Strongest Town 2022, Round 1: Brighton, MI vs. Jasper, IN

STC+7

If we took a walking tour through your town, what would we see? How does your community use its land productively to promote long-term financial resilience?

If you took a walking tour you would see how Jasper has been adding progressively to its downtown with the Cultural Center, the River Centre, the Riverwalk, and downtown façade revitalization, all while preserving and restoring various historical spots. Investments have been made in numerous parks that are easily accessible by walking or cycling. All this has been accomplished with the development of a comprehensive plan over the years to assure long term resilience.

How easy is it to become an entrepreneur or a small-scale developer in your town? What kinds of support are available for a resident who wants to open a business or build on a small vacant lot?

One of the strengths of Jasper and the business community is proactively working at attracting and encouraging entrepreneurs, With support from the Vincennes University (Jasper Campus) to being a part of Dubois Strong, the economic development group, as well as the local banks involvement for support financing and business assistance. The city is very active with grants and other financial assistance. Jasper has a very active Chamber that continues to help small businesses and start-up entrepreneurs.

At Strong Towns we believe financial solvency is a prerequisite for long-term prosperity. What do you consider your most potent (existing) tax producing property? Where does your revenue come from? What do you spend it on?

I cannot narrow the most potent (existing) tax producing property to just one. There are two properties to focus on. First, Jasper’s growth and prosperity over the years was built on the furniture manufacturing base and as time went on there were a number of old vacant buildings and warehouses near the downtown area. The city used these buildings as a catalyst to revitalize the downtown starting with the renovations of buildings along the riverfront, now called the River Centre.

The River Centre has rental property and retail establishment and as a result Marriott built a new Fairfield Inn. A train depot was built along with an excursion train, the Spirit of Jasper. In addition, the old City Mill was reconstructed. All this allowed the city to grow it’s tourism base as a vital part of revenue. Once that was established, the plans were put into place to combine the city library and arts center to build the Thyen-Clark Cultural Arts Center which has become a great resource for tourism as well as for the residents. From there, the city’s comprehensive plan continues to focus on reinvesting revenues for projects like the Intermodal plan and a potential Aquatic and Sports facility.

At Strong Towns, we believe that local government is a platform for strong citizens to collaboratively build a prosperous place. How are residents in your town involved in shaping its future? How do residents’ experiences, struggles, and concerns directly inform the projects undertaken by local government? Provide one or more examples.

As previously referred to, Jasper’s Mayor and the City Council continually hold town hall forums, breakfast with the Mayor, and have established community events to update the residents of potential opportunities and seek input. Again, a great example is the Mayor’s Youth Council that includes high school seniors for inputs on what the city can do more to attract young people to live and work in Jasper. The youth group gets involved with city government, they meet with the manufacturers in town and other businesses and share ideas to consider. Every year the council also takes on a project that they decide on and have to do all the planning, find the funding and support. One example is a mural that was painted on the side of a downtown building welcoming people in fifteen different languages, which represent the diversity in the number of native languages of our high school students.

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