"This is the day we've been looking forward to for a long time," said Mayor Jim Orr in welcoming the five members of the DREAM panel.
|Orr talked about how the city has developed a partnership with the Monett Chamber of Commerce, business leaders and the community in shaping the Vision 2030 plan. Finding value in the outcome, the city partnered with the chamber, Downtown Betterment Group and other business leaders to hire a downtown coordinator.||The opportunity to get into the DREAM program offered another door to build a better future for the community, the mayor said.|
The DREAM panel introduced themselves. Patrick Hanlon from the engineering firm of Peckham Guton Albers and Viets (PGVA) said he was the DREAM project manager for the Monett effort. Michael Hurlbert, from PGVA, is assistant project manager. Kimberly Martin, the community development program manager for the Missouri Development Finance Board, brought information about funding resources. Ann Perry and Brenda Horstman, both with the Missouri Department of Economic Development, provided knowledge of other state programs.
Judge Mike Garrett narrated the city's presentation.
"Monett is ready not only to start dreaming, but we are ready to start doing," Garrett said. "An active board is in place, initial funding has been provided, and DJ Miller has been hired to assist with downtown revitalization."
A PowerPoints presentation provided an overview of the Vision 2030 study and the community in general. Garrett pointed out the city's airport is one of the 10 busiest in the state, and that Monett's industrial base is both diverse and prosperous.
Garrett said downtown Monett in past decades has been "the place to be," and the latest effort reflects a desire to recapture the impetus of that earlier time.
"It's part of our Ozark heritage, the belief that if something needs to be done, there's no better way to do it than to get our friends and neighbors together, roll up our sleeves and get to work," Garrett said. "This cooperative, can-do spirit is part of what makes Monett unique.
"Monett is poised and ready to move forward once specific plans and actions are developed and agreed upon," Garrett continued. "We are ready to move forward with downtown revitalization, and we look forward to the assistance that will be provided by the DREAM initiative."
DREAM panel members had specific questions about the community. Perry asked where the people come from who bring Monett from a residential population of 8,000 to a workday population of more than 16,000. Sharon Garrett, Downtown Betterment chairperson, said workers come from as far away as Joplin and Springfield. Chamber Executive Director Suzy McElmurry said surveys show 61 percent of employees live outside the Monett zip code.
Discussion focused on Hispanic residents and past outreach efforts. Garrett observed that the assimilation of immigrants takes time. He expected the next 10 years would be very different, and the Hispanic community would play a big part in what would happen in Monett's future.
Housing and the nature of Monett's flooding were discussed prior to a bus tour. DREAM members then walked down Broadway and talked to a number of business owners.
The DREAM panel led the afternoon session. Hanlon gave examples of DREAM projects in other towns. DREAM will conduct a community analysis, an inventory of all the buildings and gather community opinions. Focus groups would be organized and opinions would be documented.
A gap analysis would be done on Monett's retail market and an assessment made of the trade area. A destination assessment of the downtown as a tourists draw also will be conducted.
"Specifically our recommendations will be for the downtown," Hanlon said.
Financial tools such as tax increment financing, community improvement districts, neighborhood improvement districts and community development corporations were mentioned as ways to move the process forward.
"I think the meeting was beneficial for the community officials who were there," Pyle told The Times. "We were able to describe the planning that we've done to this point. We were able to show them physically what is here in Monett, in the community and downtown. We were able to get a better understanding of the scope of services that will be provided to us through the DREAM initiative and work out a schedule for future meetings."
A community kickoff meeting for the DREAM effort will be held early next year, possibly in late January or early February. Pyle expected the timing would depend on working out the scope of services and the DREAM contract with city, which will require council approval.
"We asked them what their impressions were," Pyle said. "They were actually pleased by the appearance of downtown, the number of active businesses and the amount of work already done as far as the Vision 2030 plan. I think we were able to accomplish what we needed to ahead of schedule because we had answered a lot of their questions during the morning presentation."