The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

January 15, 2013

After three years, Pittsburg plan for improvement in written form

By Andra Bryan Stefanoni
news@joplinglobe.com

PITTSBURG, Kan. — After two years of planning and a year of public input, Pittsburg Imagine 2030 is now a written plan.

The plan was presented to the City Commission by steering committee chairman Brad Hodson and Pittsburg Area Chamber of Commerce President Blake Benson in a special study session last week. It is composed of four focus areas, each with multiple bulleted points for improvement.

It is the result, Hodson said, of feedback from a cross section of residents obtained through surveys, town hall meetings, focus groups and one-on-one interviews.

Based on the input, “We could have easily had 50 focus areas,” Hodson said. “But we knew it needed to be something that could be achieved in three to five years.”

Among the plan’s points for improved housing are further developing code enforcement, targeting aesthetics and property maintenance, and providing resources like house paint for homeowners.

Among the plan’s points for enhanced economic development are positioning the city as a regional medical hub, better leveraging assets at Pittsburg State University, and expanding the hospitality industry — particularly on the south end of the city, where PSU, Via Christi Hospital and Meadowbrook Mall are located.

“The university’s projections of having 10,000 students by the year 2032, if you imagine what our community looks like with an additional 3,000 students, how do we do a better job of capturing the opportunities that that will bring to us?” Benson said. “I don’t know that as a community we’ve ever stopped and really put together an economic development strategy that fully utilizes everything that Pittsburg State University brings to Pittsburg.”

The plan also advocates taking advantage of numerous local entrepreneurial success stories by teaming proven business owners with young professionals, and pursuing assistance from the Kauffman Foundation.

Among the plan’s points for infrastructure are a master plan of improvement, improving public transportation availability and broadband wireless capabilities, and positioning the city as the water supplier for outlying areas. The city sits on top of the Ozark Aquifer, and it could use that resource as both a business recruitment tool and a source of revenue by agreeing to emergency water measures with rural water districts, Hodson said.

Among the plan’s points for public wellness are spearheading hiking and biking trails and employer-led wellness programs that could have a ripple effect from employees to their families.

Mental health is “at the root of many of our problems,” Hodson said, and the plan seeks to “do a better job of advocating for mental health resources.”

Commissioner Patrick O’Bryan complimented the scope of the plan and said he believes it is “a good starting place for us all to go to work on.”

“Now we just have to own it, and we need to make sure it happens,” said Commissioner Marty Beezley.

The steering committee, which also has shared the plan with civic groups such as Rotary, will present a final copy to the public, perhaps in a community forum as early as February.

“The next step is to assign accountability (for each of the items) to move the ball forward in the next three to five years,” Hodson said.



Funding

THE STEERING COMMITTEE obtained $75,000 in donations from individuals and businesses to fund the $100,000 project. The City Commission authorized spending $25,000 to make up the shortfall.