Successes from 2008 plan analyzed

SALEM – Successes realized from a 2008 plan created to provide direction for Salem’s future may become part of an Ohio State University Extension case study and offered as a role model for planning in other communities.

Salem Area Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Audrey Null explained the results of a recent meeting with two Ohio State University Extension associate professors who had been involved in the document known as the Salem Area Sustainable Comprehensive Plan.

Myra Moss and the now retired Bill Grunkemeyer had contacted the chamber in October and asked if they could get a progress report on what initiatives had developed and been completed from Salem’s plan.

They gathered recently with chamber members and volunteers and city leaders and saw a presentation which showed progress in all seven of the major components of the plan, including economic development, housing, historic properties, parks & recreation & natural resources, infrastructure & transportation, education and community services & values.

“Many people thought it would sit on a shelf, but we are proud to say many groups have taken parts of the comprehensive plan and done a lot of work on a number of different projects,” Null said.

Some of the specific accomplishments mentioned in the presentation included the achievement of academic excellence in the schools grades K-12, increased business involvement in the schools, more collaboration with Kent State University Salem campus, the selling of water to a neighboring community (Leetonia), construction of a new water tank, the completion of Pershing Street on the city’s east end, reorganization of the Design Review Board, a lecture series on property preservation, a mural project, downtown walking tour to look at building conditions, plans to structurally evaluate downtown buildings (grant sought this year), a program to tear down blighted homes (done a few years ago), car shows at the park, expansion of Habitat builds in Salem, expanding the availability of rental housing (in the works with NRP project), promotion through the web site, and shop local campaigns.

Null said the creation of an economic development entity was probably the biggest accomplishment that came out of the plan, with the Salem Area Industrial Development Corporation (SAIDC) reborn and the formation of Sustainable Opportunity Development Center headed by Larry Kosiba to actively seek economic development opportunities for Salem.

“There’s been a lot of dedicated volunteers that have helped bring life to all of those projects in the community,” she said.

For the economic development arm, which she said the OSU people were most impressed with, she credited a lot of volunteer work by Jock Buta of Butech-Bliss and Councilman Dave Nestic, who wasn’t on council when the work began.

Null said the OSU people discussed having Salem people involved in the plan go to other parts of Ohio “to share our victories and share our story of how our community has been successful.”

Work groups began working on the plan in 2005 and started holding vision sessions with a variety of community groups, organizations, clubs churches and other entities in Salem to see what they wanted in Salem. The city administration, council members and Utilities Commission members partnered with the chamber and its small army of volunteers to set goals, strategies and action plans to accomplish initiatives in the plan.

Initiatives are still being worked on and Null said they’re going to continue promoting the work with a chamber committee known as Partners of Progress.

She credited the successes to groups coming together and building relationships and a consensus to get things done. She said without that, nothing would get done. She also said “communication is a key component to success in any type of initiative.”

Null ended her presentation with what she said was her favorite quote, although she couldn’t name it’s author: “True community can only be built by local residents deciding what their local issues are, then agreeing they have the power to decide how to address them, and then becoming the key players in implementing the solutions.”

Copies of the Salem plan can be seen at under the completed projects section and looking for Salem under Section III.