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Community members gave feedback on Vision 2040 at different events in 2019.

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INDEPENDENCE — Independence is offering a free meal and a listening ear to community members who would like to weigh in on priorities for its Vision 2040.

An open house, with dinner from Los Primos, will be from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. on Feb. 12 at the civic center.

Shawn Irvine, economic development director, gave city councilors an update on the project at their Jan. 28 meeting.

“We’ve gathered the initial round of feedback, gotten an idea of focus areas of where people are interested,” Irvine said.

Through that process, they’ve developed five focus areas: dynamic local economy, vibrant livable places, safe healthy people, thriving schools and youth, and inclusive, involved community.

“In each of those areas we’ve developed a series of initiatives which are broader ideas and then actions for each initiatives,” he said. “Now what we’re doing is holding a series of five stakeholder meetings where each meeting is targeting a specific focus area.”

They are “pulling potential partners to the table,” he said.

“The organizations, potential business partners whoever may be working in an area that is related to those initiatives and actions, we want them to come to the table and work with us to refine the ideas, identify alignments, identify potential partnerships, funding sources, things like that,” Irvine said.

For the Feb. 12 open house, Irvine said they want everyone from the community to see where things are now and give feedback on priorities.

“If they have ideas for partnerships and opportunities for alignment — because here in the community, we’ve had success by partnering with other organizations and other folks to help us achieve more than we can by ourselves,” he said.

Almost 600 people participated in the first survey, he said. About 300 in the prioritization survey and more than 1,000 in the “Hello Independence” project.

Over the summer, the city implemented “Hello Independence,” through Hello Lamp Post, a UK-based platform that allows people to have text “conversations” with certain inanimate objects.

The six-month trial cost the city about $12,000 out of the economic development professional services fund, money Irvine said is left over from this year’s budget.

Objects were identifiable by yellow signs with corresponding codes to initiate text interactions.

“We thought this was an interesting way to get people interested, do something a little playful, make them think a little differently when they’re providing input,” Irvine said.

There were a dozen spaces throughout downtown Independence that offered the interaction.

“I think it really exceeded whatever expectations I had,” Irvine said. “We had over 1,000 unique participants, 6,000 different interactions. That was pretty impressive in my opinion when you think about the number of people in this community.”

He said the fountain had the most interactions, probably due to its location on Main Street.

“The other thing I was really pretty happy with, there was a substantial number of people that had five conversations,” Irvine said. “It kind of goes toward what we were trying to achieve, which is in addition to being a tool for input, it was a way to make the downtown more fun, more playful.”

He said they did not collect any personal data through the messaging system.

“The only information that we’re putting out here is information that was collected by asking a question,” Irvine said. “The object would ask, ‘Hey where are you from?’ as opposed to us gathering data from the phone.”

He said there was participation from a lot of different locations, with Independence and surrounding areas being the most common, there also were some from out of state and as far away as Ireland.

One thing Irvine said was a missed opportunity is that while a lot of people said they would like to be involved in the Vision 2040, there was no way built into the system to direct them toward an opportunity to do that.

“It referenced the website, but there wasn’t a direct, ‘sign up for the mail list’ or anything like that,” he said.

Information from the Feb. 12 open house will be used to create a draft plan that will be reviewed by city staff before it goes to councilors and then back to the community, Irvine said.

Give your opinion

What: Vision 2040 open house

When: 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. on Feb. 12

Where: Independence Civic Center, 555 S. Main St.

For more information:

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