Chamber works on plan for future
The initial part of the plan indicates that job creation remains a top concern.
By D.A. WILKINSON
VINDICATOR SALEM BUREAU
SALEM -- The Salem Area Chamber of Commerce is about halfway through a study that should shape the city for 20 or more years.
The study is wrapping up its first plan that consisted of sessions that gathered comments from people on their vision of the city's future.
The study is being done in conjunction with Ohio State University's Extension Service.
The final plan is expected to be done in early 2007.
Audrey Null, the chamber's executive director, said the chamber knew going in that the study would take 18 to 24 months. But, she added, the study may still be guiding the city 20, 30 or even 50 years from now.
Null compared the plan to planning a vacation. With a plan, people know where they are going. Without one, people get lost, she said.
Paying for study
The city has paid half of the study's $20,000 cost. The chamber has paid $4,000 and will either pay the rest or recoup it through donations.
OSU extension workers will be in town in the next few weeks to gather information from people in key positions in city hall, the schools and the Salem Community Foundation.
Daniel T. Moore, chairman of the chamber's economic development committee who is heading the study, said all of the information gathered will be organized by the extension service and presented to the public at a series of meetings, probably in late April.
The plan's steering committee will turn over the information to five or six committees that will then develop a comprehensive plan, Moore said.
"We'll try to bring all the different energies together," Moore added.
What will be targeted
The committees will look at economic development, infrastructure and quality-of-life issues, such as the arts.
Null said one big issue that came out of the vision sessions was the need for manufacturing and jobs. The city has lost some jobs in recent years but brought in others. The planning will look at the types of manufacturing the city wants to attract and where to put them.
The city's businesses have had their ups and downs over the years. Moore said local company leaders in the past have rebuilt their businesses after economic slumps.
He said he would like to see the overall plan wrapped up by the end of this year, but admits that's unlikely. The city's large bicentennial celebration this summer will occupy the chamber and city leaders, but it is also expected to enhance the study.
The chamber and bicentennial officials hope that the event will help people to think about the city's future. The bicentennial will include the opening a 50-year time capsule and burying a new one.
Null said that whatever goes into the new time capsule may reflect the city this year and have some impact when the capsule is reopened 50 years from now.
The long-range plan also will include all the city's cultural assets, Null said. The city has an active theater, historical society and several arts groups.
Salem also has a long history of giving that may be reflected in the plan.
Null said much of the community giving is done through churches and civic groups, but a lot also is done in small, private ways.
She said that she recently received a call from a mother who said her preschooler was searching for some sort of fund-raising project.