MANSFIELD -- The "Mansfield Rising" plan continues to gain momentum, as Richland County commissioners unanimously endorsed the plan at their Thursday meeting.
Commissioners made their decision after hearing a presentation from Maura Teynor and Allie Watson of the Richland County Foundation and Richland Area Chamber of Commerce President/CEO Jodie Perry.
The plan includes more than 30 ideas to gradually implement in Mansfield.
The women were among 15 local leaders assigned to create a city-wide plan after attending the South by Southwest Conference March in Austin, Texas, in March 2018.
Since completed in late 2018, the 67-page plan has been approved by the Richland County Foundation, Richland Area Chamber of Commerce, the Richland Community Development Group, the Richland County Regional Planning Commission, Destination Mansfield-Richland County and Mansfield City Council.
The plan is also to be presented to Downtown Mansfield Inc.
This support is crucial, Perry explained, as she believes the plan will need to spread beyond the initial 15 to be best executed. She asked the commissioners to consider how they can be involved as projects move forward.
Earlier this week, she said, the 15 conference attendees met to discuss which portions of the plan could be first implemented. They found that everyone was already working towards something, but together, they determined that developing a brand for Mansfield would be an immediate priority.
“We're looking for early wins. We're looking for visible improvements. We're really looking to show the community that by the end of this year, we've accomplished something,” Perry said. “The plan is much bigger than a one-year plan, but we definitely want to make sure we're doing things this year.”
The branding component of the plan need to be “aspirational, but true,” Perry said. The team intends to work with an expert and hopes to present a brand that will be adopted across organizational and perhaps city lines.
Commissioner, Darryl Banks said branding isn’t “something new,” but believes previous brand statmengts like “Fun Center of Ohio” and “Richland County’s Reason for All Seasons” may not have been inclusive enough for all organizations to utilize.
Commissioner Marilyn John highlighted the importance of having everyone at the table for discussions on branding. She mentioned Shelby, Ontario, Bellville, Plymouth, Shiloh and others.
“I do think a strong county seat lends to a strong county, and the other communities within the county benefit from a strong county seat. And as Shelby mayor, I experienced that and saw that first hand,” she said.
She encouraged people with a negative perception of downtown Mansfield to come see it for themselves instead of relying on it's more-than-decade old reputation.
John also asked about Mansfield City Council’s reactions to the plan.
“City councils control the purse strings, so they can say ‘yea’ or ‘nay’ to projects, and they also sit on committees that can say ‘yea’ or ‘nay.’ They can clear roadblocks or present roadblocks,” she said.
“I'm not being critical, they have a role to play, but there is a getting on board, so I think it's important to make sure Mansfield, including their city council, is on board," John said.
Perry assured her that council is indeed on board. The Mansfield Rising plan was unanimously endorsed last week, and further, Perry said, the conversations she had one-on-one with council members were “fruitful.”
“They left me feeling very optimistic. I don't think everyone's going to agree on every single idea in here, but that's not the intent of the plan,” Perry said.
She said the 15 local leaders who created the Mansfield Rising Plan have spent hundreds of hours making and refining their ideas before their presentations.
The plan includes four guiding principles and more than 30 ideas in three sections. The guiding principles are: Downtown is everyone's neighborhood. Mansfield should have big city amenities with a small town feel. Sustainable change will be incremental. And place-making is economic development.
The sections are: Downtown is a place for living, downtown is a place for gathering and downtown is a place for business.
“It's far exceeded any expectations I had. And in one of the biggest ways, I think it galvanized support from the public. ... I think it's given people hope that big things can happen here,” Perry said.