The Executive Director of the Centralia Chamber of Commerce told the capacity crowd at the 95th Annual Meeting Thursday night that a strategic plan will be completed in the coming year to address several problem areas that have been identified.
Marcus Holland says they are the lack of skilled labor to fill available jobs, a need for better housing for professionals who are currently living out of town, and working to keep young people in the community.
He reports the work will be done under the direction of the Image Committee that has developed a number of subcommittees.
“We have downtown development, downtown beautification, farmer’s markets and pop-ups, way finding signs, aesthetics and branding….not necessarily the logos but the actual community aesthetic of what we are building a cohesive brand for our community. We did the Shop Centralia campaign in November, December which we had good success with. We are going to do hospitality training’s and customer service training’s. And then we have public transportation, housing, marketing….all these things are needs in our community that the Image Committee has built a task force around.”
Holland says work on the strategic plan will begin shortly.
“We will be meeting hopefully in a month or two. We are going to invite all the city officials. Make sure everyone is at the table and that this is a strategic plan to look at what we can get done now. Like in the next month, by the end of the year, what can we get done 5 years from now and what do we want Centralia to look like in 20 years.”
Holland called on those in attendance at the meeting as well as those in the community to become part of the improvement effort.
“Right now we have me and 20 other people on our Image Committee officially and then there’s ex-official representatives from the other community. 400 people can make the change so if we have 20 sub-committees and all of those have 20 people on them, that’s how we are going to do it. It’s getting the right people in the right place and building this up so it makes a difference.”
Holland also announce the education committee of the chamber is being refocused to work on the labor shortage issue. As an example, he notes at ConAgra, the former Pinnacle Foods, they can add an additional line every time they can find 20 qualified employees giving the plant and city a chance to grow if workers can be found.
Holland said the chamber spent considerable time in 2018 working with the city and other partners to address the closure of Route 161 for reconstruction of the Crooked Creek Bridge west of Centralia. He’s pleased with how quickly 400 signatures were gathered on petitions that helped get IDOT to reduce the length of the project from 18 months to 11 months.