You may have heard talk about the Greater St. Cloud Community Priorities. After all, both the formation of the Greater St. Cloud Development Corporation and the airport initiative resulted from these priorities. Since the Second Annual Community Priorities Meeting (PDF) was held in February, I thought now would be a good time to talk about GSDC’s important connection to, and participation in, this task force.
I recently had the chance to chat with Initiative Foundation President Kathy Gaalswyk about how these community priorities, including air service, came about.
It’s an inspiring, community-driven story – I’ll explain more below.
The formation of the Greater St. Cloud Community Priorities began when leaders from the Community Foundation, the Initiative Foundation and the St. Cloud Times collaborated to review community and economic development plans from 24 regional organizations.
“We had all these goals that were already floating out there,” said Kathy. “Our next task was to call on the community to help determine which ones had the potential for tangible, measurable results in two years.”
Through their research, the groups compiled more than 200 previously identified goals and objectives. They then sifted through these ideas to find parallels and create a manageable list of 31 action-oriented priorities. They took these ideas to an open community meeting in February 2011.
More than 200 community members from government entities, businesses, institutions and nonprofits showed up to weigh in on which goals they thought were most important to enhance our community’s economic, cultural and environmental vitality.
Kathy told me they wanted to make the community voting session as open as possible to give people the opportunity to have a voice. Through an electronic voting process, the Greater St. Cloud community chose its top 10 priorities, which you can read about here.
“We asked people to vote on a several criteria, including the potential for a positive regional impact, public and private sector collaboration, and “real payoff,” as well as whether the priorities engaged multiple interest groups, were popular yet strategic, and built on regional assets,” said Kathy.
Kathy said establishing the priorities and launching community-led task forces has been empowering for people in the area. The priorities have been in place for just more than a year, but a number are near completion and she has already seen a positive impact in greater St. Cloud.
“It’s raised up the community to a new level in terms of having a sense of direction. It’s really changed the attitude of the community and got them excited about the future,” said Kathy.
An unstoppable team
Developing the GSDC and improving transportation, including support of regional air service and the extension of the Northstar Commuter Rail, were among the 10 priorities the community identified as most important for building on a broader vision for economic and community growth.
Seeing the importance of air service in our community, the GSDC endorsed air service as the first of our six key initiatives. Together, with the Central Minnesota Community Foundation, the Initiative Foundation and the St. Cloud Times, we’re leading the efforts to bring air service back to our region – efforts that I truly believe will help the greater St. Could area realize its potential as one of the best places to live and work in America.