By Roy Madden
Executive Director
Henryetta Chamber of Commerce
Recently, I was reading an article in the newspaper written by Dr. Bill Path, President of OSUIT. The article was titled “Improving your neighborhood begins with a plan.”
In essence, the article dealt with neighborhoods starting a grassroots movement to improve their environment. Dr. Path was on target when addressed organizing neighbors to begin making changes in the neighborhood. Not a day goes by when I don’t hear someone say or see a post on social media stating Henryetta needs to clean up! Or they say, “I was on vacation and I visited this beautiful small community and it was so well maintained – why can’t Henryetta be like that?” Well it can be an esthetically beautiful community; but, stakeholders must really want to make a change.
Keep in mind change can be painful and it takes a time; but, if a community wants change it takes commitment and a plan of action. Unfortunately, many communities begin to accept the low standard and if fact we actually don’t see what a new set of eyes experience when they visit a community.
Let’s take Henryetta Iron and Metal located on West Main; our “gateway.” This eyesore welcomes visitors to the community every day (approximately 7,500 vehicles per day). When they visit the Chamber they ask “how can the City let such a mess exist?” Dang hard to answer! However, we drive by the same Henryetta Iron and Metal and only see it as part of the landscape.
This is not a criticism of the local community; the condition can apply to any community if they don’t remove the blinders and look at their community with a fresh set of eyes. The same applies to your neighborhood – as you begin to accept the lower standard – it becomes an acceptable landscape.
Once deterioration of a neighborhood begins to be acceptable the standards will be on a guild path to further deterioration if an intervention doesn’t occur. This intervention can come in the form strict code enforcement, fines, taking of property, demolition, a major decline in property value, etc.
However, a corporative effort taken by the property owners to foster relationships with each other and developing shared goals that feed into a plan are the preferred approaches to revitalizing a neighborhood.
Main Street is no exception – if merchants want an improved Main Street to conduct business they must be willing to work together as businesses and with the City to develop a plan for desired outcome.
The Henryetta City Council also plays a vital role in community behavioral change as they represent your district as elected officials and as a regulatory body. Neighborhood leaders that take time to develop a dialog with their City Councilman can help to develop a plan of action to improve Henryetta. So far I’ve used the word “plan” multiple times in this article and that is the magic word – remember it was once said “failing to plan - is planning to fail.”
Successful communities always have a plan for the future. Unfortunately, "planning" is not seen as a critical element in some communities, especially in small towns and rural areas. Prosperous communities and organizations utilize a variety of approaches to become successful and then they maintain a “flight path” for continued success! Successful communities, most likely display many of the following attributes.
  • They have a shared vision for the future
  • They have and inventory of the community’s strengths and weaknesses.
  • They have a plan that builds on the shared vision, the community’s strengths, and addresses weaknesses that are within their control
  • Community leaders seek feedback from stakeholders – stakeholders seek feedback from community leaders (finger pointing is not the answer)
  • Decision makers and other stakeholders take time to visit with each other, they visit leaders of successful communities, and they dissect and extract those elements that have contributed to success; while at the same time fully realizing that what works for one community may not work for another
  • They focus on crime prevention and those conditions that foster the criminal element
  • They place value on community aesthetics, recreational areas, and quality leisure time activities
This list could go on but I’m sure the reader understands where I coming from; it’s your community to guide in the direction you want it to go – the City, nor the Chamber can’t do it for you it takes a community effort to truly allow a plan to be developed and implemented.
Henryetta has great potential economic development but our neighborhoods, Main Street, and the City as a whole can’t wait for someone else to make the needed changes required to take advantage of this great location.