Cold weather didn’t stop the second Community Visioning Workshop for the “Great Bend - Better Than Great!” project, held Thursday evening at the Best Western Angus Inn. Sheila Shockey from Shockey Consulting said the steering committee continues to develop a community vision plan.
“This is really a plan for the community,” Shockey said, explaining that it differs from other planning projects currently being conducted by the school board and the city council/economic development. When the group develops measurable goals for the next five years, it will also identify who is responsible for each plan of action, which could include various units of government, organizations, businesses and non-profits.
The steering committee has about 40 members from the Great Bend Chamber of Commerce and Barton County Young Professionals. The co-chairs are Regan Reif from BCYP and Great Bend businessman Mark Mingenback, who was named the 2017 “Citizen of the Year” at last year’s annual Chamber Banquet. They’ll be making a presentation at this year’s banquet on Feb. 23. The steering committee also met Saturday and compiled ideas from Thursday’s community workshop. Shockey said an online survey at www.gbbetter.com is still available to anyone who wants to weigh in on the collaborative process.
“The visioning process is an opportunity for the entire community to pause, take stock and define, as a community, what we want Great Bend to be in the future and how we get there.” Shockey said the steering committee will continue meeting in March and beyond, perhaps releasing an annual Community Scorecard. “Maybe you’ll get together once a year, or more,” she told the group.
Chamber President Jan Peters led the crowd in a “Better Than Great!” cheer and then the participants started to work in small groups.
“Introduce yourself and say one thing Great Bend needs to be Better Than Great,” Shockey said.
The suggestions came quickly.
“Curb-side recycling,” said Korby Boswell.
“We need a reason for young people to stay — or come back,” added Patrick Cowan. People at that table thought a webinar with educational public forums about the community might help.
At other tables, community members talked about an Italian restaurant or perhaps a “barbecue place,” better public services and “smart options” such as free wifi areas and intelligent traffic lights.
People at every table mentioned bringing more industry to town, with one person suggesting it should be diverse enough to provide steady employment year-round and through “boom and bust” seasons. They also wanted the new businesses to offer good wages.
“A new hotel next to the Events Center,” one woman said.
Another person wants Great Bend to have a brand — such as the “Keep Austin Weird” catchphrase, or perhaps a city flag, such as Wichita has.
“People want more to do,” one participant said. Others mentioned city beautification, trauma-informed community services and hydroponic agriculture.
Later in the workshop, participants were challenged to be more specific about what a utopian Great Bend would be like when it comes to challenges such as diversity, drug and alcohol abuse, jobs, poverty, housing and more.
Mingenback, who used to show the town to prospective doctors for Central Kansas Medical Center, said newcomers to Great Bend want to know how they can become part of the community. “We’re a closed off clique and we’re giving that impression to the newcomers,” he said. “I would say, overtly reach out to the newcomers.” People at his table talked about reviving the Welcome Wagon or finding “host families” to welcome newcomers during their first six months.
Shocky said the steering committee planned to met on Saturday and use the ideas for their draft document.