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This blog is written by one of 15 individuals attending the South By Southwest Conference in Austin with the intention to bring back ideas and to reimagine Richland County.

Planning, development and innovation are nothing new to the work I do at Downtown Mansfield, Inc.

As someone who has been engaged in planning, community and economic development efforts and conferences for two decades, I took on the challenge of joining Mansfield’s SXSW adventure knowing that a fresh perspective on planning is as difficult as it is needed.

Jennifer Kime

Jennifer Kime, CEO of Downtown Mansfield Inc.

There is an incredible amount of high-quality content and highly-achieving individuals at this conference. At my first session, Tim O’Reilly shared that “it’s the job of the entrepreneur to redraw the map.” Tim urged us to look at innovation and see how it can be implemented for overall social change.

At this tech conference, innovation is everywhere. It’s in the marketing, the automated cars, the space race, etc. When we think of drone deliveries, for example, people get excited for pizza or beer at-will. Instead, O'Reilly urged us to expect more and begin to imagine the remote uses of the same technology in their ability to deliver water or medical needs.

In sessions to follow, mayors and developers spoke of the urgent need of housing improvements. Mayor James of Kansas City said, “there isn’t a city in the country that would tell you that they have enough affordable housing.” He went on to talk about bridging the gap between tech innovators and the social problems.

In Mansfield, as in much of the region and even country, our housing issues are tough. It’s not that we haven’t been working on solutions, but the complicated connections between social investments, fiscal incentives and appropriate development are real. We also have some significantly talented and committed individuals whose work focuses on finding the intersections and solutions, even piece by piece.

But what if we thought bigger? What if we looked at the challenges we face in developing affordable quality housing, affordable preservation development and attainable development opportunities for investors and matched those with the technology innovations? Could we actually solve at least a piece of this greater community development puzzle that has held us back?

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What would a solution in housing mean to workforce development? How would quality housing impact quality of life?

When we talk about taking Mansfield to the next level and envisioning the future that we all want, that must include a system that serves the population that lives there.

While we’re at it, maybe we create a new model for development and housing that is scalable across communities.

It’s a big problem. Someone will solve it - it may as well be us.

Stay tuned and follow the progress via #SXSW419. And watch for more blogs at richlandsource.com/rising_from_rust/sxsw.

This Solutions Journalism story is brought to you in part by the generous support of our Newsroom Partners: Spherion, Visiting Nurses Association, PR Machine Works, Nanogate/Jay Systems, DRM Productions, OhioHealth Mansfield Hospital, Richland Bank, Mechanics Bank, Area Agency on Aging, and many others. To learn more about Solutions Journalism at Richland Source click the "About Solutions Journalism."

South by Southwest Conference Blogger

CEO of Downtown Mansfield, Inc. and a certified Main Street Manager with the National Main Street Center. Her work focuses on business development, historic preservation, planning, promotions and strategic investment.