The Source of Light: Pittsburg community engagement drives city’s past, current and future progress

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The Imagine Pittsburg 2030 February meeting featured a two-level presentation with Housing on the lower level and Education on the upper. Two sessions were held to ensure the opportunity to attend both talks.

PITTSBURG, Kan.–Summertime is coming which means that soon, robust yellow fields all throughout Kansas will help the state live up to its nickname as ‘The Sunflower State.’

The vibrant flower drips warm hues of yellow all throughout summer and into fall, painting the state in the color of life and living up to its joyous symbolism of loyalty and longevity.

As its name suggests, the sunflower uses an internalized clock to branch out into the embrace of its ultimate source of life — the sun. And in Southeast Kansas, one city is using that very same idea to continue its growth for years to come.

Imagine Pittsburg 2030 began its work nearly a decade ago with a vision for a city that continuously feeds off what residents look for in their community.

The grassroots initiative put the city’s goals into practice by evaluating the needs of the community and then designing a plan around it. The group is made up of leaders from the city and community alike — combining expertise from city officials with knowledge from area teachers, housing experts, economists, non-profits, small business owners, and health care professionals.

This sundry background prompted a diverse array of interests, ranging from childcare, to homelessness, to access to technology.

From there, the a strategic plan designed developmental goals around six categories:

  1. Housing
  2. Economic Development
  3. Infrastructure
  4. Public Wellness
  5. Education
  6. Marketing and Communication

Bimonthly meetings have kept the Pittsburg community updated on what’s going on in their city. At the December meeting, committee members presented ideas surrounding economic development and infrastructure. That meeting featured presentations by civil engineers from Olsson Associates along with Blake Benson, the President of the Pittsburg Area Chamber of Commerce.

“We want to make sure that everyone who wants to, to work in Pittsburg and live in Pittsburg has the opportunity to do so and that they have access to a great job. At the same time, we want to make sure that businesses that are looking to grow, that they have access to a well-trained labor force.”

Blake Benson following the December 2019 meeting on Economic Development and Infrastructure

Most recently, the Februrary meeting gave the community a glimpse into plans for housing and education. With more than 80 in attendance, the meeting featured keynote presentations from Quentin Holmes with Pittsburg Community Development, Housing co-chair Ron Scripsick, and administrators from both USD 250 and Pittsburg State University.

Among those who attended was Dawn McNay. Although she currently serves as the mayor of Pittsburg, McNay has lived in the city for more than 25 years. She says this initiative peaks her interest far beyond her role as a city leader and encourages collaboration with the community.

“No single entity can make significant improvements by themselves, so what I think this process does is brings all of the resources together and allow the community to tell us what are those things that are important.”

Mayor Dawn McNay following Thursday night’s IP2030 meeting on Housing and Education

“We are one of the poorest counties in our state and as we bring everyone together to imporove our economy, it also improves the lives of our resdients as well and that’s what’s important.”

The next presenation will focus on public wellness — primarily childcare. City leaders explain that with this effort to bring more child care options to Pittsburg, there less economic barriers for parents, can provide more educational opportunities for current generations and those yet to come, and can encourage more housing opportunities with a greater market for child care.

That meeting is scheduled for March 19 from 6 to 7:30 pm.

But, even after the meetings are complete, the City of Pittsburg will continuously update the list of opportunities for growth long after this series of projects is complete.

The purpose for Imagine Pittsburg 2030 is to provide a constant mean of communication between the city and its residents to look at the city, understand its strengths and weaknesses, and, just like a sunflower, keep growing towards its source of life.

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