A Conversation About the City We Love: Columbus

big_table_website.jpg

Earlier this week, Inspire PR Group joined thousands of people across Columbus to host and engage in discussions through The Columbus Foundation’s initiative: The Big Table.

The Big Table was created to bring central Ohio residents together to have meaningful conversations on how we can further connect and strengthen our community. At Inspire, we hosted a diverse group of friends and clients – representing various industries from government and business to food and agriculture and non-profits – to tackle important topics, including connectedness, transportation, workforce development and kindness.

Within a few minutes into the conversation, it was clear everyone had deep pride for our community. A good business climate, growth opportunities, inclusiveness, green space, spirit of volunteerism, easy navigability, and a good environment to raise families were just a few favorite things to describe Columbus.

As we dove deeper into these topics, our group shared insightful perspectives on how we can better leverage both the strengths and challenges of Columbus to build a stronger community.

Connectedness.

In Columbus, we’re fortunate to have diverse neighborhoods that offer something for everyone. We have lively entertainment districts, art and cultural opportunities, and vibrant suburb neighborhoods. The challenge is, although we have rich opportunities across the central Ohio region, our group believed we have not done the best job to interact and connect with one another as we get caught up in our individual “bubbles.” Furthermore, there are opportunities for our leaders to strengthen the focus beyond downtown Columbus when it comes to projects and build our infrastructure.

In addition, we must not ignore the stark reality of those who suffer, often silently, from food insecurity and poverty in our communities. Concerns were raised about pockets of poverty across central Ohio. Suburban hunger is real, and we must do more to ensure that everyone is connected to the resources they need and nobody is left behind.

Transportation.

Columbus has had a surge of growth, especially within the last year. But as the second-biggest city in the Midwest, and the 14th largest city in the nation, do we have the infrastructure, especially related to transportation, to support it? Decades ago, Columbus was often referred to as a 20-minute town, meaning that you could drive nearly anywhere in about 20 minutes. With the explosion of housing and developments, we’re now becoming more of a 30- to 40-minute town as many of our communities are becoming gridlock to navigate.

When we think of our future for transportation, we should ask whether our vision has been too complicated; that grandiose aspirations have made the real solutions unattainable. Instead of talking hyperloops, maybe we should take a step back and note what larger cities have done to slowly build a strong transportation infrastructure.

Workforce Development.

With the challenging labor market, there was much discussion around how our community can position ourselves for the future workforce. We have placed a great deal of emphasis as a society on the premise that students should graduate from high school and then attend college, but there has been an astounding lack of focus on encouraging students to choose technical and skilled trade careers. For many, a stigma still exists on the value of a vocational or trade school education. How can we celebrate and encourage more students that there are well-paying careers available in these industries? How do we advance a positive image of these essential careers? Additionally, we must do a better job to prepare our students earlier on with the skillsets they will need to become more productive leaders in our community.

Kindness.

What can we do to spread more kindness in our community? We can get to know our neighbors better. We can listen more and judge less. We don’t know what people are struggling with, even if externally it seems “all is well.” Maybe they just got fired, lost a loved one, received bad news, or have fallen on hard times. We should always be kind – and check our biases at the door.

What we do matters, whether it’s big or small. And, when we come together as a community – to listen, to learn and to lead - we have the power to impact and strengthen our neighborhoods and lives.

This is our community. This is our conversation. What do we want our narrative to be?