COLUMBIA — Holding his infant son, Hayden, at his hip, Jacob Turner held a sheet of blue dots resembling those used in garage sales.
Turner, the owner of the organic lawn care and development company Natural Elements LLC, studied the display boards at the Community Choices Open House and placed dots on the issues that are most important to him — economic development and the environment.
“I’d like to see my business grow, of course, but I’d also like to see other businesses with the same sort of, you know, strategies or concerns about the environment,” Turner said.
The open house, which was held Thursday at Lela Raney Wood Hall at Stephens College, allowed Columbia residents to weigh in on a visioning process that’s been in the works for nearly a year and a half.
The open house gave residents the opportunity to review 118 goals compiled by 13 citizen groups during the process.
Each participant chose the six goals they believe are most important. The ones that receive the most votes will be given priority as a new committee works to implement the strategies.
MU students Alex Cataldo, Jamie Bennett, and Christine Foster attended the open house as part of a class requirement.
Visioning committee members said they tried to foster diversity through outreach efforts directed toward university students from the beginning of the process in January 2006. “We made an earnest effort to engage students,” said Jeffrey Williams, co-facilitator of the Vision Committee. “I think it’s been a challenge to get diversity, but not through a lack of trying.”
Nancy Bedan, a member of the Arts and Culture committee, said she tried to get a variety of voices. Bedan said she saw people from a variety of backgrounds in her group, including “people representing different aspects of the arts” like “vision arts, dramatic arts, performance arts, people with different interests.”
“I think, overall, if there was an area that wasn’t represented, at those meetings, it was 20-year-olds,” Fine said.
Some of the strategies that received the most votes were:
• “Create a Regional Science and Technology Network (RTSN) with access to the distinictive business and technology competencies needed to identify, develop and launch entrepreneurial high-tech businesses in our area (e.g. a “Springboard Program)”
• “Leverage Columbia’s natural advantages — MU, Columbia’s location and environment, and Columbia’s people — in fostering economic development”
• “Develop the necessary infrastructure to support emerging technology industries including high-tech business parks, community Internet access, and a skilled workforce”
• “Increase connectivity by flying to major airline hubs and adding other airlines with a variety of flight times”