Expanding developments of businesses and homes are imperative to a growing city that may need guidance to strategic structure of its communities. This planning can lead to prosperous businesses as well as joyful citizens embracing their new beginnings. Speaking with Ranada Robinson from Market Street Services the ideas presented are attracting more building in Jefferson City.
Can you tell us a little more about yourself and Market Street Services?
Market Street was founded in 1997 by J. Mac Holladay, the only individual to head state level economic development organizations in three different states. We recently celebrated 20 years of serving as a trusted advisor for a wide range of clients in more than 165 communities and regions across 34 states. The majority of our work is focused on applying a holistic approach to strategic planning for community and economic development in communities of all sizes, and we also provide assistance with research and strategic planning that is more narrowly-focused on a specific issue (i.e. entrepreneurship, workforce development, cluster development).
I have worked at Market Street for 11 years, and in that time, I’ve worked in dozens of communities, leading research, facilitating focus groups and stakeholder input, and advising clients on strategic actions. Outside of work, I’m very involved in my own community, where I’m usually focused on economic empowerment and providing various opportunities for kids. I’m also a supermom to my 7-year-old named Frederick and my 11-year-old mini schnauzer Smokie Robinson!
What is the purpose of your company being in Jefferson City?
We are currently assisting the Jefferson City Area Chamber and its partners with developing a community and economic development strategy for the community that will make Jefferson City more competitive for residents, jobs, and visitors. This strategy will be a comprehensive, actionable, and consensus-based strategic plan to guide the community’s collective actions, requiring collaboration and alignment of Jefferson City’s partners.
How long has your company been in Jefferson City and how long do you estimate building a strategic plan will take?
We kicked off the strategic planning process in September, and we aim to finalize the process in March. We will travel to meet with the Steering Committee four additional times, and then the end will be just the beginning!
Fun fact: We assisted the Chamber in 2006 with developing an Economic Development Strategic Plan, so we are familiar with the area, and we’re excited to be back!
What steps does your company take to build a strategic plan for a city?
We always start our processes with a blank slate—we don’t presume to know what your community needs before we get there. The first phase involves research. We are currently collecting qualitative data through the community survey as well as analyzing quantitative data. We will merge the two in a Community Assessment that will provide a foundation for the rest of the process, identifying the community’s strengths and challenges as well as strategic implications that will inform the rest of the process. We will present the draft deliverable in November to the Steering Committee, and once it’s approved, we will post it to the project website.
After that, we will move into the strategy phase, where we will discuss what existing initiatives should be incorporated, what new solutions are needed, best practices from other communities that may be of interest, and more. Once we’ve settled on the what, we will focus on the how. The last two phases are an Organizational Assessment, in which we will evaluate the JCMO’s current economic development partners and activities and make a recommendation on how to better align or even whether a new organization is needed; and the Implementation Plan, in which we will provide action timelines, metrics, capacity recommendations, and more.
How many different focus groups are there and what are some of the issues these groups would like to see improved?
I facilitated five focus groups while in Jefferson City, and they were all very engaged. My colleague Mike Gaymon also interviewed ten key community leaders. Among the issues that we will definitely have to address during the process are improving the community’s relationship with Lincoln University; overcoming what some called “analysis paralysis,” where great ideas are over-analyzed and never fully implemented due to fear of failure; fostering regionalism; developing a community brand; ensuring better promotion of the assets Jefferson City has to offer; and more. We will explore these and other issues we heard and that we see as we analyze the quantitative data in the Community Assessment.
What are some ideas for growing our economic development from the groups?
I heard several interesting perspectives and ideas during my trip. Some of the recurring ones include creating more business-friendly processes at the city level (particularly as it relates to zoning and permits), redeveloping prime property (especially the Missouri State Penitentiary site and downtown historic homes), aligning small business and entrepreneur resources to create easier access, being more creative in talent attraction through incentives, and better connecting K-12 teachers with local employers to understand local workforce needs.
Ideas related to Lincoln were plentiful. They included small initiatives such as working with community businesses to offer student discounts and put up stickers or signs in storefronts to show support as well as major initiatives such as creating more collaborative projects similar to the LINC such as a business incubator and a sports complex that can be used by the university and by community groups to host tournaments and other large events.
Keep these ideas coming by taking our survey, which is accessible through the project website (JCMOstrategy.com)!
What other communities have you worked in and what are some of the best action items you have seen these communities implement?
I have worked in cities as small as Decatur, Alabama to regions as large as Austin, Texas. The communities that have been most successful are the ones that create true public-private partnerships and work to align existing resources and initiatives. Some of my favorite community implementation accomplishments are as follows.
The sheer community excitement and engagement around the Capital Crossroads Regional Vision Plan--nearly 700 community volunteers in Des Moines, Iowa agreed to serve on one of ten Capital committees and multiple sub-committees and task forces focused on implementing each of the strategic Capitals;
The dynamism of Tulsa’s young professional group--In 2009, TYPros launched a YP-focused business incubator in downtown Tulsa, The Forge. Two years later The Forge secured a $600,000 grant from the U.S. EDA to purchase and remodel a new downtown space which opened in 2012;
The growth and popularity of the SWeETy Camp in Decatur, AL—In 2006, Calhoun Community College and the Chamber of Commerce teamed up to develop this camp to create awareness among high school girls of the great careers available in nontraditional technical fields locally 13 years later, the program is still going strong; and
The creativity in increasing Nashville’s educational attainment percentages--In 2016, the Chamber and its various partners in education and workforce development launched the Middle Tennessee Reconnect Community (MTRC) to encourage more than 200,000 residents in the region that currently possess some college education to re-enroll and complete their degree, supporting the state’s “Drive to 55” program.
There are many more, and it’s always exciting to see community partners pull together to make magic.
When you leave Jefferson City, what are you hoping to have accomplished?
I hope that we will have helped the Steering Committee reach consensus on a vision for Jefferson City’s future and created buy-in and support for the strategy and its implementation. Market Street’s approach is to ensure that the process is just as valuable as the final deliverables in an effort to prevent creating a strategy that sits on a shelf. The last two phases help with this as well. We will make sure that there’s a roadmap in place so that once our work is done, the Chamber and its many partners can hit the ground running.
Is there any follow-up or accountability from Market Street Services after the plan has been made to ensure the research is being put to use?
Yes, after processes end, we keep in touch with our clients and follow news alerts so that we are aware of successes and challenges. We also create case studies for our shining stars so that new clients and people who follow us via our website can see how successful communities can be when they work together toward a common set of goals. Many of our clients also retain us for implementation assistance for the first few months of implementation, and others retain us to come back in 2-3 years to conduct a mid-course assessment, where we evaluate what is going well (and not so well!) and what priorities might need to be reordered. We consider ourselves Jefferson City’s partner, and in that capacity, we will definitely make our services available to maximize success!
As a tourist, what are some of the local amenities you have enjoyed?
Well, I love trying local restaurants, and Jefferson City has not disappointed so far. While we were there for our kick-off trip, we enjoyed dinner at Madison’s Café and Grand Café, and we ate lunch at Sweet Smoke BBQ and Prison Brews. I love your downtown—it’s so charming and has a variety of shops. I also enjoyed seeing Lincoln University’s campus. The LINC is such an impressive collaboration, and I was happy to see it and hear about the impact it’s made so far. My favorite feature of the campus, though, is the Soldiers' Memorial. I hope to take a picture next to it the next time I visit!
If someone wanted to share their thoughts with your group, where could they go to do so?
Please take the community survey: (https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/JCMOStrategy)! We want to hear from as many community stakeholders as possible. If you have ideas about what would take Jefferson City to the next level, please share with us so that we can consider them as we move into the strategy phase!
Where can someone go to find more information on this topic?
You can find information now and throughout the process at the project website (https://www.jcmostrategy.com). This is where you can learn more about the process phases, see who sits on the Steering Committee, and find our contact information. We will upload documents pertinent to the process as the Steering Committee approves them.
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