Several times earlier this year, a group of community leaders known as “Envisioning Andover” met in Central Park to discuss the future of the city. There is another meeting Thursday night.
The Envisoning program is from Kansas State University's Research and Extension program. The program is a strategic planning and visioning program designed for economic development. It is facilitated by Biswa Das, a Research Assistant Professor and Community Development Economist at K-State.
“Andover is urban and (is a) more economically prosperous community compared to the first four Envisioning communities which were primarily rural communities,” Das said.
Those other Kansas cities were Council Grove, Clay Center, Hiawatha and Minneapolis. Das said the goal of the Envisioning program in those cities were to get more people to reside in them.
“The other communities went through the planning process to tackle the continued depopulation, retaining local businesses by finding ways to support them and showcase their communities to attract more people to come and reside,” Das said.
However, Das said Andover is different from the other cities because of the city's growing population.
“Unlike other communities that are struggling to retain population and slow down the economic decline, Andover is experiencing continuous population growth and has the potential to grow into a much larger community with highly skilled labor force, a thriving economy and broad tax base and create a distinct identity,” Das said.
Of the four sessions the Envisioning Group had in January, Das said he did find some surprises with the group.
“Unlike the notion that in a bedroom community people are not engaged,” Das said. “I found all the participants very passionate, dedicated and genuinely invested to build a much more prosperous Andover. However, the lack of awareness about the various types of services and amenities was also surprising, given the size of the community.”
Some of the goals for the Envisioning group were to learn about the current socio-economic situation and trends, and retail market performance in Andover and Butler County. The group also wanted to identify community strengths and opportunities in order to help create a vision for Andover. In addition, group members were to use information provided to them by the workshop, and use their own experiences to identify major objectives and issues.
According to Das, Andover faces some challenges in the future, something the Envisioning group wants to avoid.
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“Andover is poised to become the largest community in Butler County in the near future,” Das said. “The challenge will be to get a distinct identity and overcome the bedroom community tag.”
In addition, lack of retail service could lead to potential problems for the city.
“Unless a lot of good quality retail and service businesses open up, Andover will continue to experience loss of retail dollars to neighboring Wichita that has (a) much wider variety of stores,” Das said.
The Envisioning Group plans to meet Thursday, March 29 at City Hall. The group plans to finalize the vision statement, discuss and accept action plans and will receive instructions for Action Work Group.
See our 'Envisioning Andover' photo gallery on www.andoveramerican.com.