With 2012 at an end and area residents remaining alive even in the wake of a presidential election and an end-of-the-world prediction, local leaders say they are optimistic about the year to come.
Mayor-elect Chuck Charles said he believes the city of Ashland needs to take a fresh look at the circumstances and consider new approaches to old problems.
“Obviously economic development has got to be high on our list,” Charles said on New Year’s Eve. “We have got to figure out how we can be innovative because every city in the nation is trying to do the same thing we are.”
Charles said it seems apparent “the old ways aren’t working,” and suggested local residents and elected officials “need to sometimes take chances ... if it doesn’t work you can always go back to the old ways. I can’t understand not trying. Sometimes we like to be in that comfort zone too often.”
In the year to come, Charles said he believes the city needs to study ways to make better use of the recently renovated riverfront, and predicted voters will approve proposals for Sunday alcohol sales, enhancing city revenues by an estimated $90,000 or more per year.
“I just want us to do the best we can with what we’ve got,” Charles said, noting his plans “develop one neighborhood at a time and start with downtown.” The city’s next mayor said he has recently been walking in downtown Ashland during the early morning, and trying to come up with ideas about ways to bring crowds back to the once-thriving business and retail district.
“Let’s try to think of something different,” he said, citing examples such as the movie theater in Huntington’s downtown Pullman Square area. “We need to ask ‘Why not?’ instead of saying we can’t do it.”
Charles emphasized he does not have all of the answers to the city’s concerns and challenges for 2013, although he is optimistic toward the coming calendar year.
“Will things be different? I don’t know ... I’m hoping,” he said.
Ashland Alliance President Bill Hannah said he hopes fundamental strategies and resources can be aligned and coordinated to make an impact for the area’s economy during the year ahead.
“We have to deliver. This 2013 is a delivery kind of year,” Hannah said, citing the importance of partnerships with local cities and counties, as well as relationships with agencies including ACTC. “All these relationships have to be in place for us to be successful.”
Hannah said one clear objective is to “step up prospect activity,” after using available resources and data to identify business and industry which would be the best targets to enhance the local business profile. “We’ve got a lot of room to be better in prospecting and we need to work with our existing partners to create a better business environment.”
Noting the Ashland Alliance’s dual role as an economic development agency and chamber of commerce, Hannah said membership is “near 500,” with many opportunities for improvements.
“I think the chamber is good, but it could be better,” he said, explaining he hopes to improve upon assistance to existing businesses while also expanding membership. “We have to create an environment for local business to grow.”
Hannah said Ashland’s downtown district is in particular need of attention and action.
“We need a significantly viable downtown. It’s just something people from out of town would expect,” he said.
TIM PRESTON can be reached at