Q&A: How vision trips help Williamson chamber


Q&A: How vision trips help Williamson chamber

While Williamson County’s success has numerous positive aspects, the resulting growing pains are sometimes hard to remedy.

Traveling 1,000 miles westward to Colorado, Williamson, Inc. staffers have started thinking outside the box to address some of the area’s issues. Recently coming back from Denver, the chamber is planning to lead nearly 100 of the county’s top leaders on a vision trip there in the fall.

With the mindset of learning from other successful cities, Williamson, Inc. CEO, Matt Largen, sat down and told the Home Page what he hoped would come out of this next venture.

You’ve already had one vision trip to Austin in 2015. How is this going to be different?

What we learned in Austin is we found a hard time finding the “us” in Austin. We found the “us” in Denver. That is the reason we are going there. They’ve done some good things around transit with their model and how those all connect.

What’s on your mind when you go out there?

The focus will be on transportation, education, economic development and housing. Most of it will be around transportation. We will talk about the history of dedicated funding and what can we learn. We want to talk to them about the circulator system in Lone Tree. It’s like their Cool Springs. How is it funded and how is it used? What lessons can we learn from them there?

When I think about this, I go back to a site consultant in Atlanta. I told her to level with me.

Will the traffic in Atlanta stop companies from coming here? She said that it won’t. It will just get worse.

Transportation is arguably one of the biggest challenges to economic growth here. But what else are you hoping to get out of this trip?

Housing will be the challenge. We have not figured this out. That’s going to be part of the conversation, too. If your young people want to move back, your company will want to follow. But you have to think about where they are going to live.

So you take 100 people out there. What happens when you get back to Williamson County?

The goal is these decision makers make the trip, and collectively we implement what we learned. We aren’t a carbon copy of Denver, but we can push at looking at a local option for transit and transportation funding.

It’s important to note Mobility Week came out of the Austin trip, which helped move the needle about what people can do about bettering traffic now.

When I was out there and listening to conversations, I realized Denver is looking 10 to 20 years ahead about thinking of solutions to these issues. They are actually doing it, and they’re completing funding for the transportation system. This wasn’t just a nice thing to do, it was an economic deal to afford.

Denver is a place people want to be, and it all works together. We want to say the same for Williamson County.

The chamber will take its trip Sept. 18-20. 

Emily West covers the City of Franklin, education and the state legislature for the Franklin Home Page. Contact her at emily@franklinhomepage.com. Follow her on Twitter via @emwest22.

 

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