Vision is collaborative effort
Just recently, we met with some investor/lenders out of Cincinnati for a meeting, and we took them to a downtown restaurant for lunch.
One of the things that stuck with me from our many lunch conversations was their statement that one of the critical factors that they look for in their investment decisions is what the “community has as a vision” and whether that community is investing toward that vision.
Better yet, compliments were made from their experience that Ironton and Lawrence County appears have both going for it.
These were individuals who visit Ironton and Lawrence County regularly to watch their current investments as well as to look for potential new investments. They likewise travel to many other communities and can often judge from a broader perspective.
Since that meeting and discussion, I sat back and tried to think of what they saw and heard on that date to come to their positive conclusions about the Community. So I retraced our steps and conversations.
First, they were met and greeted with Southern hospitality in a nice professional setting and with development professionals they could talk business with them.
They received progress reports on projects discussed during their prior visits including the medical campus project that is now nearing completion, solid movement on the hotel and Ninth Street Gateway redevelopment project, the city recently receiving funding awards to being implementing its riverfront trails and marina projects, and that work continues on the Ro-Na theater and other downtown facilities which were heavily used for all various recent events in May, and now for the weekly concert series that has been started for the summer.
Our business discussions further focused upon challenges of how we can build more industrial spec buildings since those recently built are pretty much occupied upon their completion, and how we can develop the parking facilities needed to support the continued downtown residential development.
On our trip with them to the downtown restaurant, we hit quite a bit of traffic, and had to maneuver around construction along Park Avenue and the new bridge.
We couldn’t find a parking spot on the street, so we pulled into the downtown Depot area where the parking lot was surrounded by maturing trees and floral plantings that were starting to look brilliant, kids playing in the background of the Friends Spray Park, and the shuffle of people and vendors with the Farmers Market.
While walking, they commented how they loved the look of the restored transit center building, and the plantings hanging from the front of the restored Park Avenue Apartments building and parking lot fence.
When we walked into the restaurant, it was full of people and conversations, many of which spoke their usual greetings.
Stepping back and looking from their perspective, I could see how they could come to their conclusions that are good for the community since it is representative of how we are often judged from outside investors and business.
Yet at the local level, a lot of the times we are so focused and consumed upon all the daily problems and challenges that we fail to see where we came from and where we are going as a community.
Vision and a coordinated effort to achieve that vision are crucial.
The City of Ironton within the upcoming year will need to upgrade its current downtown Revitalization Plan. A lot has changed and has been accomplished within the Community since our last plan update in about 2007.
Hopefully, during this process, many will participate in the continued development of the “community vision.”
Ralph Kline is the assistant executive director of development and planning for the Ironton-Lawrence County Community Action Organization.