Vision 2020 looking for 1,000 ideas

Published 11:09 am Friday, August 19, 2011

Jeff Thatcher talks about the upcoming Big Night of Ideas Thursday night at the Hormel Historic Home. -- Eric Johnson/

Austin city officials and business leaders have launched a multi-phased, decade-long city improvement process. While it’s not about attracting businesses, they hope that will be the by-product.

Austin leaders announced at a press conference Thursday the official kickoff for Vision 2020, an “all-inclusive community visioning process” designed to keep the community “vibrant and growing,” according to a press release.

Chairman of the steering committee for the upcoming Night of Ideas talks about the project's details Thursday during a press conference at the Hormel Historic Home. -- Eric Johnson/

The process, according to Jeff Thatcher, owner of Austin Packaging Co., is about improving the community and quality of living, which in turn will attract businesses and create job growth.

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“Instead of trying to convince businesses to come, go out and make the best place to be, and then they will come,” Thatcher said.

A lot of ideas for the project stem from a meeting with city officials of Dubuque, Iowa, in February. There Austinites learned how Dubuque went from having the highest unemployment rate in its county to being named the best small city to raise a family by Forbes Magazine and was ranked seventh in the country for job growth by, all in a little over a decade.

Now, Austin hopes to mirror that success story with significant community input.

“The process is about trying to involve the entire community,” said Gary Ray, The Hormel Foundation vice chair.

Ray said the next step is to begin gathering ideas from every facet of the community. At 5:30 p.m. on Sept. 28 at the Holiday Inn in Austin, Vision 2020 will host “A Big Night of Ideas,” where the group will provide food and entertainment and start the process of soliciting more than 1,000 ideas. By November, Ray said, a committee will narrow the ideas to 100, and then the community will vote, narrowing the list to 30 by January 2012. Next, the committee takes over again, finalizing the top 10 ideas by March 2012. From there, the group will begin work on making those ideas a reality by 2020.

“This is a process and it’s going to take some time,” Ray said.

In the meantime, Ray said, they are looking to touch everyone in the community.

“How would they like to see Austin in the future?” he said. “No idea is too big. No idea is too small. How can we make this a better place?”

The group is accepting ideas through Oct. 14. For more on the project or to submit an idea, go to