By BRENT MARTIN
St. Joseph Post
Imagine St. Joseph 2040 is striving not just to set goals, but
to achieve change.
Director Tama Wagner of The Community Alliance of St. Joseph
says she is working with the St. Joseph School District on the improvements
needed to public education in the city.
“You can drive 30 minutes south of us and you can be in a
school district that’s in the top 10% of all schools in Missouri,” Wagner tells
host Barry Birr on the KFEQ Hotline. “And so, a lot of people that have the means
to do so have made that decision and taken their kids and now live in Platte
City or Parkville or Liberty and we have to think about that. We have to think
about what makes us competitive.”
The Imagine St. Joseph 2040 effort is focused in three
areas: invest in people, create a better
place, and grow prosperity.
The St. Joseph Chamber of Commerce has joined with the United
Way to survey St. Joseph residents over the years. In 2010, 79% of those
surveyed stated St. Joseph was a good place to live. By 2018, that had fallen
drastically with only 29% of respondents declaring St. Joseph a good place to
The Chamber and the United Way commissioned another survey of
1,000 residents, asking what they perceived as the city’s problems and what
solution they might offer. Out of that survey, Imagine St. Joseph 2040 was
Wagner says the goal of investing in people has primarily
focused on the school system and helping the St. Joseph School District take
the steps necessary to improve education locally.
The goal of creating a better place has been broadly
interpreted, from picking up trash to rehabilitating housing.
Housing presents one of St. Joseph’s greatest potentials, due
to the historic nature of so many of city’s older neighborhoods. Making the
most of that potential, though, will take a lot of work.
“We have a lot of older neighborhoods that have been neglected
for quite a while and we need to do something to address the blight and the abandoned
housing,” Wagner says.
Though the older historic housing stock in the city hides some
gems, restoring them to past glory will take more than a little effort.
“All cities have derelict housing, but their housing might be
a thousand square feet,” according to Wagner. “Our housing is 25-hundred to
3,000 square feet and so it’s quite expensive to rehab an historic property.”
Currently, work has concentrated on rehabilitating the
Cathedral Hill area of St. Joseph near the downtown.
As for the effort to grow prosperity, the Chamber of Commerce
continues its mission to market St. Joseph. A move at Rosecrans Memorial
Airport presents opportunity. The Air National Guard is moving the 139th
Airlift Wing headquarters north of the airport to get it out of the flood zone
Wagner says the move of the 139th into new
buildings north of the airport presents some economic opportunity for the
buildings left behind.
“And, what kind of industry can we put into those buildings
that will bring new jobs and new wealth to St. Joseph?”
Wagner adds Imagine St. Joseph 2040 is working to develop new
leadership to guide the city’s growth in the future, working to raise leaders less
focused on output and more focused on outcomes; less on how much work is being
produced and more on achieving goals.