“If you can dream it, you can do it—Walt Disney” is the lead item in the Strasburg, IL (population 603) strategic plan. I was there earlier this month when they rolled it out to the community on a cold Sunday afternoon. With over 200 interested citizens in attendance, it was one of the largest percentages of residents that I’ve ever seen for such an event. People were obviously interested and engaged.
Strasburg is a traditional farming community that has slowly lost most of its downtown businesses. The café, grocery store, gas station, hardware store and other retailers are long gone. Young people have moved out of town. The median age in the 2000 census was 48.7 years of age compared to the national average of 35.3. Other demographic data (education, median household income, poverty levels, etc.) are all positive. Strasburg’s main problem is that it is a community that is rapidly aging in place and will quickly hit a “tipping point” that will be difficult to recover from if they don’t do something to bring down their average age.
Fortunately, a passionate group of citizens have become engaged and have decided that they aren’t going to hit that tipping point. They‘ve developed a plan of action to make their community a better place in which to live, something that will hopefully attract young families back home to Strasburg.
The Strasburg action plan focused upon a very manageable five items:
1. Increase number of businesses in town
2. Continue to improve an already great school system with more parental involvement
3. Increase number of new houses in town
4. Improve water and sewer infrastructure
5. Improve the esthetics (curb appeal) of an already nice small town
An immediate goal that the group is working on is to find a convenience store operator who would open a new store in the town so that residents would have a place to be able to buy fuel, milk, pizza and other incidentals. They appear well on their way to having their first success and I’ll report on how they did it when the deal is announced later this year. Stay tuned to what a small group of dedicated, local people can do for their town.