Watseka officials

Photo by Carla Waters

Watseka officials work with Purdue students on looking at future projects and marketing for the city.

The Watseka City Council heard ways it can work on projects and marketing ideas for the city.

All aldermen met in the special session Thursday night except for Alderman Mark Garfield and Alderman Dave Mayotte.

The group session was led by students from Purdue University who have been meeting with city officials on possible ways to enhance economic development.

Some of the issues discussed included determining projects that can have an impact on economic development, marketing the city to attract companies and people from outside the area, working on partnerships with other entities and working in small groups to make progress.

The college students spoke about finding ways to fill in gaps where progress can be made locally. Each community has its own set of gaps.

Taking ideas from business owners, non-profit groups, educators, citizens and other government officials are part of ways to do that. It is important, they aid, to make sure that the ideas help to fill in a perceived gap and if there are people who are willing to work on such a project.

Once an area is determined, they said, getting an alderman to lead a small group to work on the project is the next step. Each team should include four to seven people and each person should be given small aspects. With everyone working together and each person taking a small part of the bigger project, it makes the task easier, they said.

The group should meet monthly for three or four months until the project is completed. Each month committee members should update the other committee members on how the tasks are going. Moving forward a little bit each time, they said, will get the job completed.

The same process can be done for larger projects, they said, only doing so in phases instead of in small groups.

The students told the city officials that marketing the progress is also important. It gives the community as well as others outside the committee an opportunity to see the growth.

Alderman Brandon Barragree said the city is working on establishing a new website which city officials feel will allow them to showcase more about the city.

The students said picking projects to do can sometimes be risky, but not doing projects also can be.

Alderman Dennis Cahoe said, “Anything we do, we’re taking a risk.” He said he sees getting funding for some projects to be the biggest issue. “We have to go into this as no project is too small,” he said.

The students also told the council that some communities work on developing a specific message or theme to those outside the community.

Communities can sometimes pick a theme to build on. Asheville, North Carolina, they said, bills itself as “Foodtopia” and focuses on the different restaurants and food events in the area. Portland, Oregon, began a campaign a few years ago to bill itself as a place where people want to retire.

The group will meet again in December, and will talk more about ways to focus on a key message the city officials want to project and also start to look at what tasks they might want to accomplish.