Community Delegation Visits Topeka, Learn about City’s Revitalization Efforts
After completing a two-day, whirlwind tour of Topeka, Kan. last month, a local delegation of 27 community leaders is more committed than ever to make Jefferson City a growing, dynamic and prosperous community. The community visit, organized by the Jefferson City Area Chamber of Commerce, provided valuable insight to how Topeka citizens took action to create and implement positive change and economic growth in the Kansas capital city.
“Topeka was selected by the Chamber for a community visit because of its many similarities to Jefferson City,” said Randy Allen, president/CEO of the Chamber. “Topeka is a capital city in the Midwest, and state government is its largest employer. They are also developing their riverfront and have a strong local university.”
Allen also said Topeka, like Jefferson City, has an aging population, but has been successful in attracting and retaining a younger workforce since creating and implementing a 2008 community plan focused on making the city more vibrant and progressive.
The Jefferson City delegation spent two days meeting with Topeka city leaders and touring the city. They learned about the comprehensive community vision that was created with participation by more than 5,000 citizens and about the successes and challenges leaders faced in making changes to diversify the city’s economy and develop a unique “sense of place”. The group also learned about Topeka’s successful efforts in areas of economic, community and chamber development. Specific topics of interest included the community’s recent riverfront development progress and downtown revitalization as well as its active young professionals group and focus on supporting and growing existing businesses.
“As a community, Topeka was exactly where we are now in terms of young talent leaving the community, and they needed to make changes that reverse that trend,” said Bob Gilbert, community visit chairman and engineer at Barlett & West, Inc. “The community visit provided great insight on how they encouraged citizens to get involved in the planning process and what strategies were successful for them.”
Gilbert also said the trip was valuable because of the broad cross-section of Jefferson City leaders who took time to be a part of the delegation.
“Our group included leaders from nearly every sector of our community including business, education, government, and non-profits which is a great benefit when we are looking at potential projects which affect our community as a whole,” said Gilbert. “Their willingness to take two full days out of their work schedules to participate in this trip, and the follow up meetings which will occur, shows their genuine commitment to improving and growing Jefferson City.”
This group will have a formal debriefing of the visit as part of a focus group to be held with the planning process on July 11.