They can easily collect the sentiment, as well as measurable data around the issues and concerns of both the city and the community.

“It’s important for us to engage all of these stakeholders, and to do so requires a suite of engagement vehicles,” Beaubian says. “mySidewalk allows us to reach many of these diverse stakeholders in an ongoing and meaningful way.”

Downtown Colorado, Inc. is currently partnered with mySidewalk. Members can claim their organization’s page by clicking here for free. 

Silverthorne and Lake Dillon Theatre Company Announce Plan to Construct Theater to Open in 2017

10 Jul

Elena Scott of Norris-Design

Silverthorne, Colorado has envisioned a vibrant downtown that is pedestrian-friendly, compact, includes mixed uses and fosters a variety of businesses. Through the great leadership of the Town Council and staff, this vision is closer than ever to being realized. The Town and the Lake Dillon Theatre Company have embarked on a partnership to create a new performing arts theater in the heart of the Town, and are planning to break ground on the facility in 2016. Plans to create a destination commercial center and cultural heart for Silverthorne have been a focus of the community for many years, and strategies to begin the creation of the core were explored with the Downtown Colorado Inc. Assessment in 2011. DCI is proud to partner with communities like Silverthorne to promote downtown revitalization and assist in realizing the community’s vision.

Link to article on Town of Silverthorne’s website:

http://www.silverthorne.org/index.aspx?recordid=489&page=26

Link to 9news story:

http://www.9news.com/story/entertainment/2015/03/18/silverthorne-performing-arts-center/24990981/

Perception Is Everything

6 Jul

How do your customers or visitors perceive a new food or drink experience before it even happens? Knowing the answer to that could be the difference between increased sales, or increased competition. So how do you know?

Eric Wolf, Executive Director, World Food Travel Association

No matter whether you serve customers at your business or visitors to your destination, people decide to buy or visit based on the perceived promise of the proposed food or drink experience. Before someone visits your business or destination, they have a “Pre-Trip/Purchase” perception. This is based on conversations they have with friend and family, what they see in the media and so on. It has probably even happened to you: You did some research on a business or destination and when you arrived or after you purchased it, the reality was very different from the perception, was it not?

The next phase is the “On-Site/Mid-Purchase” perception. This is how your customers or visitors are experiencing your product while they are there. Everything from the staff helping them to the signage and a lot more can affect their impression (good or bad) of the product or destination you promoted.

Finally, once we return home, we have a “Post-Trip/Purchase” perception. This typically occurs when photos are shown or stories are told with trusted friends, family members and colleagues. We take the feedback from those we trust, and their perceptions can then affect our overall, final perception and the stories we tell well into the future. For example, if you loved a city and then showed pictures of it to your friends when you got home and they were not terribly impressed, you might actually change your opinion about the city, even if you originally liked it.

Here’s another way to look at it. Has this ever happened to you? A friend of yours raves about a new restaurant that opened down the street. She was adamant that you have to go because she had such a wonderful experience. Then you go and you just don’t have the same experience as your friend. It’s the same with wineries/breweries, food/drink factories, hotels, food tours, food events and so on. Remember, these are experiences to foodies – for us it’s not just about a meal, it’s about the memory. Everyone has a different idea about what to expect. Those expectations are confirmed, exceeded or shattered during the experience. And finally, when the visitor/customer returns home, their perception can change again. It’s OK if you’re confused – there are a lot of moving parts.

The reason for a mismatch of opinion like the one above is due to the phenomenon of PsychoCulinary Profiling, which was uncovered in research performed by the World Food Travel Association in 2010-2011. The Association discovered that there are 13 major kinds of behavioral profiles that a foodie could exhibit. So in the example above, perhaps your friend had a “gourmet” PsychoCulinary profile and yours was “authentic”. You both had very different perceptions of the experience, not just before it happened, but during and after it happened as well. Not all foodies are the same.

The benefit of knowing in advance how your visitors perceive your business destination is that you can more finely tune your messaging and positioning to exactly the right audience. Skilled marketers know that highly targeted messaging is the most effective. Why send “gourmet” messaging if your business or destination really isn’t “gourmet”? Nothing to be ashamed of, but you can’t promote something you’re really not. The wrong messaging can turn foodies against you with the negative word-of-mouth machine, something you definitely don’t want. Lead with your strengths, and the right foodies will find your business or destination if it is promoted accurately. Then you’ll have raving fans and hopefully, exponential growth and profit will ensue.

The World Food Travel Association provides food and drink experience assessments and PsychoCulinary profiling for businesses and destinations. Please get in touch to learn more.

States Recognizing the Value of New Americans

1 Jul

Legal immigrants are some of the nation’s biggest job creators, which is why more cities are viewing them as a key to economic revival.

BY MARK FUNKHOUSER 

In their 2009 book Immigrant, Inc., Richard Herman and Robert Smith include this quote from a 1953 report by the President’s Commission on Immigration and Naturalization: “The richest regions are those with the highest proportion of recent immigrants. … Their industry, their skills and their enterprise were major factors in the economic development that has made these regions prosperous.”

If anything, that proposition is even truer now. The immigration reforms of 1965 significantly increased the possibilities for non-Europeans to enter the United States. The result has been a surge of talented, well educated immigrants from places like China and India. By the 2000 Census, immigrants accounted for nearly half of all of this country’s scientists and engineers with doctoral degrees.

Contrary to the idea that immigrants take jobs that would otherwise go to native-born Americans, legal immigrants are job creators. They constituted nearly all of the growth in so-called “main street” businesses in 31 of the 50 largest U.S. metro areas from 2000 to 2013, according to the Fiscal Policy Institute, an independent research organization in New York. Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder’s website notes that in his state immigrants created high-tech businesses at a rate six times that of the rest of the state’s population. It’s not hard to see why Snyder created the Michigan Office for New Americans last year.

Michigan is just one example of a growing number of state and local governments forging a new economic development strategy that the authors of Immigrant, Inc. labeled as “immigrant driven revival.” In Philadelphia, Mayor Michael Nutter has brought immigrants into City Hall to take the oath of citizenship. In his view, these new citizens are a vital part of his plans to replenish declining neighborhoods. In Boston, the Mayor’s Office of New Bostonians focuses on welcoming immigrants, especially international students, as part of its strategy for keeping and building the region’s strong position in the high-tech economy.

These state and local leaders see that while immigration reform is clearly needed at the federal level, there is no point in waiting for it to happen. They’ve got immediate problems, and immigrants are part of the solution. Indeed, one of the places where innovation is happening is in finding ways to game the system to get around the feds.

Meanwhile, groups like Welcoming America are providing a platform for state and local governments to share information and best practices, and in November President Obama established a task force charged with identifying and disseminating best practices at the local level for integrating immigrants into American communities.

Steve Tobocman of the nonprofit Global Detroit calls increased immigration “the single great urban revitalization strategy in modern day America.” And, he notes, “it’s one that doesn’t cost tax dollars.” Little wonder that in immigration, as in so many areas of public policy, real change is being forced beyond the halls of Congress.

Mark Funkhouser is the publisher of Governing magazine. He served as mayor of Kansas City from 2007 to 2011. Prior to being elected mayor, Funkhouser was the city’s auditor for 18 years and was honored in 2003 as a Governing Public Official of the Year. Before becoming publisher of Governing, he served as director of the Governing Institute

DCI & Main Street – A Match Made in Wellington

11 Mar

February 2014, the Town of Wellington and newly formed Wellington Main Street Program were honored to participate in a community assessment with the assistance of DCI and the Colorado Dept. of Local Affairs.  This community assessment encouraged local businesses and the Town Trustees to form The Wellington Main Street Program.  In late November 2014, they hired Executive Director, Wendy DuBord.  The volunteer Board of Directors has been busy and along with Wendy have accomplished a great deal in the last four months.  Main Street has partnered with the Town of Wellington on a GOCO grant for assistance in the construction of the new and very large Community Park.

Main Street also partnered with the Wellington Area Chamber on a grant to the History Colorado, State Historical Fund to complete an intensive survey of historic buildings in downtown Wellington.  They are working on several other grant opportunities to benefit the community and to provide grant and loan funding for downtown business improvements.  The Main Street Design Committee is organizing sponsors and volunteers for a downtown beautification project that will include new sidewalk flower pots, colorful light pole banners, and other cleanup and beautification.

In partnership with the Town of Wellington and Wellington Area Chamber of Commerce, Main Street will participate in a comprehensive economic development assessment with a grant from the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade.

One of the many recommendations from the DCI Community Assessment was re-design of the downtown Centennial Park located on Cleveland Avenue the main street of Wellington.  Just last week, Mike Tupa from the University of Denver, Colorado Center for Community Development and Colorado Department of Local Affairs (DOLA) signed a contract with the Town of Wellington to complete this design of Centennial Park as well as other main street improvements and signage and wayfinding design.  Main Street is the local champion and administrative agent for that project on behalf of the town.

Under new or expanded events, Main Street is co-sponsoring a Pi-Day event on March 14 and was instrumental in coordinating and sponsoring Summer Concerts in the Park starting in June.

Wendy DuBord is Executive Director of the Wellington Main Street Program.

A Technical Assistance Adventure in La Junta

11 Mar

By Deana Miller

Photo Credit: Bette McFarren

Photo Credit: Bette McFarren

Working with communities to help them discover and mobilize their strengths for growth and well being is my passion. So when DCI invited me to join a technical assistance team for downtown La Junta, I was just thrilled. DCI’s technical assistance program, which has served over 80 communities statewide, is geared to provide high quality, professional guidance at a low cost. After 11 years of assisting communities with strategies to strengthen their downtown, DCI has community planning and public engagement down pat.

One might ask how does DCI’s technical assistance process work? After La Junta’s application was selected, the process started with coalescing a team of experts in a variety of areas, including historic preservation, economic development, urban renewal, marketing and promotion, landscape design, architecture, land use, and my particular expertise, the creative economy and creative placemaking. The team was poised to evaluate La Junta from every angle.

We arrived in La Junta that snowy Sunday evening when snowmageddon hit Colorado; a little Colorado snow did not deter our endeavor. On Monday, we began a flurry of meetings to learn all we could in 10 hours about the charming, historic downtown. We met with City and County leaders, and we held focus groups with businesses, residents, the school district and local college staff, artists and arts groups, outdoor enthusiasts, police, fire and library staff, community organizations, the Chamber of Commerce, economic development and urban renewal; four focus groups in eight hours. We toured downtown to evaluate the look and feel of the area; all while talking to residents and business owners/employees along the way.

After burning the midnight oil to analyze our findings and brainstorm ideas, the team rested on the first day. Day two began with finalizing our recommendations, building PowerPoint slides and practicing our ideas out on the La Junta leadership team. A few final tweaks and we were ready to present our findings and recommendations to the community. The resulting public presentation was viewed by nearly 100 attendees, all eager to see what we saw in their community. They intently listened to our suggestions and strategies on how they can tap into their assets to create a vibrant, bustling downtown.

Technical assistance does not end here. DCI will continue to counsel and provide assistance to La Junta throughout the year. The goal is to help La Junta and communities statewide along their path to redevelopment and downtown investment strategies.

For more information about DCI’s technical assistance program, visit www.downtowncoloradoinc.org or call 303-282-0625.

Deana Miller is a Senior Associate with Art Management & Planning Associates, based in Denver, CO.

Grand County Engages Youth

11 Mar

By DiAnn Butler

grandcounty

The young people of Grand County have a desire to be more involved in community decision-making, especially as it relates to issues like job opportunities, community improvement and recreation.

More than half of the middle school and high school students indicated they would like to live in Grand County in the future. And, over 80 percent of the respondents said they would volunteer if asked by an adult to help with a program to improve the community.

Those were some of the findings of a Youth Assessment Study that was recently completed by the Center for Rural Entrepreneurship under the guidance of the Grand County Office of Economic Development (GCED).

One of the seven core goals of the Grand County Office of Economic Development is the Education and Training of the Future Workforce in Grand County. With that goal in mind, it has been an objective of GCED to involve youth whenever possible in activities addressing economic growth in Grand County.

The opinion of high school students was sought during the Downtown Colorado Inc.’s Downtown Assessment project in Kremmling. Their answers and opinions were among the most candid and revealing of the day.

In the summer of 2014, the Center for Rural Development was contracted to conduct a countrywide youth assessment, develop a five-year youth engagement action plan and facilitate a youth entrepreneurship summer camp in the summer of 2015.

The Youth Engagement Action Plan Retreat was held in January and the attendees decided to focus on getting more involved with specific local government entities like the town council and the chamber of commerce. They also decided to work towards presenting an idea to their local school boards to develop a business internship program that could be used to satisfy the community service requirement for high school graduation.

During the Youth Engagement Process, it has been significant to learn that young people are very aware of their communities and they have a desire to see improvements. They want to improve their quality of life and they want to do so through community involvement, with viable employment opportunities and an increase in recreational options.

That passion dovetails nicely with the goal of educating and training a future workforce. It has the beginnings of a mutually beneficial relationship.

DiAnn Butler is Grand County Economic Development Coordinator. More information is available here.