By Marilyn Miller
The City of Minden and Atlas Community Studios hosted a second meeting designed to obtain community input on the development of a Strategic Economic Development Plan on Tuesday evening at the Minden Community House.
Alex Holland, chief executive director of Atlas, welcomed the crowd of about 30, telling them that “We want to know what you think in your community” about Infrastructure, Workforce Development, Small Business & Entrepreneurship, and Culture & Recreation.
The partnership, which is free to the City, will ultimately cipher out the desires of the public prior to Atlas assisting with writing grants aimed at funding the visions these citizens have for their city. Louisiana and 23 other States are involved in this particular partnership, which is exclusive to small towns like Minden, and will last about a year.
Holland introduced Libby Crimmings, president of Atlas, whose focus is Public Engagement. The first thing Crimmings did was to have the attendees “connect” with a QR Code that was projected on stage. The code led every phone to the “engage.atlascostudios.com/minden” web site. Attendees were then directed to input their desires for Minden…what they wanted Minden to look like in 10 years.
“I want to see that our population has increased,” said on attendee, while another expressed a desire to see more activities within walking distance for children (which the Recreation Center is not). “Good streets, low crime and lots of charm” another said. “We have one of the only fully-staffed police forces in the area. It’s really important to tout that…” added one, looking at an asset. Looking at a challenge, another wrote, “A lot of people complain about our utilities…and there are no payment plans for those who need it.”
“We spend a lot of money in Caddo and Bossier, and not Webster,” one voiced.
One citizen expressed a concern about young people between the ages of 18 and 35. “There are no activities for the age groups that are causing the problem (with crime). “I see a lot of liquor stores popping up” and although Minden has a staffed police force, “the police need to be trained in how to build trust and to interact with these young adults.”
Others voiced concern about empty houses and businesses, too few events for kids, a need for community events for everyone. “There’s a huge divide here,” an attendee then added.
Next, the attendees were divided up into groups and were asked to find “Assets,” “Opportunities,” and “Challenges” in the areas of Infrastructure, Workforce Development, Small Business and Entrepreneurship, and Culture/Recreation.
Summing up the thoughts of the groups:
- Assets: Good access to roadways;
- Challenges: Reliable high-speed internet;
- Opportunities: Fixed wireless to fill the gap.
- Assets: Minden Police Department, Fibrebond Corporation, NWLTC;
- Challenges: Police need to interact with the Black community;
- Opportunities: More events to attract employees (job fairs).
- Assets: Proximity;
- Challenges: Workforce (need more skilled workers); UTILITIES, our school system needs improvement, funding (cost of a start-up vs return on investment), people shopping out of town; pricing in Minden vs Bossier/Shreveport;
- Opportunities: Minden is a “blank slate;” with so many opportunities to expand.
(Writer’s note: Of the 30 people in the room, approximately 10 were directly connected to the presentation, including mayor, councilmen, etc. Of those “citizens” attending, it was near 50-50 in regard to race. The ages ranged from 11 to nearly 72 (and that would be your’s truly).)