Regional, Downtown Studies To Provide Rogers, Area Leaders With Growth Information

ROGERS — A strategic study laying out the steps needed for continued growth of the Rogers-Lowell area and a development study to help city officials expand and improve downtown Rogers are different in scope, yet officials said the two will parallel and complement one another.

Both studies are to begin in January and be completed in July.

Market Street Services will conduct the strategic study for the Rogers-Lowell Area Chamber of Commerce. Gateway Planning will conduct the downtown development plan, under the direction of city officials.

One of the first things Market Street officials will do is conduct a competitive survey, comparing Rogers with other communities and metropolitan statistical areas of the same size, said J. Mac Holladay, chief executive officer.

“Our job is to tell the leaders the truth about what we find. Not everything we find will be pleasant to hear, but it will have a bearing on how we determine what the plan for the city and the region should be,” Holladay said.

Market Street staff members prepared a strategic action plan for Springfield, Mo., after outlining issues that challenged the community.

The study revealed there were marketing challenges surrounding the false and negative connotations of “The Ozarks” label, the local newspaper was negative in its coverage and focused on controversy rather than building consensus, a culture of poverty persisted in some areas and there was a lack of entry-level jobs with competitive wages.

The findings piqued interest and stirred conversation, Springfield chamber officials said. More people got involved in solving the problems and helped establish a positive response for setting new goals.

The same scope of work will be conducted in Rogers, Holladay said.

“We will conduct a variety of surveys, public meetings and gather as much information as possible about Rogers and the region before we compile a report to give area leaders an unbiased look at the strengths and weaknesses of the region,” Holladay said.

The study will be as transparent as possible, he said.

“We will put the findings of the various parts of the study on a website where everyone can see what’s being done. We will also give people not directly involved an opportunity to participate in the study via the Internet,” Holladay said.

After the survey is completed, Market Street staff will help determine goals and create an action plan on how to reach those goals, Holladay said.

Holladay is aware Gateway Planning will be conducting a development study for downtown at the same time.

“We have talked to the Gateway people. We have agreed to put some questions on our study that provides information specifically for Gateway. That way we are not duplicating efforts where the two plans converge,” Holladay said.

The surveys, while different in methodology and scope, when used together will give city and area leaders plans to set benchmarks and create a pathway of reaching those benchmarks, said Raymond Burns, president and chief executive officer of the Rogers-Lowell Area Chamber of Commerce.

“The region has changed in the past few years. The recession slowed growth and to some extent changed our economy. We have completed most of the goals we set in the 2025 Vision document we approved a few years ago. It’s time to set new goals,” Burns said.

Aldermen approved $100,000 in the 2014 budget to help defray the cost of the Market Street study. The chamber also will contribute money to finance the study, Burns said, although would not say how much that would be.

The downtown development study will be conducted under the direction of the city staff, said Greg Hines, mayor. Gateway Planning, of Dallas, will conduct the study. The cost has not been determined. Contract negotiations are to begin with Gateway representatives this week.

“I’ve lived in other cities like Rogers. For progressive cities there comes a time to take a serious look at what the strengths, weakness and future goals might be,” said Keith Noble, an independent Rogers insurance agent with an office downtown.

Brenda Majors, the marketing manager of Pinnacle Hills Promenade, said she is pleased the studies are being conducted.

“I’ve worked in other markets. It’s not uncommon for a city to reach a point where outside help is needed to prepare the leadership and residents for necessary changes to continue to grow and be prosperous,” Majors said.

“It takes a fresh set of eyes to survey a city or community. If you live here you don’t notice minor changes, everything is routine. Professional planners from the outside can see things, good and bad, residents don’t notice or take for granted. I’m encouraged by the fact city and area leaders are planning and looking toward the future rather than trying to maintain status quo,” she added.

“These two studies will provide us with information that will be invaluable in planning the future of our downtown and the Rogers-Lowell region,” Hines said.

“The really hard work will begin after we have the results of the studies. We don’t want studies that are completed and then put on the shelf never to be activated. We want these studies to provide us with the information we need to keep Rogers and this area growing and prosperous,” Hines added.

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