Strategies for building a stronger Dayton
By Nan Whaley
Photo: Recently-elected Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley speaking recently to the Dayton Rotary Club about her strategies for Dayton’s growth
I am honored to be serving as the mayor of the City of Dayton. I am also humbled by the tasks that are before me.
The heartbeat of this community is its citizens. Truly, we are all – employee or owner, urban, suburban, exurban, student, worker, retiree – in this together. There are a number of specific areas I wish to focus on during my tenure; each has a strong community engagement component to ensure every citizen has the opportunity to have a voice.
When I talk to people in their neighborhoods, I hear a desire for quality educational programs, jobs with good wages and strong neighborhoods. These items have become the core of the programs I will roll out this year.
For Dayton to be a thriving city, we must have an education system that prepares every student for a successful future. By 2018 – in just four years – economists say almost two-thirds of all jobs will require some post-high school education. For some, this means college. Others will study a skilled trade or join the military. To meet this new reality, we must start with our youngest citizens to make sure they arrive at kindergarten ready to learn. If children are not ready for kindergarten and if they are not reading well in third grade, they are significantly less likely to graduate from high school or work in a well-paying job.
Education is the most important economic development plan we can adopt. To support this, I am kicking off the City of Learners program. Community leaders will convene 11 focus groups across the city, which will be open to everyone. We will use what we learn during these sessions to establish three to five initiatives, with benchmarks the mayor and the Dayton community can promote and follow. These conversations will occur in March and April. I hope you will consider attending at least one and being a part of this important effort.
As a city, we cannot afford even one low-performing school. The children who attend failing schools, of course, are cheated. But their families also lose, their neighborhoods lose and the Dayton region loses.
This work will not be easy, but giving children the education they deserve is the most important thing we can do for them. It will be these students who become the workforce of the future. If we are to retain and attract high-paying jobs in our community, we must focus on creating a core city where they can flourish.
It is businesses, not a mayor, that create jobs; however, a mayor can help create an environment where businesses can thrive and expand. It is imperative we support and strengthen the businesses that provide jobs for the region’s workers both now and in the future.
Whether it is the potential of 800 jobs from Fuyao in Moraine, CareSource bringing 200 new jobs to downtown or a few jobs at Warped Wing Brewing, I want new companies to bring new jobs to the region and existing businesses to grow and expand their job offerings here.
So I can better understand the successes and requirements of our local businesses, I have already started holding Business Round Table meetings with local business leadership. These meetings provide an opportunity to have a candid dialogue about what it means to have a business in Dayton and how that experience can improve.
I held the first of these meetings with small business owners in January. My intent was to hold one each month, but what I heard was an urgency in the business community. In response, I will hold additional meetings in February and March. Within my first 100 days, I hope to have met with at least 40 businesses through these meetings.
In addition to well-trained employees, businesses need strong neighborhoods in which to build their company and house their employees.
It is imperative for me, as the mayor, to have a direct relationship with those that live in the city of Dayton. This spring and summer, look for me to be knocking on doors to hear your thoughts about how we can make our community stronger.
I will also be asking neighbors to open their homes to fellow neighbors so we can have conversations about our community. Whether it is in a living room or on a front porch, I find these conversations invaluable to my role as mayor.
As a city, we will be committing additional resources to neighborhoods in the form of mini-grants for improvement projects and community-building activities. We are also working to offer additional forms of communication for those who cannot attend traditional neighborhood meetings through technology like Dayton Delivers and Mind Mixer, which will be widely available in the coming months.
This community deserves a new chapter of success stories. Successful, well-trained students are our long-term development strategy for our community. Through our investment in them and their personal success, we support the growth and development of the business community and build strong, vibrant neighborhoods.
Whether you are from Dayton or from another part of the region, our success and our future are inextricably linked. I am eager to hear your ideas about how to help our students succeed, how we can create an environment that is fertile for the growth and expansion of businesses and how we can strengthen our neighborhoods.
Please contact me with your ideas, thoughts or concerns. I would love to work with you to write Dayton’s next chapter.
Reach Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, on Twitter: @nanwhaley and on Facebook at facebook.com/nanformayor.