It was standing room only as community leaders, educators, and businesses came together with the public to share their visions for the future. Education and housing were the main topics of discussion at the Imagine Pittsburg 2030 Community Conversation, held Thursday, Feb. 27, at Butler’s Quarters.
Imagine Pittsburg 2030 (IP2030) is a strategic plan initiated to address Pittsburg’s opportunities and challenges through the year 2030. Since the plan was adopted in 2012, the city has seen more than $480 million in completed projects, many of which were the result of public input gathered through the IP2030 visioning process. Having the community take part in the conversations is the key to making it work.
“One of the things that we’ve found since we’ve started these Imagine Pittsburg 2030 conversations, is some of the most valuable pieces of feedback we get are the follow up meetings that we have with folks that say, ‘I really want to learn more,’ ‘I really liked this but, hey, have you thought about this?’ And they’re giving us new ideas,” said Pittsburg’s Public Information Manager, Sarah Runyon.
The IP 2030 Community Conversations help the public, business owners, and educators envision where they fit in the growth of the city.
“So it’s really good to have the community come out and show that they care, and show that they feel like Pittsburg’s moving in a positive direction; and when they outline their challenges and say, ‘hey we really need to work on this,’ they’re saying that in a really positive way,” Runyon said.
IP 2030 Education Co-Chairs, Shawn Naccarato and Brad Hanson, shared how our local businesses, school districts and Pittsburg State University are working to prepare students for meaningful careers.
“(It’s) not just about USD 250. It’s not just about Pittsburg State even, for that matter…it’s actually about how do we better connect the assets we have in our community, in our region, particularly in Crawford county, to ensure that any child in this community can have the best pre-K through 12 experience they can have, and all kinds of options for furthering their career and beyond,” Naccarato said.
Hanson said that after they went through a strategic planning process last year, one of the things that they heard from the community during that there was a skills gap in professional skills, workplace skills, and the soft skills that help people be successful.
“78 percent of college faculty believe that high school students are not prepared, not only for college, but the workforce, and that’s a problem,” Hanson said. “On the other side, 96 percent of chief academic officers at the university level believe their kids are prepared, and only 11 percent of businesspeople believe that college graduates come prepared for the workforce. That’s a problem. That’s a skills gap,” Hanson said.
One of the education sub-committee’s main goals is discovering options for the students which better further their careers.
“What we’ve recognized is that not everybody needs or wants a four-year degree, and it’s okay to say that out loud,” Naccarato said. “One of the things we’re so excited about from the workforce development standpoint is the (Pitsco) Idea Shop. Pitsco Idea Shop is a makers space where you can do tangible work…you’ve got something on the back of a napkin that you can make a reality. That can produce businesses,” Naccarato said.
Naccarato said that if we can provide opportunities for creativeness, it will get more children involved.
“It can actually give hope to these children that may not have it right now,” Naccarato said. “The truth is that a lot of the thing that is an impediment of these children getting where they could go is, they think they can’t. So, we want to be able to give (the kids) hands on experiences, where they can go in and create; and possibly the best job they can have is one that doesn’t yet exist, and they make. So, what we want there to be is this real entrepreneurial experience.”
IP 2030’s efforts have helped initiate plans for new housing developments and revitalization programs that benefit all sectors of the city. Housing Committee Co-chairs Ron Scripsick and Quentin Holmes shared information on future housing plans for the area. IP 2030 knows the importance of housing cannot be overestimated. With this in mind, they employed an independent company to do a housing needs assessment.
“So, our housing needs…came from a study we had done in 2014-15,” Holmes said. “And (what they) came up with are some needs in homelessness/transitional housing, quality affordable rental housing, neighborhood blight elimination, downtown housing, moderate income housing, moderate to higher income housing near PSU and Via Christie, and senior housing, with an emphasis on the need for moderate to higher income houses in specific locations.”
One of the questions raised from the public was whether there were plans for both commercial land and housing developments. Scripsick said the housing must be first.
“For some reason in recent months we’ve had a lot of activity from outside developers wanting to come to Pittsburg and put in housing divisions, and we’ve met with several of them…,” Scripsick said. “But right now, today, we’re kind of taking the attitude that we would like to develop a developer from Pittsburg Kansas, and work with some of our local home builders, and financially help back them to get them into creating developers. We think that it would be better for the community to use local home builders… (as well as) local tradesmen and subcontractors…it would just be a lot better for the community. So that’s some of the direction that we’re going in right now.”
The IP2030 committee invites members of the community to get involved by attending a bi-monthly community conversation. Future community conversations will discuss the marketing and public wellness components of the Imagine Pittsburg 2030 plan. For more information, visit imaginepittsburg2030.com or contact IP2030 Co-Chair Joe Dellasega at (620) 704-3949.