Thursday, February 27, 2014
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City hears report on Unified Organizations Committee

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[February 27, 2014]  LINCOLN — Tuesday evening the buzz word around the area was, “Unified Organizations Committee.” The committee formed to study the roles of each of four economic development agencies that serve Lincoln and Logan County, which include: The Abraham Lincoln Tourism Bureau of Logan County, Lincoln/Logan County Development Partnership, Lincoln/Logan Chamber of Commerce and Main Street Lincoln.

Representatives from the groups, as well as city and county officials form the committee. In the announcement made last November, the focus group was expected to take the first 90 days of the new year for its assessment processes.

A two-day session held on February 13th and 14th was led by a consultant that has laid a foundation. Out of that first session, on Thursday, February 20th members of the group received the first report, which they then took back to the larger groups to share.

On Tuesday evening, talk around the table at the tourism meeting included the work of this committee, at city council Mayor Keith Snyder talked about what has happened thus far, and on the county level Jan Schumacher also spoke to that board about the project.

Both Snyder and Schumacher shared handouts that were copies of a PowerPoint presentation and explained what has been identified to-date.

The purpose of the workshop was to clarify a common vision for the vitality of the Lincoln/Logan County community, identify opportunities for alignment and synergy, reduce redundancy in programs and services, explore ideas for streamlining resources, and to identify all the voices for the collaborative model.

Snyder noted that newly appointed alderwoman Michelle Bauer had served in one focus group.

He said the focus group was asked to help identify what is wrong with the community.

One of the questions used to clarify the thinking process was, “If you were sitting here five years from today, what would make you happy about this community?”

The answers came back: To see a vibrant downtown, a common brand for the community, jobs that can support a family, colleges still here, and the community would be continually thriving and growing.

The group also offered one word descriptions of who we are today, and who we should become as a community. Key words for who we are now included: Fumbling, complacent, stagnant, struggling, segmented, separated, and desperate. At the same time the list also included the word, “hopeful.”

Key words used to define what the group would like to see the community become included; Alive, thriving, employed, imaginative, desirable, engaged, affordable, youthful, welcoming and safe.

The group also identified what is holding the community back. What currently prevents it from getting from the today list, to the tomorrow, or future list.

Other key words involved in this discussion were, “Silos and territories.” This phrase became clearer, as Snyder discussed the fact in Logan County there are 79 slots for board or committee members within the six groups involved in the study. In those slots, there are several who are members to more than one board. But even with that, it is not uncommon for one faction to not know what another is doing. The groups tend to stay in their silos and keep their work to themselves, rather than sharing it with other organizations and the public.

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Snyder said in analyzing what they know now, the committee realized that they needed to focus on the community as a whole. They understand that change can be weird and scary, and that some may look at it and see it as a waste of time, and that some may be concerned that their organization is losing power and may try to hang on to it.

Snyder said, “It is key though, that the organizations work together. Through collaboration we can have a bigger vision, a better community, greater accountability and a fresh attitude.”

Snyder said the group also recognized that they needed additional voices beside the city, county, and the four economic organizations. He said the group saw a need to have education at the table as well.

In prioritizing the work to be done, Snyder said the group had put “a vibrant downtown” at the top of the list. He said that in regard to drawing people to the community, he came across a fact that said 80 percent of non-lodging dollars spent by tourists are spent on entertainment, dinning, and shopping in intimate walkable settings. He asked and answered, “What area of our town has entertainment, dinning and shopping in an intimate walkable setting? Our downtown.”

Snyder said the group also raised the awareness of how important the tourism bureau is to the county and community. He said that a need that floated to the top is to have a clear common brand for the community. “And, tourism is the group to promote that,” he said.

He said the group adopted the hedgehog concept, which means focus on one thing and do it very well. He said the focus of the hedgehog was at the intersection of three components; do what you can be great at; what can make money; and what you have a passion for.

He said, “Who is the best at telling the story of Lincoln and Logan County? Tourism.”

He said the first steps the group came up with for them to focus on, largely landed in the lap of the city and tourism. He said the city will continue working to get the downtown plan filled out and see the final product come to fruition. The tourism bureau will be doing much of the work on the community branding, and they are also going to be responsible for putting together a community wide calendar of events.

Snyder said this first meeting has only been the beginning, there is a great deal more to do, and the Unified Organization Committee will continue to hold meetings in the future and work through bringing the city, county, and all of its economic components together as a unified body working together.


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