(Editor’s note: This is the first of a three-part series on public vision planning meetings for Minden.)
By Paige Nash
The first of three public vision planning meetings was held yesterday, September 26, where those in attendance had the opportunity to share their personal thoughts on assets, challenges and opportunities the City of Minden faces in different areas such as workforce development, public infrastructure, small business and entrepreneurship, and cultural and recreational amenities.
Approximately 30 individuals attended this meeting which included many city officials, state representatives, business owners, representatives from the Greater Minden Chamber, Webster Parish Tourism, police and fire departments.
“When I think about people in the city that I would guess would show up, every one of you is on my list,” said Minden Mayor Nick Cox. “I hope this is beneficial for our city and I know it will be impactful for our future.”
Atlas Community Studios was contracted by the City of Minden to assist in conducting a community assessment and with the information provided by the public, they will in turn build a strategic plan that includes data and historical trends to overcome specific challenges and take advantage of opportunities for improvements. This strategic plan will be used to apply for funding to execute economic development in the City of Minden and the surrounding area.
According to Atlas Chief Executive Officer Alex Holland, they are about a month into a 12-month period to fully complete this process. She said, “Right now, we are in the community engagement phase.”
After the three public vision planning meetings are concluded, they will then move on to focus groups that will be made up of community leaders and decision makers to highlight the top priorities.
“We will then put together a community assessment report. That’s where we take all the information we learned today, information from the survey and the focus groups and interviews, then pull all the data that will tell a story of what is actually going on in Minden and where we are going to go from here,” said Holland. “From there, in that report, we have a section called ‘strategic opportunity areas.’ We will then dig into projects, potential partners, where the funding will come from and what’s the timeline. This is truly a roadmap.”
Holland stressed the importance of having a strategic plan in place when applying for state and federal grants. She said, “We are trying to plan ahead and make sure Minden is set up for success.”
When discussing specific assets of the city, the North Louisiana Technical College was at the top of the list, along with outdoor recreation opportunities, Minden Airport, proximity to Interstate 20 and young people in leadership positions.
Former Mayor Tommy Davis said, “What makes me optimistic about this is to look around and see all the young faces that are in here. This is a whole different crowd than I dealt with 10 years ago and that’s good that young people are getting involved.”
Executive Director of Webster Parish Convention and Visitors Commission Serena Gray agreed.
“It means a lot to the younger generation that the people who have already rolled their sleeves up and built this city, are willing to let us come in and do more and carry on the legacy that you have built. Not every community is like that,” said Gray.
Some challenges listed by attendees included not having a streamlined process for those wanting to open a new business, high utility rates, lack of workforce and job opportunities for those with degrees.
Opportunities listed included approximately 2 miles of undeveloped land on the access road to Interstate 20, unoccupied buildings for potential new businesses and amenities for children and young adults.
The final meeting will be held today, September 27, at 8:30 a.m. at the Minden Community House. The public is encouraged to attend and share their visions for the future of the city. For those unable to attend, the survey can be found at https://engage.atlascostudios.com/minden?fbclid=IwAR0zJN8dE_jFOENY7K7Um7NVavd_o_X5tC2IWceecMy-ZCQiSAZnz_A4Ve8. Those that complete the survey will be entered into a drawing to win $50.