Clinton residents are being asked how they want their city to look in the next 10 to 20 years. This week, officials and economic professionals brainstormed ideas for improving the city’s economic development at East Central Intergovernmental Association stakeholder meetings at the Ericksen Community Center. Today, we take a look at meetings concerning economic development and parks and recreation. Tomorrow’s Clinton Herald will feature a story about the future of the downtown area.
Officials say positive attitude needs to take root in community
Having a more positive attitude about the community could go a long way in improving economic development, according to city officials.
Officials and economic professionals brainstormed ideas for improving the city’s economic development at an East Central Intergovernmental Association stakeholder meeting on Tuesday at the Ericksen Community Center.
Currently the city of Clinton is working with ECIA on updating its Comprehensive Plan.
“It seems that there is an inferiority complex here, but there is a lot of things to do,” Karen Mooney, marketing specialist for Clinton Regional Development Corp., said. “We need a positive PR push from the city.”
Clinton Area Chamber of Commerce President Julie Allesee pointed out that many of the negative attitudes come from people who live in Clinton and continue to live here.
Improving the economic outlook of the city would require changes in many sectors, with one of the crucial points being the city’s reputation. One of the city’s major barriers to development is the city code, according to officials.
“The city code is a mesh of layers that needs to be unwoven, to make it as workable and sensible as possible,” City Planner Mike Reynolds said.
Development of industries and businesses is also hindered by competition with surrounding communities, most frequently the Quad-Cities.
“There are too many places for these companies to go,” Mooney said. “Sometimes we are in the top ten prospects for a big business to locate, but many times that’s as far as we go.”
Having more skilled labor and apprenticeships could help bring in more industry, especially for foreign businesses.
“Iowa being a right-to-work state is beautiful, but unions are great at developing skills and apprenticeships,” Mooney said.
Attracting young professionals to the area was also discussed as a way to improve industry. In order to do this there need to be some changes in Clinton, according to Mike Kearney.
“We need to change the culture and create amenities to draw in more young people,” Kearney said. “Things like loft apartments and boutique stores.”
Improving the condition of residential properties is also crucial to creating more development. The group drew examples from both DeWitt and Fulton, Ill., where individuals have stepped up to rehabilitate buildings on their own.
“If we could better communicate why taxes go up, we could encourage people to improve and maintain their properties,” Mooney said.
Nicole Turpin, ECIA Regional Planning Coordinator, assured the group that things might not be as bad as they seem.
“There are a lot of positives going on,” Turpin said. “This process tends to be draining, because we go through the negatives and what to improve. You’ve been very proactive.”
The goal of these stakeholder meetings is to identify goals and objectives in each area as well as solutions to achieve the goals and objectives identified. Governmental services, housing, parks and recreation, economic development and downtown have all been discussed at meetings. On May 3 there will be a communitywide visioning event where the results from the meetings will be presented from 4 to 6 p.m. at Eagle Point Park. City officials, business owners and community leaders are encouraged to attend along with concerned citizens.
Rec officials say more fields are needed and bike trails must be improved
Adding more playing fields and improving bike trails topped the list of concerns at an East Central Intergovernmental Association Parks and Recreation stakeholder meeting this week at the Ericksen Center.
“We are short tremendously on indoor and outdoor playing fields,” Recreation Director Gregg Obren said.“We need more space.”
Putting in a sports complex or facility with multiple fields was brought up as a way to not only add more space, but also bring in more people and revenue to the area.
“It’s hard when the fields and ballparks are so spread out,” Clinton Area Chamber of Commerce President Julie Allesee said. “We need a sports complex to hold tournaments.”
One of the biggest barriers in developing something like this is lack of finances, according to the officials.
“It’s hard enough to maintain the facilities we already have with the economic stress on all of us,” Clinton School District Superintendent Deb Olson said.
Regardless of financial burdens, the city already offers many recreational opportunities.
“We have minor league baseball, professional ballet and orchestra, the historic windmill, an art gallery and so much more,” Obren said.
The declining population in Clinton has also increased the financial burden on the city.
“It’s amazing what we have been able to do with a declining population,” Allesee said.
While the city has many recreational opportunities, many are virtually non-existent online and not linked to the city web site.
This could hinder the amount of new residents and people relocating to the area, according to Laura Anderson, co-coordinator for the Center for Active Nonviolence & Peacemaking.
“We’re missing out with the website not being updated,” Anderson said. “There’s nothing on the internet and that’s where people are looking when they’re thinking about coming here.”
Improving the bike trails in town are also crucial to improving the recreation in the community and drawing more visitors to the area. Concerns have been raised about the need for connectors throughout the city for some time as well as improving the current trails. The issue has become more important with the Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa ending in Clinton in July.
“During RAGBRAI we’re going to have a lot of people biking on our trails,” Randy Meier, a member of the recreational trail committee and co-chairman for RAGBRAI, said. “I don’t think it will leave a good impression.”
He said portions of the Mississippi River Trail are cracked and are in no condition for biking.
“When your own biking community won’t use the trail, how are you supposed to draw other people in,” Meier said.
Overall the city is not very accessible for biking, due to the lack of connectors. City Planner Mike Reynolds said they should consider bike lanes for city streets.
“The two colleges are disconnected, because they can’t bike safely throughout town and to our greatest asset, the Mississippi,” Reynolds said.
Clinton’s location is ideal for drawing people in with major cities in close distance and the river, according to Obren.
“For having such a great location, we are geographically missing the boat,” Obren said.
Improving the city’s image is a never-ending process, according to Allesee.
“It’s a life-long campaign to convince people this is a good place to live and create a positive image,” Allesee said. “The only way we’re going to get more money is to get more people.”
Obren says the city has prevailed in the past, but just needs to find more ways to generate revenue.
“We’ve been through three major economic downturns, but yet we are still doing what we’re doing,” Obren said. “We always figure out a way to reinvent ourselves, move forward. We’re still going strong, we need to find a way to prosper.”