Janesville74°

Community summit results in ideas

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JAMES P. LEUTE
August 12, 2008
— A better transportation infrastructure, social activities for younger adults and producing alternative sources of energy while making Janesville an eco-friendly community are a few of the top ideas to emerge from a community summit on Janesville’s future.

The communitywide brainstorming session in June resulted in almost 400 ideas from nearly 200 participants who were asked what Janesville can do in the coming 24 months to improve the local business climate and attract new business investment.


The results were assigned to 11 categories. A group of community leaders then analyzed the ideas and ranked the top five from each category.


According to the community leaders, the best ideas by category are:


-- Community: “Enhance and promote social activities for those between the ages of 18-28.”


-- Downtown: Adopt the downtown Business Improvement District proposal.


-- Economic development: Gather the top 20 area employers for a dialogue on possible expansion plans and what the city can do to help.


-- Education: Expand vocational and technical training tied with the retraining of displaced workers to meet the needs of the job market.


-- Energy: Produce alternative sources of energy.


-- Environment: Take an active role in becoming an eco-friendly community.


-- Government: Improve the business climate at the state level, specifically less red tape and better tax policies.


-- Labor and workforce: Advertise nationally the quality of the local labor force.


-- Regionalism: Host a collaborative meeting between Janesville and Beloit to build community cooperation.


-- Tourism: Ask the Janesville Area Convention & Visitors Bureau to expand and do more to market Janesville as a destination city.


-- Transportation: Improve transportation links, such as a four-lane Highway 14 and a six-lane Interstate 90/39.


The full set of data, available at www.forwardjanesville.com, will be presented to the city, where staff will use it to formulate Janesville’s long-range economic development strategy.


“This is not the end of the process by any means,” said Rich Gruber, chairman of Forward Janesville’s board of directors. “We’ll hand this off to the city, say, ‘Here are the results,’ and, ‘Now is the time to step forward as a community and get involved in a broader sense and organize a regional summit.’”


Gruber said the organization of the downtown BID, marketing the community more effectively, retraining displaced workers and pulling the city’s major employers together stood out for him.


“We have a strong history in this community of thriving businesses that were started in basements and garages,” said Gruber, a vice president at Mercy Health System. “We need to get our major employers together around one table and see what we can do as businesses to foster that kind economic development.”


Gruber said a change in government’s agenda also is warranted.


“When you look at the tools available in Wisconsin for economic development and compare them to the states around us, we have a pretty meager toolbox,” he said. “Our job is to challenge our legislators to beef up that toolbox.”



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