RIO GRANDE — The Gallia County Strategic Planning Committee unveiled its plan during a kick-off event in Rio Grande on Monday evening.
The group — comprised of political and governmental figures, school and community leaders — began meeting in May 2011 and has worked over the course of a year to develop a “strategic” plan to aid the community in the development of the local economy, the county’s capacity, the City of Gallipolis and the county’s transportation and infrastructure.
Over the course of the event, several of those involved in the project spoke about the current assets of Gallia County, plans surrounding the future development of the area and the need for the involvement of the entire community within the strategic plan.
Rebecca Nesbitt, strategic planning committee member, Gallia resident and extension specialist with the OSU Extension South Centers spoke about the importance of volunteerism in relation to the plan.
“This plan was not made by one person but was made by a lot of people in the community, and all of those people represented a lot of other people who weren’t at the meetings. So, what we hope is that there was input from all aspects of the community, and, in order to make it successful, we all have to work at it,” Nesbitt said. “Grow Gallia is a complete sentence, and the subject of that sentence is you.
“We all have a part in this, and its not going to be successful unless we all work together on it,” she said. “Your part might be supporting the schools or supporting your organization’s help with community work. Your part might be volunteering for the chamber; working with the visitors’ bureau. Whatever you are good at, whatever your talents are, whatever your strengths are — we need them. We need whatever it is that you can do to for the benefit of the community. So, it’s important that we all work together.”
According to Nesbitt, due to the rapid change that occurs within the community and society as a whole, over time, the strategic plan has specific goals to achieve within the next four to five years and an overarching vision statement that specifies where the community hopes Gallia County will be in the near future.
“If we created a vision that we were already achieving, then we really wouldn’t be thinking far enough in advance. Our ideas wouldn’t be lofty enough,” Nesbitt said. “Are we going to be there in five years? Well, we hope we’re closer than what we are now — in five years — but probably not. The idea is to set a goal out on the horizon, and the strategies take us there one step at a time. So, instead of looking at this giant mountain of what it is that the community has to achieve, we break it down into pieces where each of us can be comfortable with whatever our role is.”
The larger theme of the strategic plan is: “Grow Gallia: Our Community - Our Future,” and Gallia County Economic Development Director Melissa Clark spoke about the specific, realistic and prioritized goals the plan has in place for the community to achieve over the next five years to “grow Gallia.”
According to Clark, within the realm of business and economic development, the hope is to expand Gallia County’s business base and to create at least 500 new jobs over the next three years. This goal, Clark stated, will be achieved through a better marketing campaign for the county, the development of a ‘buy local’ campaign for local retail and services; the aiding of small businesses to become tech-enabled, the empowerment of local businesses with information to help market their own goods and services, and the recruitment of new business that align with the natural assets of Gallia County.
Gallipolis City Manager Randy Finney spoke during the meeting about the development of the City of Gallipolis.
Finney reported that, while the establishment of the Digital River Project has been a “shot in the arm” to revitalize downtown Gallipolis, the momentum that initiative has created must be continued.
“We want to create an energetic and exciting city in southern Ohio. We want to have people coming down here to see what we’re doing,” Finney said.
Among the short-term goals for Gallipolis is the development of the downtown business district, the establishment of a riverfront amphitheater, an increase in the quantity and quality of rental property downtown and the exploration of opportunities for the construction of a family activity/recreation center in Gallipolis.
Gallia County Commissioner Joe Foster spoke about building county capacity and the importance of establishing Gallia County as a community with a voice within the area and the state of Ohio.
Among the goals of the strategic plan that build the county’s capacity is the provision of affordable, easily accessible broadband Internet access throughout the county, the improvement of Gallia County influence among policy makers through the placement of local residents on decision-making boards and committees, the need for more of Gallia County’s leaders working closely with elected officials in surrounding counties and states, as well as the need to work closely with boards of youth facilities.
Gallia County Engineer Brett Boothe discussed the final phase of the plan: the improvement of the county’s infrastructure and transportation network.
According to Boothe, of the prioritized goals in this area is the support of the construction of the Ohio 7/U.S. 35 connector corridor that will link Gallia County to the Chesapeake bypass and allow transportation to flow from north to south through the county and not just east to west, thereby attracting possible industry and business to the area.
Additionally, Boothe reported on the U.S. 35/Ohio 7 interchange project that would upgrade the U.S. 35 interchange next to the Silver Bridge in Gallipolis allowing for the reduction of congestion in the area, the increase of motorist safety and the possibility of bringing more tourism into the downtown area.
State Representative Ryan Smith (R-Bidwell) of the 87th House District provided the closing remarks at the strategic plan kick-off event and encouraged all residents to get involved in “growing Gallia” and to speak with “one voice” throughout the implementation of the strategic plan.
“The question isn’t whether we will be successful in my mind, it’s what role do you want to play, how active do you want to be? Everything that we’ve accomplished in this past has been through a group of people that didn’t care who got the credit but joined together to try to get us to our ultimate goal,” he said. “There are a lot of ways to get involved, and don’t think for a second that you can’t make a difference because everybody can make a difference if they get involved.
“Just because in past we’ve had failures in certain areas, that doesn’t preclude our future success,” he said. “The message is simple: the sky is the limit for this group if we want to work together — one goal, one voice, one plan, and that’s ‘Grow Gallia’.”
To get involved in the Gallia County Strategic Plan, contact Melissa Clark at 446-4612, ext. 271 or firstname.lastname@example.org, for business and economic development or building county capacity; for Gallipolis City development, contact Randy Finney at 446-1789 or email@example.com; for transportation and infrastructure, contact Brett Boothe at 446-4009 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Further information on the Gallia County Strategic Plan can also be found online at www.growgallia.com by clicking on the “strategic plan” tab or by visiting the committee on Facebook.