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‘Idea Blitz’ sparks suggestions
Young adults brainstorm to improve area
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Katie Croft (left), coordinator of experiential learning and internship coordinator for NCI, speaks Wednesday at the “Idea Blitz” at the Artisan Center. (Bulletin photo by Mike Wray)

Thursday, July 31, 2014

By MICKEY POWELL - Bulletin Staff Writer

Many people locally would feel more connected to the community if they were aware of activities in which they could get involved, young adults who took part in a forum on Wednesday surmised.

About 30 young professionals and college students took part in the “Idea Blitz” at Patrick Henry Community College’s (PHCC) Artisan Center uptown. They identified what they consider to be problems in the community and brainstormed ideas on how to potentially resolve those issues.

Participants said few people seem to attend arts and cultural events, and among those who do, it is rare to see a new face.

They said that organizations sponsoring activities need to work together to promote them. If people are aware of activities, they can participate and get to know other people, they said.

That would “make people feel like they’re connected to the community,” said Abigail Kieselbach, a college student in a summer internship program sponsored by the New College Institute (NCI).

To attract new people to events, participants said, organizers could do more advertising outside the community. That idea works — they mentioned that thousands of people from elsewhere attend Martinsville Speedway races.

An idea they presented to make residents more aware of what is in the area is to make the uptown visitors center mobile. Instead of relying on people to come to it, the center would go where crowds are, such as high schools and shopping centers, they said.

Among other concerns discussed by forum participants was the lack of a local bookstore — not a store that sells some books, but one whose main purpose is selling books.

A high rate of illiteracy locally could have contributed to the closings in recent years of two local bookstores, they said.

Participants said parents must read to their children to encourage kids to enjoy reading for pleasure.

To help parents do that, participants posed the idea that any bookstore which opens in the area could have rooms that families could use to read together and share fun activities.

They acknowledged there is a regional public library system from which people can borrow books.

But “everything now is materialistic,” said Nicole Held, Martinsville Middle School’s librarian. People want to buy and own books rather than borrow them, she said.

The Idea Blitz was hosted by NCI in cooperation with Piedmont Arts Yo Pros and the United Way Emerging Leaders Society.

Katie Croft, NCI’s coordinator of experiential learning, encouraged the young adults to pursue turning their ideas, such as for new businesses, into reality.

She also encouraged people to help others make those ideas happen.

Croft views Henry County-Martinsville like a garden.

Amid ongoing efforts to revive its economy, “the community is really fertile ground for planting ... and growing new ideas,” she said.

But “a lot of times, ideas die on the vine” because people do not know where to turn for help in achieving them, Croft added.

Representatives of organizations such as the United Way and Martinsville-Henry County Economic Development Corp. distributed information on local resources.

Ultimately, the organizations that hosted the forum would like to see young adults remain in the community, or come back after graduating from college, to pursue careers and help stimulate the local economy.

Depending on what careers young people pursue, that is easier for some than others.

“It’s a beautiful area. I wish I could come back here,” said Jessica Clark of Patrick County, a Longwood University student in NCI’s internship program.

However, she is majoring in anthropology, and she said there are few career opportunities in the area for people in her field.

Clark said she believes the area’s economy will recover from losses of industries that occurred in recent decades.

But “I’m not sure that (attracting new) industry is the way to” help revive the economy, she said, suggesting that local economic developers focus on attracting technology-based companies.

Casey Elkins of Patrick County, a PHCC student, suggested sprucing up the community’s appearance.

“That really attracts people” to a community, Elkins said.

 

 
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