4 Next Steps for Rogers

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City of Rogers flag at Veteran’s Park.

Rogers deserves a mayor who can build strong relationships and lead with vision, courage, compassion, and integrity. We’ve grown quickly over the last twenty years but our numbers are beginning to slip behind the other cities.

It is time for a new leader who will work to connect with the people who live, work, and play in Rogers, treat everyone with respect, and further develop Rogers’ image and investments.

I call my platform my 4 Next Steps for Rogers.These address critical deficiencies in our city while building on our past successes.

The 4 Next Steps for Rogers are:

  • Re-invent Rogers’ Economic Development Strategy
  • Connect, Communicate, and Create Leaders
  • Upgrade Our City’s Image
  • Reduce Hunger in Rogers

I’ve written about these four areas over the last few years as I’ve attended the city council meetings and observed the activities of city hall. Please visit the Articles about Rogers tab on my website to learn more about the value of improving these areas.

Rogers has top-notch city departments to ensure our infrastructure needs are met. As your mayor, I will do more than watch them do their job. The very first week, I will set appointments to meet with the city’s key business leaders and investors. I will work diligently to build relationships with people who can invest in our city in ways that bring more jobs.

I will lead the charge to innovate and streamline our city department operations to ensure we are wise stewards of your tax dollars. I will work to ensure that we develop leaders in Rogers at all levels. We’ll introduce new volunteer opportunities that help people connect with each other while helping the city accomplish more with their tax dollars. I will work with other local mayors to champion our region. I will be your #1 cheerleader and community bridge builder.

Let’s work together for a better Rogers.

 

Re-Invent Rogers’ Economic Development Strategy

When we create a synergy between human ingenuity, available commercial property, and a fierce spirit of free enterprise, we ensure that Rogers is not only contributing to the economy, we gain national recognition for our economic leadership.

The focus on developing the I-49 corridor during the last decade was responsible for growing the city’s employment and sales tax base. That growth also attracts people who enjoy the amenities of our city. They live, work, and play here.

We need to evaluate and re-tool our economic development initiatives to better match this stage in our city. We need to plan for proper growth that ensures we protect our environment, citizens, and quality of life.

Inspire Entrepreneurs and Investors to Grow Companies and Add Jobs.

It’s time that we take a fresh look at how Rogers contributes to the region’s economy. Our demographics make it easy to attract retail stores and restaurants. The growth of that sector increases sales tax revenue but provides only modest paychecks. Further, our 3.3% unemployment rate makes it very difficult to properly staff those establishments. Sadly, many in our region remain under-employed since recession. It’s time to create an environment of economic leadership.

The best-paying jobs created in the last five years came from home-grown companies. It’s time we do more to foster a spirit of entrepreneurship and innovation in Rogers. Let’s create an environment that inspires cutting-edge business launches and enables them to succeed. Better programs are needed to help locally owned businesses operate more effectively and improve their customer experience.

We have local talent ready and able to make the transition from paycheck-recipient to job-creator with the right combination of inspiration and angel investment. Now is the time to pave the way for the next generation of new corporations. When we grow our economy from the inside, everyone wins.

Revitalize Rogers’ At-Risk Commercial Districts.

The redevelopment projects started during Mayor Womack’s administration have focused on the Rogers’ east side. The Lake Atalanta renovation is moving toward completion. Downtown Rogers has a completed plan for revitalization, and the wheels are beginning to move as investors begin to look seriously at property and potential development.

But now it is time to work to revitalize the at-risk business districts and public areas. Areas like South 8th Street and Walnut between West 4th Street and Dixieland need attention. We need to make sure every part of Rogers is a viable place to do business. That includes making it a destination, creating ways to beautify the business district, and engaging local business owners in activities that revitalize the area.

Rogers is distinguished by our small business community. After years of progress along the I-49 corridor, it is time to create strategies for pushing customer traffic east in Rogers. As we re-invent our economic development strategy, we must match opportunity with these empty and available commercial spaces that stand ready to be the next home office of a job generator.

We can build a stronger collaborative relationship between the city, the chamber of commerce, and the convention and visitors bureau. As your mayor, I will be that voice for Rogers’ businesses who will ask, “How can we make all of Rogers a more viable place to do business?”

 

Connect, Communicate, and Create Leaders

If we are going to lead the region, we need to capture every opportunity to connect with the people who live, work, and play in Rogers. These three action steps will correct critical gaps in our city.

Build a Volunteer Corps.

Citizens don’t participate in their community by accident. The city must intentionally seek out opportunities to connect with citizens.

Our citizens are standing ready to volunteer, but there are few opportunities to volunteer in roles that help the city and fellow residents.

We have amazing people in our city. We can grow a volunteer corps in our city. It would not only handle tasks needed by the city, but it can help our residents connect with each other and give back to the community. And ultimately, it gives emerging leaders the opportunity to learn and hone new skills.

Here’s another advantage to a volunteer corps: it connects mentors and mentees. When a skilled gardener works alongside a young person, she is not only teaching him to grow vegetables in a community garden. She is mentoring him about life’s challenges and sharing her life experiences. The young gardener is giving her a reason to stay mentally and physically active. These encounters are what bond these residents to our community for life.

Communicate to Everyone Who Lives, Works, and Plays in Rogers.

We not only don’t provide ways for citizens to get involved, we don’t communicate the business of the city adequately. Rogers has grown, and times have changed. Citizens and others with a vested interest in our city’s success rely less and less on our newspaper. There is a swiftly emerging wireless community that wants to get more information digitally. They rely heavily on 21st-century Internet tools such as websites, social media, and e-mail.

By properly employing these communication tools, we can improve awareness of businesses and events in our city. We can alert citizens about important news on a moment’s notice. Improving our communication strategy will help share opportunities for individuals to step forward and get involved in activities that will groom them for city leadership in meaningful roles.

A city marketing and communication strategy executed by a skilled marketing and communication professional is crucial to developing citizen participation. Citizens who are effectively connected with information the way they want to get it are more aware, more likely to vote, and more likely to actively engage in the community.

Create Opportunities to Identify and Develop Emerging Leaders.

It’s time to build on current programs like NWA Emerging Leaders and Leadership Benton County by implementing a volunteer-driven mentoring program. Many people in our city are qualified to serve on boards and in elected offices but most have no idea those service opportunities exist.

We also must identify people for those roles who represent the city’s demographic make-up. When you look at the people who serve in appointed and elected roles, you’ll notice they are older white people. Our city population is more than 33% Hispanic. We need to identify Hispanics and younger men and women of all ethnicities who are interested in civic leadership.

It takes time to develop a talent pipeline for city leadership. I’m not suggesting we vote for someone just because he or she represents a demographic — that is a formula for failure if that candidate is not qualified and prepared. However, an initiative that identifies and grooms future qualified leaders is a step in the right direction.

 

Upgrade Our City’s Image

Despite a solid infrastructure, Rogers is slipping into anonymity as the surrounding cities gain national attention through their public relations efforts. These are key efforts to retaining current residents, attracting new residents and businesses from all over the world, and improving property values.

Design and Execute a New Marketing Strategy.

The most recent branding update was a failure. It was poorly executed, a mediocre offering, and a waste of taxpayer money. Within the first 18 months of my term, we will roll out a new brand image and marketing strategy that will spark national interest and foster pride in our city. It will tell our city’s story of economic leadership and quality of life to prospective visitors, residents, and businesses.

Beautify Rogers with Improved Green Space.

We do a great job of investing in landscaping but we do not adequately maintain it and protect that investment. You can find examples of neglected green space all around our city. Do you know that a healthy, well-landscaped yard can add 15 percent to the value of a home? Just the curb appeal alone can sell a potential buyer on a house.

The same thing happens with a city. A city’s green space is part of what inspires guests to choose a city like Rogers for their home or business. Rogers’ green space deserves a better plan.

I have a plan for better management and development of our green space. It includes additional training for city employees, making better plant and tree choices, and rallying volunteers who love gardening.

Together, we can help business owners beautify their property, revitalize and refresh Rogers’ landscaping and parks, and create a large community garden program.

Spark Redevelopment in Neglected Residential Neighborhoods.

I will work diligently to improve Rogers’ forgotten and neglected properties and neighborhoods. It is necessary to raise interest among residents and small-project developers to invest in our city. Rogers should strive to be a place where people at all socioeconomic levels who want to own a home can find one to buy in every section of our city. Our neighborhoods should be safe, secure, and friendly place that our friends and neighbors can take pride in.

An untapped opportunity lies in challenging neighborhoods to create fun activities that inspire residents to spruce up their property so that every home on the block is something to be proud of.

Build Pride in Our City, Our Country, Our City’s Support Teams, and Our Retired, Active-Duty, and Reserve Military Men and Women.
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I love America. We must ensure that Rogers is a city where the American Dream thrives for those who want to make it their dream too.

We will work to make sure that our police and fire department teams are respected and show the kind of character that makes us proud to call them neighbors. That goes for every member of the city’s support teams from the mayor’s office to the road crews.

A large number of veterans call Rogers home and local organizations like the American Legion and Sheepdog Impact Assistance work hard to care for their needs. We will encourage activities that show appreciation for the commitment our veterans have made to protect America and our way of life.

 

Reduce Hunger in Rogers

This city is wealthy in so many ways. Generous people live here. Yet there is a staggering hunger problem. The number of kids who are on free and reduced-cost lunches is high. Each weekend, hundreds of children take home a Snack Pack for Kids backpack because it is the only guarantee they will have food to eat over the weekend. Too many children grow up in households where no one teaches them how to prepare a nutritious meal.

We do a great job of feeding the hungry. Our churches and food pantries provide warm meals and food to take home. It is valuable, but it’s just a bandage. Many people don’t even know how to assemble basic food pantry items into a meal.

Let’s do more than just give people fish — let’s teach them to fish. Let’s work to resolve food insecurity in our community. With some coordination with current programs, we can create completely volunteer-driven mentoring programs through our schools, community centers, and after-school programs. With so many local big thinkers, we could develop a model that cities all over America can use.

In my first month as mayor, I will begin meeting with the community leaders of the programs closest to the hunger issue to fully evaluate need and cause. We will identify action steps like mentoring programs for teaching adults and kids to cook easy and inexpensive meals from scratch. By spring, we can increase our community gardens and begin to teach kids and adults how to garden. Through collaboration, these programs can work creatively to equip our most needy children with skills to improve their home when their parents cannot.

Some say it isn’t government’s place to deal with hunger. I see my role as mayor to facilitate the conversation, fully investigate the issue, and invite the right people and organizations to the table to create solutions. Grants, donors, and sweat equity can make this happen without cost to the city.

It isn’t possible to solve the issues of every household. But if we can work with programs in our community and create some new volunteer-driven education initiatives, we can reduce hunger in Rogers by 50% in as little as two years. Let’s not let another generation grow up in our city without teaching them how to cook nutritious meals and grow their own food.

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Permanent link to this article: http://carrie4rogers.com/4-next-steps/