EAGLE PASS, TEXAS • LANCASTER, TEXAS • WATSONVILLE, CALIFORNIA • BARTLETT, TENNESSEE APR/MAY 2023 O P P O R T U N I T Y I S K N O C K I N G WAUSAU W I S C O N S I N ,
1 a letter from the editor I love spring. It’s as if the entire world is waking up after a long slumber: the birds are chirping. The flowers are blooming. The trees are budding. The days are longer and the sun is brighter. Spring around here, in Holland, Michigan, is something to behold. If you’ve never been here in May to take in the tulips for the annual Tulip Time Festival, it is a breathtaking sight: streets lined with brightly-colored tulips, with flowering trees bursting in whites, pinks, and purples. There are millions (6 million this year!) of stunning tulips on display. Springtime, in all its glory, illustrates an important life lesson. Despite the winter– however gray, frozen, and lifeless the world may seem– those bleak days don’t last forever. The snow does melt. The world thaws out. And that sun– that magnificent, warm, life-giving sun- urges flowers and trees to wake up and flourish. It’s magical, really. Spring reminds us that life goes on. This month, I’ve had the true pleasure of talking to community leaders across the country– from cities in Texas to Tennessee and California to Wisconsin. I’m always impressed with the caliber of these leaders: passionate, positive, powerful forces of hope. They are lifting up their cities, despite sometimes unbelievable challenges: floods, borders, tests, and trials. They are creative problem solvers, working to bring their communities together- to wake up and flourish. Wherever life finds you in this season, we hope these stories will inspire you. We hope they remind you, just like the magic of spring, that life goes on, even after the darkest and coldest of days. Savor the sunshine, my friends. Let it warm your face and wake you up. May it help you show off your brightest– and most beautiful- colors. Thank you for reading. Thank you for sharing. Thank you for believing in the power of positive storytelling. Choosing Joy, Timshel Media LLC 190 E. 8th Street #1725 Holland, Michigan 49423 ceo & publisher James Mikolajczyk editor in chief Julie Mikolajczyk production director Trisha Calfee creative director Todd Calfee
2 contents | A P R / M AY 2 0 2 3 on the cover WAUSAU, WISCONSIN 03 CORNER BOOKSTORE 04 TOWN SQUARE 05 NEWS STAND 11 EAGLE PASS, TEXAS The Ripple Effect 21 LANCASTER, TEXAS Home Sweet Home 29 WATSONVILLE, CALIFORNIA Leaning In 37 WAUSAU, WISCONSIN Opportunity is Knocking 49 BARTLETT, TENNESSEE Playing the Long Game Watsonville, California Page 29 City & Commerce Magazine is a publication of Timshel Media LLC. The opinions expressed within these pages do not necessarily reflect those of City & Commerce Magazine. All information is provided by the featured subjects, without separate verification by City & Commerce Magazine. We assume no responsibility or liability for any inaccurate information contained within these pages.
3 STARTWITHWHY: HOWGREAT LEADERSHIP INSPIRES EVERYONE TO TAKE ACTION by Simon Sinek “There are two books that I keep in constant rotation. During the last trip I had to El Paso last week I took Ego is the Enemy by Ryan Holiday. I like it because it is small and easy to travel with (it helps with those delayed flights). However, the book I am currently re-reading is Start with Why: How Great Leadership Inspires Everyone to Take Action by Simon Sinek. Great book for those in management positions.” Arturo Marquez Director, Economic Development of Eagle Pass, Texas THE POWER OF POSITIVE LEADERSHIP: HOWAND WHY POSITIVE LEADERS TRANSFORM TEAMS ANDORGANIZATIONS AND CHANGE THE WORLD by Jon Gordon “It’s a reminder that our positive thoughts, words and actions have an impact on the people and organizations that we lead.” Opal Mauldin-Jones City Manager of Lancaster, Texas CAN’T HURT ME by David Goggins “Beyond being inspirational, it really spoke to me about the ability to dream and transform to overcome odds, obstacles and achieve. While it is very easy to give up, not try, and/or let the magnitude of the challenge, problem, or issue overwhelm you, the ability to push forward, engage, and not give up is not only the most rewarding– but often you utilize the same time of energy and effort by not trying that you do when you try.” René Mendez City Manager of Watsonville, California ROAD TO CHARACTER by David Brooks “I am re-reading a few leadership books for a class I’m preparing to teach this summer. My favorite of those is Road to Character by David Brooks – it pulls lessons in leadership, integrity, honesty, and more virtues from real people throughout history. It’s compelling and engaging. Leading from the Outside by Stacy Abrams is a great one, too – it offers very practical advice to get started in a leadership role and includes thought exercises after most chapters. Nonviolent Communication by Marshall Rosenberg is, in my opinion, the gold standard of books on communication. It gets at the basic essence of what, why, and how we communicate and how to listen for what needs people are trying to express. It also includes exercises after most chapters to put what you learn into immediate practice.” Liz Brodek Development Director of Wausau, Wisconsin corner bookstore Ted Lasso on Apple+
4 MEASUREWHAT MATTERS by John Doerr “Bartlett is embarking on a journey to develop a long-term strategic plan. Therefore, much of my recent reading has been geared toward this topic. The most informative book thus far has been Measure What Matters by John Doerr. The book outlines a goal-setting methodology implemented at Intel and later adopted by numerous Fortune 500 companies. In short, the author and various well-known contributors discuss ways to zero in on an objective and outline critical steps to reach beyond perceived limits. Along the way, several tips are offered to help navigate the obstacles that will inevitably arise. ” Steve Sones Chief Administrative Officer of Bartlett, Tennessee town square LIZ BRODEK Development Director of Wausau, Wisconsin “It’s basic R&D: Ripoff and Duplicate. Look at projects in other communities and think through how to scale them. I also like to find a triple-win on innovative projects. If we think we’ve got a good project idea, how can we benefit another group of people? How can the positive impacts ripple farther? What can make it more innovative? It’s fun to find that edge beyond the traditional and see how we can push it to do better. I think it’s important to stay open to new ideas and perspectives and keep looking for possibilities.” STEVE SONES Chief Administrative Officer of Bartlett, Tennessee “In my experience, the best ideas are generated through collaboration. However, sharing ideas can only occur if an organization promotes a culture of innovation centered on reciprocal partnerships of trust. Consequently, the development of new ideas is not the ambition. The real purpose of collaboration should be to make the dream a reality.” OPAL MAULDIN-JONES City Manager of Lancaster, Texas “Collaborating with great leaders and organizations both public and private. I believe in listening, learning, reading, observing, refining, and implementing.” RENÉ MENDEZ City Manager of Watsonville, California “There are several ways. Listen, observe, and more importantly, engage. Stay as current as possible and work to really understand the strengths of your organization and community. It’s also important to understand your limitations. And finally, establish and foster a culture that allows and welcomes the ability to develop a concept or idea. Too often we are quick to say no, or respond with all the reasons why something won’t work or all the problems with it before really understanding the idea.” How do you generate great ideas in your city or organization? All leaders must be readers. President Harry S. Truman
5 news stand However, research from a survey of nearly 2,500 small business owners in August 2020, showed that 70% of the small businesses were started by people that already lived in those communities, he said. “They weren’t recruited or asked to move a business there,” Wagner added. “And this wasn’t just for retail, restaurants and service businesses – 92% of small scale producers and 57% of businesses with more than 20 employees were started by locals. We need to cultivate the talent that already lives in our rural communities.” Main Street America is working with the Kauffman Foundation on the program, which will include a oneday workshop in each of the 10 participant areas. Those A new program seeks to change the economic development narrative in rural and small-town Main Streets. Main Street America, a program of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, recently announced the 10 organizations that were selected for the Equitable Entrepreneurial Ecosystems in Rural Main Streets Program. Nine states and Puerto Rico were selected. “So many small communities put tremendous resources into business attraction and industrial development,” Matt Wagner, chief program officer for Main Street America, told the Daily Yonder. Rural Main Street Program Says Revitalization Starts at Home Main Street America is launching an initiative for small towns. One goal is to move from simply recruiting businesses to incubating the business ideas that arise locally. by Kristi Eaton, The Daily Yonder
6 workshops will be open to any rural community to attend, Wagner said. “Post this workshop, we will be working with each of our Main Street state coordinators to then select three rural Main Street communities that will be part of a more in-depth cohort group, each receiving in-community and virtual services, professional development opportunities and peer-to-peer learning exchanges,” he said. Breanne Durham, the Washington State Main Street director and one of the programs selected, said she sees a wide range of experiences in rural Main Street communities. “Some communities that have been ‘successfully revitalizing’ their districts for years or decades now face challenges related to housing, affordability and overtourism,” she told the Daily Yonder. “Others struggle to find enough volunteers and funding to even start a Main Street initiative.” She added that some communities have populations that are growing rapidly while others are dwindling. “The keys to success regardless of the challenges faced are having strong partnerships in place and a shared vision for the future of their unique community,” Durham said. In Oklahoma, another state selected for the program, Tamara Nelson, program coordinator, said there’s a perception that rural communities have fewer resources. “I think that we need to uncover that that’s not necessarily true,” Nelson told the Daily Yonder. “However, in smaller communities, there aren’t as many banking opportunities. So we need to figure out if there’s a variety of access to capital for someone that’s a startup … and where can they go? If not locally, regionally?” Oklahoma State Main Street Director Buffy Hughes told the Daily Yonder it’s exciting that there will be a one-day workshop for any rural community to take part in. “That is open to any rural community to attend. You don’t have to be in Main Street,” Hughes said. “But it is a resource for all rural communities in Oklahoma.” This article is courtesy of The Daily Yonder
7 news stand services, firefighters and police.” He adds that in some cases, the metal structures can be installed to create light-industrial settings and even temporary school facilities, and in other cases for recreation centers, government offices, and to serve as replacement buildings following a disaster. “Durability, flexibility, customizability and reduced cost make them reliable, viable solutions for government needs,” Body-Lawson says. “The speed of construction compared to conventional construction is a significant advantage in terms of getting quickly to the occupancy and use phase.” He adds that metal construction is suited for storage and is customizable for a range of applications. He urges city administrators and officials considering metal building solutions to look carefully into who are the most reputable manufacturers of metal construction materials and prefabricated systems. In 2023, cities and counties are relying on metal buildings to help themmeet their infrastructure needs and requirements, says Harlem, N.Y.-based architect and educator Victor Body-Lawson FAIA, founding principal of Body Lawson Associates Architects & Planners. “Yes, metal building systems are ideal for needs and uses like infrastructure, storage, recreation facilities, industrial warehouses and even some government buildings. They are highly weather-resistant and relatively durable, and flexible—you can add to them or even move them with relative ease.” Body-Lawson notes that metal construction tends to cost less to build and maintain than conventional construction, with significantly shorter construction times. “The materials often arrive as prefabricated parts ready to assemble at the construction site, which reduces the costs associated with labor.” Body-Lawson says that the most common local and municipal government applications for metal construction are usually facilities for storage of equipment, construction materials, vehicles and the like. “These days, many cities and towns are also applying metal construction methods to quickly build new, lower-cost response stations for EMT Metal Buildings Can be a Lifesaver for Local Governments Needing to Expand by Michael Keating, American City & County
8 City officials should do some preliminary analysis as they contemplate metal and other construction approaches, Body-Lawson explains. “The first step is to determine the need or application and review the context of the land area before deciding whether metal construction is appropriate. Included in this analysis should be measuring the desired life span of the new building against the typical life expectancy of the type of metal construction being considered.” There is a procurement vehicle that can be a potential solution for governments as they plan a metal building acquisition, according to BodyLawson. “Cooperative contracts, which allow multiple agencies to make purchases from pre-qualified vendors, can be enormously helpful in saving time and resources. They can leverage the buying power of other agencies to get favorable pricing terms, especially with vendors competing to outbid for these large and lucrative contracts.” The Metal Building Manufacturers Association (MBMA) spotlights the government market and government applications at this site. “For 2021, our members reported just over 1,000 metal buildings sold in the ‘Government Administration & Services’ category. That represents about 3 percent of all metal buildings sold,” says Tony Bouquot, MBMA general manager. OMNIA Partners offers a robust portfolio of cooperative contracts in the public procurement space. OMNIA Partners Public Sector lists several cooperative contracts that feature Modular Buildings and other building systems. Michael Keating is senior editor for American City & County. Contact him at michael.keating@informa. com. This article is courtesy of American City & County
9 Wausau, Wisconsin Page 37
10 the cities WE ’ R E TAL K I NG ABOU T features EAGLE PASS, TEXAS The Ripple Effect LANCASTER, TEXAS Home Sweet Home WATSONVILLE, CALIFORNIA Leaning In WAUSAU, WISCONSIN Opportunity is Knocking BARTLETT, TENNESSEE Playing the Long Game
11 The Ripple Effect EAGLE PASS , TEXAS
12 Eagle Pass, Texas www.ChooseEaglePass.com Maverick County Population 58,000 There’s an art to skipping stones. You have to find the perfect rock- thin, smooth, light. The water conditions have to be right, too. And then there’s the technique itself: the appropriate flex. The proper wrist turn. The release. There’s a certain satisfaction as that stone strikes the surface of the water. Each touch– each skip– causes little ripples on the water. Those ripples grow, spreading their circles further and further out. Arturo Marquez, Economic Development Director in Eagle Pass, has become a master stone skipper. He’s been launching stones left and right lately, causing quite the ripple effect in this Texas border town.
13 Celebrating Culture Within the city limits, Eagle Pass has a population of 30,000. “But if you look at us as a region,” Marquez explains, “rather than just within city limits, you’re probably talking more closely to 300,000 in population.” “We have a blend of communities here,” Marquez continues. “We are a border town in Texas, so you definitely get that very American-Texas vibe while you still get a lot of influence fromMexico, whether it’s in the culture, the food, or the atmosphere. That’s what makes it a great place to live, work, and play– that blend.” Honoring that cultural diversity is a priority for the folks in Eagle Pass. It’s evident throughout the city, thanks in large part to The Arts and Culture Center, which opened in January of 2020. The center provides a well-rounded arts program, featuring live music and various exhibits, along with music and art classes, allowing the city to both enjoy and Arturo Marquez, Economic Development Director After living and working in other communities, I can tell you Eagle Pass is experiencing economic growth like no other. ARTUROMARQUEZ ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT DIRECTOR participate in art. They host weekly art classes for kids, as well as a “Sip and Paint” for the adults. It’s a win-win, really: it brings people together and it celebrates the arts. The center is part of Eagle Pass’ 300 Block Art and Entertainment District, featuring restaurants, shops, venues, and museums. And of course there’s the Kickapoo Lucky Eagle Casino, located on the Kickapoo Indian Reservation. It’s one of only two casinos in Texas and is one of the biggest attractions to the area. It draws people from all over Texas. Eagle Pass loves to celebrate and they do so frequently with many festivals throughout the year. One of the most notable events is the International Friendship Festival, hosted by Eagle Pass and Piedras Negras, their sister city of 200,000 people, located justover theRioGrandeRiver that separates the USA and Mexico. “We have a very strong relationship with them,” Marquez shares. The long history of these two cities– their collaboration and cultures– are celebrated with parades, activities, and lots of amazing food. The highlight of the event, though, is the Abrazo (that’s Spanish for ‘hug’). “It’s a hugging ceremony,” Marquez states. “We go out on the international bridge– it actually gets shut down. And we celebrate the partnerships that we have.”
15 City officials meet on the bridge and exchange a hug, symbolizing their great friendship. MakingWaves Eagle Pass has had some rough waters, though. In recent years, they’ve been all over the news, at the center of the immigration debate. And while they are still a hotspot for immigration, they are making waves for a host of other reasons these days. For starters, they opened a new Sports Complex in 2021. “It was a $17 million project,” comments Marquez. “And it’s definitely made its money back.” It’s a huge facility, with courts and fields galore. During the week, it serves the community, used by local teams for practice. On the weekends, it hosts big tournaments with club sports teams and junior leagues from all over the country. “We just get tons and tons of people to come out and play,” Marquez says. And those tons and tons of people need a place to stay. And they need a place to eat. And so began the cycle: “City Council,” he recalls, “immediately saw the increase within about five months, when everything was completely booked.” And so Marquez was tasked with bringing in hotels. In the last 12 months, Eagle Pass announced three new hotels. Each is roughly $11 million, with 100 rooms, a pool, and conference rooms. There are new restaurants coming in. There are also new
16 businesses. Take the Money and Run The boon is widespread, too. Sul Ross University, recently announced a $30 million expansion. “They were looking to grow,” Marquez explains. “They were looking at Eagle Pass and they were seeing the growth pattern.” The school requested 100 acres of land donation, with an agreement to build their new administration building there. “It’s step one of what is going to be a plethora of growth over the next few years,” he adds. Partnerships with the schools run deep in Eagle Pass. Two years ago, during the height of Covid, Eagle Pass had a bit of a problem: they didn’t have enough nurses to vaccinate their people in a timely manner. So they used their federal funding and teamed up with Southwestern Texas Junior College to train and certify 42 people in medical assistance phlebotomy. “We sawtheneed. Theywanted tohelp. We got the funding so we were able to create that partnership which was amazing,” statesMarquez. “It was a very quick response.” That sort of thing isn’t new, though. Several years ago, Microstar, a keg cleaning company, came to Eagle Pass. They also partnered with Southwest Texas Junior College, to develop the skilled workforce they needed, like forklift and other
17 machine operators. According to Marquez, their attitude was “if we don’t have what you guys need, we’ll train them for you. We’ll get them ready for you guys to come in.” It’s that sort of attitude that makes Eagle Pass fertile ground for business development. “We are really just bulldozing through these different investments that are coming in,” states Marquez. He’s proud of it. And he should be. He’s spearheaded a surge of economic development that could make anyone’s head spin. Positive Press It began, he says, with just a small project. A small grant of $20,000. But they promoted that project. They celebrated that win (they like to celebrate, remember?). And then came another grant. This time, it was a little bigger. They celebrated that one, too. “It was Guerrilla PR,” he laughs. “We took one small win and then we took another one and put it out there. Then we took the next one and put it out there.” Eventually, others took notice. “Those people spread the news and we got more wins,” Marquez says. “And they started getting bigger.” Now, they are dealing with multi-million dollar investments on the regular and there are no signs of slowing down. “We just snowballed into getting the attention of different entities,” attests Marquez. “We use our elected officials as much as possible, not only at the local level, but at the state and federal level, too. We make sure when they visit us, we welcome themandbrief themonanythingnewthat’s happened.” It’s customary for U.S. Representative Tony Gonzalez to tour new businesses when he’s in town. Likewise, Texas Governor, Greg Abbott, and State Representative Eddie Morales, do the same. “We make sure we have strong communications with them. We make a consistent argument of what the needs are for the community,” Marquez adds. “We are one of the few communities that has been fortunate enough to get funded through the Economic Development Administration multiple
18 times within a very short period of time,” Marquez explains. They received a $3.5 million grant in 2020 for the Business Incubator project and just recently, another $3.25 million for the expansion of an industrial road and park. “So we’re just a little bit shy of $7 million through the EDA within a three year period,” Marquexz continues. “If you look at EDA historically, they typically don’t give out grants to the same community in that short of a timeframe.” Growing Their Own There’s a lot of outside investment coming in. But there’s a strong entrepreneurial spirit in Eagle Pass, too. “It’s just a group of people,” he maintains, “that aren’t shy at all to think of a business idea and go for it.” Statistics, though, aren’t always in favor for the new young business owner. Many small businesses fail due to lack of capital and poor planning. And while Marquez can’t do much in regards to the capital portion, he feels like they can do something for the planning portion. “We thought it’d be a great idea to help them along in the process, making S E C U R I T Y O F F I C E R S P E A C E O F F I C E R S P R I V A T E I N V E S T I G A T O R S LET’S WORK TOGETHER TO PROTECT YOUR BUSINESS OVER 40 YEARS OF EXPERIENCE AS SECURITY PROFESSIONALS GOLD EAGLE SECURITY WWW.GOLDEAGLESECURI T Y.COM 830 352 1922 920 EIDSON RD. SUI TE A, EAGLE PASS, TX 78852
19 sure they’re going in there with a business plan, a financial plan, and a marketing plan… That they have a structure in place so they’re not just winging it,” Marquez explains. The new Business Incubator will do all of that. Marquez says he’s quite fond of the project. For starters, they’ve taken an old brick building– a dilapidated, rundown, 100-year-old abandoned building– and revived it. The city submitted an application to the EDA to get funding to renovate it, with the goal of giving it back to the public. It’s extra special, Marquez believes, because “it is a historic building, so a lot of it has to do with bringing that history back to life.” That building is huge, actually. It will provide spaces to rent for offices, and rooms to meet with clients. They’ll host networking events and bring all the entrepreneurs together for mentoring. Essentially, it’s a campus for new business owners to receive guidance and provides a place and space for them 2322 N. Veterans Blvd, Ste 3 Eagle Pass, TX 78852 | LMELLOINSURANCE .COM Lorena Mello State Farm Your Eagle Pass State Farm Agent H O M E / B U S I N E S S / L I F E
20 as they enter the business world. It will also have a restaurant, retail stores, a ghost kitchen, an expansion of the Arts and Culture Center, and will be the new home for the Economic Development Department. Let it Rip Marquez believes that Eagle Pass is the port to the future. He alludes to some very substantial projects coming to town, with several thousand acres of development on the horizon, with a focus onmanufacturing, logistics, and international trade. “After living and working in other communities, I can tell you Eagle Pass is experiencing economic growth like no other,” attests Marquez. “The amount of new investors that are coming in… that are finding out about Eagle Pass… We’ve got individuals from Houston, Laredo, San Antonio, and Dallas, coming in here with everything they’ve got. They’re seeing it and want to get their foot in before it really spikes up.” In the Center Sometimes you launch a stone and hope it makes a splash. Sometimes, if you are lucky, it skips along the way, breaking the surface as it flies, creating ripples that spread out, wider and wider. It’s called the ripple effect. And Eagle Pass is right in the center. ....
21 There’s simply no place like home. It’s hard to put your finger on it exactly. It’s a feeling. It’s a place to be yourself. A place to exhale. It’s a nostalgia for days gone by and people you hold dear. That first hometown love you have is a bit like your first love. It’s special. There’s a sacredness to it. A Bledsoe felt that way when he left his home in Lancaster, Kentucky, and moved to Texas in 1847. He worked in government. He was also a pioneer. He bought some land in Dallas County and mapped out a newcity. The layout, though, wasn’t completely new to him. It was nearly identical to his beloved hometown back in Kentucky. And that hometown love didn’t end there, either. Bledsoe even NAMED this new town after it, calling it Lancaster, Texas. He had high hopes of honoring the old love while also creating something new: it would be his new home and a special hometown for future generations. Fast forward to today, a century and a half later, and for 42,000 folks, Lancaster, Texas, is home. Located in Dallas County, Lancaster is part of the larger Dallas- Fort Worth metropolitan area. H O M E S W E E T H O M E L A N C A S T E R ,
22 Lancaster, Texas www.lancaster-tx.com Dallas County Population 41,000 Amenities Abound But Lancaster is a lot of things, really. “We have nature preserved,” Lancaster City Manager, Opal Mauldin-Jones attests. They have 33 square miles of beautiful rolling hills and nature, complete with parks and trails. “You can have this peaceful-picture environment, and yet we are just 15 minutes away from world-class entertainment with the city of Dallas,” Mauldin-Jones continues. “That is what makes Lancaster an ideal location.” What they’re most proud about, though, are their schools. “We have an excellent school systemwhich creates an environment both for business as well as families,” states Mauldin-Jones. “When you have a quality education system, it allows individuals to come into your community and immediately feel connected.” The schools are robust and well-rounded. “We have academics,” Mauldin-Jones explains. “We have fine arts. We have athletics.” It’s a complete system, from early childhood all the way through community college. At the northern tip of their city is the University of North Texas at Dallas. That means that you can start daycare– and eventually graduate with a Master’s Degree– all within Lancaster. T E X A S Ten Mile Creek
23 They have a number of partnerships with the schools, fostering business recruitment and workforce development. “One of the incentives that we offer as a community is related to workforce development and training,” shares Mauldin-Jones. “We literally set aside dollars to make sure that those businesses can train or retrain, whether it’s their existing workforce or within our community.” Lancaster was the first full school district to be a STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) district in the state of Texas, thanks in large part to a grant from Texas Instruments. Decade of the Renaissance Lancaster is in their self-deemed Decade of the Renaissance, which started in 2015. MauldinJones is quick to praise both the city council and the administration: “They understand that business operates at a rapid pace to keep up with the economy. We have to function and operate in that samemindset, so that our processes andprocedures are quick and easy to move through. From the concept of a business with an idea to construction and grand opening, we need to be able to function at that speed. Our council embraces that. Our staff embraces that. And we make sure we operate with that same mindset.” Opal Mauldin-Jones, City Manager When you have a quality education system, it allows individuals to come into your community and immediately feel connected. OPAL MAULDIN-JONES LANCASTER CITY MANAGER
25 Currently, Lancaster is working on a myriad of projects. For starters, they are in the process of developing the Roy Crawford Park, in the northern part of their community. The new trails there will connect with the master hike and bike trails that traverse the entire city. Lancaster already boasts an impressive indoor aquatic facility and a 60,000 square foot recreation center with an indoor walking trail. In terms of housing, Lancaster has over 400 residential lots in process. There’s a great deal of building in terms of industry, too. Walmart is simultaneously building two facilities in Lancaster: a cold storage center that’s over a million square feet and an 800,00 square foot food distribution center. They are both set to open within weeks of each other. And that’s just the beginning in Lancaster. Also in the works are buildings for The Niagara Bottling Company, ThreadUp, Wayfair, andMcKinley Box. In addition, they will be welcoming a new data center thatwill consist of threebuildings in a newcorporate complex, with the big name reveal coming soon. Part of the attraction, according to Mauldin-Jones, is the Lancaster Regional Airport. It has a 6,500 square foot runway, allowing corporate jets to land there. “We have a great restaurant at the airport, amazing fuel capabilities, and a rental car facility,” she explains. “You can land here, jump in a rental
26 car, take care of your business, get right back out to have a meal and jump back on your jet and head out.” The heart of Lancaster, though, is its downtown center. “You haven’t visited Lancaster until you visit our historic downtown,” Mauldin-Jones states. “A lot of communities are creating a downtown because they don’t have that.” Recently, a developer purchased a few buildings downtown and is in the process of redevelopment. “We’re really excited about the opportunities that we have to move forward,” says Mauldin-Jones. The historic Town Square hosts concerts, community festivals, Market Days, and bike rides. There’s a feeling of community here, even with its size.
27 Through Fire and Flood The people here have a lot of heart, too. They are strong. Trauma and tragedy have that effect. And Lancasater has had their fair share of natural disasters over years. They’ve been hit time and time again. Massive fires swept through in the 1800s, destroying the town square. In 1994, there was an F4 tornado. Ten years later, in 2004, there was a 500-year flood, one that the National Weather Service had, at the time, not seen anywhere else in the country. Another tornado ripped through in 2012, this time an F3. They were also hit hard with the recession in 2007. “This community is resilient,” Mauldin-Jones believes. “The council, the staff, and the residents never fall apart; immediately, we come together like a family and work together to move this community beyond.” Moving forward remains a focus in Lancaster. “We have 33 square miles of incorporated city that’s less than 50% developed. As we grow, this council– this community– is making sure it is sustainable,” comments Mauldin-Jones. “The environment is a big decision factor– we’re not just covering every acre or space or land with concrete.” Green space is important to this community. “We enjoy the beauty of our rolling hills and our beautiful treeline streets and the creeks and the lakes and the ponds,” Mauldin-Jones says. “Smart-growth is important to the council and it’s important to the community. And you see that in what’s been proposed, and what’s been approved in the development that’s happening in our community.” Welcome Home Smart leadership is important, aswell. AndLancaster has found that in the talented Mauldin-Jones. And while her resume is impressive, with degrees and accolades and accomplishments aplenty, it’s hard to put passion on paper, per se. She’s even got a few things in common with Bledsoe, Lancaster’s founder: she works in government. She’s also a pioneer. She’s brokenmany barriers, including being the first African American woman to be appointed to the role of City Manager in Lancaster.
28 Mauldin-Jones is actually a native of East Texas, from a tiny town with one flashing light. But she’s lived most of her adult life in Lancaster. “I’ve been with this community for 20 years,” she shares. “I’ve grown with this community.” And while Lancaster is her home now, her first hometown will always have a piece of her heart. She loves it there. Her family is still there. “When I go home, there’s a love and an affinity there,” she muses. That nostalgic feeling for home is a motivator for Mauldin-Jones in all she does. She wants her own children- who now call Lancaster home- to speak of home someday in the same way she does. It goes beyond just her own kids, too. “When students leave Lancaster School District,” she explains, “I want them to be able to talk about home, wherever they go in the world and whoever they encounter. I want them to be able to talk about home in a positive light. I want Lancaster to have that same feeling and emotion for them.” “If you haven’t been to Lancaster,” Mauldin-Jones laughs, “you should hurry up and get here.” Welcome home, they’ll say. Welcome home. ....
29 Watsonville, LEANING IN Last year, when the folks inWatsonville, California, went to the polls, they got to cast a vote for their future. At stake: a tax increase. The additional funds (a half cent sales tax) were to be spent on the community. Funds to improve, enhance, and develop. City leaders were advised to not even put it on the ballot. It will never pass, they were told. It will never work. In nearby communities, similar measures didn’t pass. The county didn’t even put it on the ballot, fearing failure. But here’s the thing: you can’t do anything unless you try. Trying takes courage, especially in the face of doubtors. It takes belief in the outcome and the journey it takes to get there. Watsonville believes. They believe in their leaders. They believe in their city. They believe the best is yet to come. At the Core Watsonville is the third largest city in theMonterey- Santa Cruz region in central California. Agriculture is big business here, with big names like Driscoll’s, Martinelli’s, and Monterey Mushrooms calling it home. “It’s a beautiful, beautiful place to live with the agriculture and the business quality that we have,” believes Watsonville Mayor, Eduardo Montesino. “But it’s the resiliency of our community. Our hard working community has a lot of heart. I think that is the core of our community.”
30 ,California Watsonville, California www. cityofwatsonville.org Santa Cruz County Population 50,000
31 CityManager RenéMendez agrees. “What’s special about Watsonville,” he states, “for a community of 50,000 people, is just the depth of engagement. The nonprofits, the Community Business Organizations… I think it’smore than towns twice or three times bigger. And for a town our size, there’s a lot of diversity. And diversity not only is people, but in thought process. In how they value this special place. This community has wrapped around itself, wanting to lean into our strengths.” Hungry for More There’s a unity that comes when everybody leans in. There’s buy-in. There’s ownership. There’s pride. Last year, the hospital in town was bankrupt and up for sale. “The community stepped up and said no,” Mendez recalls. “They didn’t want their hospital sold.” They rallied. They took action. With help from the state and many investors, the community actually bought the hospital. It’s now locally owned and run as Watsonville Community Hospital. This ownership, according to Montesino, will help bring more services, like health education and mental health services, to their residents. It’s a significant asset to not only Watsonville, but to the entire region. “It will help fuel and drive economic development and the development of a community with the quality of life deserved by all of our residents,” asserts Montesino. Mendez sees a hunger in Watsonville for more: they rallied to save their hospital. They voted yes to invest back in their city. “We relied on community support and they came through,” states Montesino. “And that’s going to be a game changer for us because we can invest big time in the community.” We relied on community support and they came through. And that’s going to be a game changer for us because we can invest big time in the community. EDUARDOMONTESINO MAYOR
33 That big time investment is well under way. That ‘yes’ casts a large net over many areas in the city: parks, libraries, arts, education, infrastructure, and downtown. For starters, Ramsey Park, the largest park, will receive major upgrades with the Ramsey Renaissance Project. This brings renovations to fields, as well as the addition of a dog park, playground equipment, and an artificial turf field. The project also includes a new 3,500 square foot Nature Center, called the Watsonville Exploration Project. It’s all part of Watsonville’s beautiful outdoor green spaces, which boasts an 800-acre freshwater wetland, along with 26 parks, spanning 43 acres. It will also go toward education. The Watsonville City Council just approved a $1.3 million contract with the Pajaro Valley Unified School District. The city will be running all of the after-school programs. “We’re pretty excited about it because our reach with our youth and the collaborationwith the school districts just deepen,” Mendez explains. “One thing we are looking forward to,” he continues, “is the intentionality behind tracking how effective we are in partnering with the school– sharing data on kids that come through our program.” He wants to make tangible impacts on the lives of those kids. The city is dedicated to their youth. The Park and Rec Department is working on 40 Developmental Assets, partnering with the school district and other nonprofits. “We’re trying to get a framework,” shares Mendez, “of how we approach our youth engagement in programs city-wide. This is sowe can share resources, not duplicate efforts, or compete against each other. We can really enhance the kind of impact we have on our youth.” Watsonville is focusedonengaging andempowering their youth. Each summer, they hire 40 youth as interns. They believe in the power of mentorship and pouring into their own as evidenced by the many youth led organizations.
34 Those youth havemany local options, too, to further their education. Within a 30 mile radius, there is UC Santa Cruz, Cal State Monterey Bay, and two junior colleges: Monesbay and Cabrillo. “There’s a lot of opportunity to really look at how we can connect and how we can support pathways and education,” Mendez adds. Ready to Move “What’s happening in this community right now is all these planning efforts, long range, to really shape our future– that are happening at the same time,” Mendez says. “It’s a great opportunity for us to connect the dots– to leverage– to really go out to our community and engage with them and invest in them.” Investments will be made into libraries, senior programs, and the arts, as well. The city recently sold a building to the Arts Council. “We’re starting to have a much more intentional arts presence,” comments Mendez. They are reimagining their downtown, too, with their Downtown Master Plan. It includes street repairs and projects, along with making the area more vibrant and walkable. Mendez hopes to have more mixed use spaces, “which will enhance and help our local businesses thrive,” he believes. “Part of the challenge is, depending on your perspective, gentrification. A way to alleviate this concern is by spending a lot of time investing in what we already have– by investing in our existing businesses. What they do have is a full-service city. Watsonville has their own waste services, that in turn, run their own organics programs. They also have a water reuse program, one of the first cities on the central coast to do so. In addition, they are in the early stages of looking at a microgrid for a few of their waste plants. At the same time, they keep an eye on sustainability. They have a pilot electrification program, funded by grants that explore the questions, What does it really
35 mean to electrify our homes? What’s the cost? What’s the impact? All of these plans and upgrades make Watsonville attractive for businesses looking to plant some roots here. “We’re starting to discuss three pretty exciting projects around our downtown,” Mendez reveals. They are getting interest from places like Joby. “That’s the Uber of Sky,” Mendez explains. “It’s a vertical helicopter integration platform, where they land in front of your street, pick you up, and take you to the airport. It’s a very huge operation in the area. We’re having conversations about them utilizing our airport.” That airport, Watsonville Municipal Airport, is the only one in the region. According to Mendez, those tech opportunities are realistic for Watsonville. The Language Defense Institute inMonterey, University of California Santa Cruz (UCSC),CaliforniaStateUniversity -Monterey Bay (CSUMB), and Silicon Valley are all close by. “Watsonville provides an opportunity,” he believes.
36 “We’re in themiddle of a lot of high technology… and Watsonville has the space.” Companies are starting to look at Watsonville- for both that space and the quality of their workforce. And the Floods Came Watsonville, unfortunately though, has been in the middle of flooding, as of late. “We got hammered on December 31st,” Mendez says. Two creeks that flow into the Pajaro River, Corralitos and Salsipuedes, caused major flooding to the Senior Village in Watsonville that continued for several weeks into the New Year. It not only impacted residents, but also public infrastructure. More flooding in earlyMarch, due to a levee breach, devastated nearby Pajaro. Watsonville has stepped in, helping their neighbors by providing shelters and other aid. Prior to the recent flooding, plans were under way for a major levy reconstruction project with the Army Corps of Engineers, the Pajata River Flood ManagementAgency, and the city. Theproject, in the design phase, is estimated to be over $400 million in infrastructure work. Area leaders, working with various partners and Congressional delegation, are hoping to get the wheels spinning even faster on this much-needed project. All in for the Journey When you lean in, you are in a posture of action. You are no longer on your heels, watching. Your weight is forward, ready to move. Watsonville’s leaders are leaning in, too. And they are working hard to make Watsonville the best they can. “It’s the energy right now that’s driving the community’s hunger for change. It’s the community’s hunger asking, ‘Why can’t I have this in my city?’” says Montesino. “So that is what’s pushed our efforts. We have a huge responsibility with the public’s money and the public’s trust,” he adds. They aren’t afraid to try new things. Trying, after all, takes courage. “I think there’s the realization that we can’t expect different results if we do it the way we’ve always done it,” states Mendez. “Be bold. Be audacious. We shouldn’t be afraid to lean in and look at something… Sometimes we hold ourselves back… Sometimes the best way of leading is to just get out of the way.” With all of this planning coming to fruition, Mendez believes they have a golden opportunity: “Shame on us if we don’t take advantage of it and figure out a way to leverage it and partner with it. These things don’t come around all the time.” Watsonville is all in– leaning in to both the outcome and the journey it takes to get there. ....
37 WAUSA W I S C O N S I N
38 AU, Opportunity is Knocking Life is all about seizing opportunities. It’s about knowing when to close some doors. And at other times, it’s about knowing what doors to open. The key, though, is to not be afraid to swing that door wide open when opportunity comes knocking. There’s been quite a bit of knocking these days in the city of Wausau, located in the Wisconsin River Valley in central Wisconsin. Doors seem to be opening up left and right, bringing an influx of new opportunities and energy. The name Wausau, given by the Ojibwe Indians, means A Far Away Place. But for this city of 40,000, in their 151st year, it’s anything but far away. In fact, they pride themselves on being accessible, affable, and affordable. And that’s just the A’s. The Right Keys “We’ve got what people need,” states Wausau Economic Development Manager, Randy Fifrick. “Youdon’t needto travel toMilwaukeeorMadison to
39 get something. It’s here now.” Wausau was recently ranked in the Top 10 Most Affordable Metro Areas by Rocket Homes. “I think that really shows part of what makes our area so great– it’s such a great place to live. We’ve got great outdoor recreation all around. We’ve got forests, great fishing, great hunting, bird viewing— whatever you want, we’ve got that,” continues Frifrick. Wausau is a nature mecca, drawing visitors and locals alike to enjoy the beautiful outdoors. But they also “serve as an urban hub for a lot of northern and western Wisconsin,” explains Fifrick. “There’s a lot of people from Michigan that come down here to do their shopping… we’re that big city but we don’t have that big city feel.” “I think that what makes our city really great is just the people that live here, work here, and run businesses here,” continues Fifrick. Call it that famous, intangible, Midwestern-nice. “We set that precedent onbeingkind toeachother,” addsWausau Mayor, Katie Rosenberg. “We encourage that.” Rolling out theWelcome Mat AlthoughFifrickhasonlybeen inWausau for2years, he’s worked in the region for 14 years. “When I first Everything is really accessible here. We’ve got big city amenities, but we’ve got the small town accessibility. It’s a really unique combination that positions us well for the future. LIZ BRODEK WAUSAU COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT DIRECTOR Wausau, Wisconsin www.ci.wausau.wi.us Marathon County Population 40,000
41 started,” he says, “economic development meant trying to create jobs and bring in jobs.” That’s shifted in the past few years. He’s no longer focused on chasing big companies and creating more industrial jobs. “We need people,” he shares bluntly. “So we’ve been putting a lot of focus into placemaking and into our residential experience. We are trying to ensure that our community is a place that people want to be. We want to attract young millennials. We want to attract people that are raising families. We want to make sure that there’s adequate opportunities available to everybody that chooses to live in north or central Wisconsin.” That placemaking– creating places that people want to be– is happening all over Wausau these days. It used to be the downtownmall. The shutting of those doors, thanks in part to both shopping habits and the effects of Covid, was immense. That big empty space– that place– was useless. That was until some visionaries stepped in and reimagined that space. It was purchased and demoed by some public and private partners. In June, they are breaking ground on an incredible new mixed-use space. It will have 154 residential units, with ground floor retail. There will be green space and trails. It will be vibrant and attractive, bringing a new energy to the central downtown area. “We have a huge opportunity that we’re capitalizing on in the downtown renovation,” believes Wausau Community Development Director, Liz Brodek. “Not just in the state, but in the country in being able to redevelop the core of our downtown to fit the needs of the next generation and of the next several generations… It’s incredibly exciting.” This sort of thing isn’t unusual in Wausau, though. They’ve been in the business of placemaking for years. Take their 400 Block. Over twenty years ago, it was a regular city block, right in the downtown, dotted with old buildings. But the city tore them down and built a huge greenspace, complete with a stage and a fountain. “It’s just lots of space for people to gather and picnic. If you were to come on New mall development called Foundry on 3rd.