After eight months of identifying key goals to help steer the city of Mitchell toward the future, the time has come to start putting those ideas into action.
As city officials, local business leaders and community members have collaborated to share their ideas for Mitchell, Wednesday marked the end of Future IQ’s Forward 2040 planning process. A launch party at Mitchell Technical Institute allowed participants to share their thoughts and suggestions with the leader of the project.
“There is a lot of potential for this community moving forward, and this has been a great process that’s sparked a lot of healthy discussion for advancing your community,” said David Beurle, founder and CEO of Future IQ, who represents the consulting firm the city chose to lead the roughly $65,000 project. “I think there are key goals that have been identified through this, and I hope you continue to recognize them for the future.”
While it was announced the launch party was going to include the final survey results, the finalized report of the Forward 2040 project will be released on the city's website later this month, he said. Beurle used past benchmark survey results and think-tank group discussions to reflect on the Forward 2040 project.
Beurle highlighted how the 2,000 survey respondents helped make for a reflective process that was intended to welcome input for all participants. The survey saw roughly 500 high school students take part, which Beurle said helped identify what the youth views as important elements for the progression of the community moving forward.
Beurle also outlined the five "strategic pillars" that were formed by Mitchell residents in meetings since February. The pillars included centralizing community information and ensuring accessibility, reduce barriers to inclusion, evolve Mitchell's recreation and tourism, sponsor initiatives that build youth involvement and establish events and programs that foster inclusion.
Some key areas Beurle said the community needs to work on is creating a more inclusive culture. To welcome new ideas and bring economic growth in the future, Beurle said it’s important for the community to work on becoming more welcoming to all current and potential residents.
“There is a recognition that this community needs to think about how to include people in the community,” he said. “It’s a tight community, and there are a lot of shared values, but it’s a little hard for outsiders to penetrate and get into it. Being an inclusive community will bring new ideas and resources.”
Adapting to the technological changes, specifically Artificial Intelligence, is something Beurle said the community needs to focus on in the future.
“I think there are big opportunities here, but I feel most people in this community aren’t yet grappling with the potential impacts of technological changes,” Beurle said. “It was hard to get traction on a serious conversation about how autonomous trucks are going to impact your community and your economy. This is not unique to you, but I believe you're not quite thinking about these technological changes”
In a question-and-answer period with Mitchell residents about Forward 2040, Jerry Thomsen, a developer and former business owner, emphasized the asset of Mitchell becoming a regional center. Thomsen participated in the Focus 2020 process, which was a similar community planning process that took place in 2009.
“Throughout that process, we did turn into a regional center, which was super advantageous for us for a number of years,” Thomsen said. “But my fear is that it also makes us super vulnerable to that falling apart due to internet sales.”
Thomsen suggested using some of the data and results provided in the survey to teach homegrown enterprises and businesses how to become relevant in the online retail era.
“The market is much bigger and accessible with the internet, but it also means if you don’t get on the bandwagon and make adaptive changes, you’re going to be dead,” he said.
Matt Doerr, a local accountant, urged the group of community leaders to take the results and ideas suggested through Forward 2040 to create a better legacy for the city of Mitchell.
“It’s an exciting time to be in Mitchell, and ordinary action doesn’t need to lead to extraordinary outcomes. What’s behind us isn’t nearly as important of what is in front of us,” Doerr said. “Make what you do for the community a part of your story and legacy. What we do here today is going to have an impact on your kids.”