Jackson Young Professionals Say City Has ‘Potential’ During Master Plan Meeting

Young professionals in Jackson believe the city is at a tipping point.

When charged with using a word or phrase to describe the city during a meeting recently, words such as “boring,” “empty,” “small” and “self-loathing” were used liberally; though another, more optimistic, thought was also on display: “potential.”

“This is truly one of the first times in a while I can say I’m really proud of Jackson,” Kyle Leighton said. “Seeing so many young people coming together to provide their input and ideas is a great thing.”

About 50 Jackson-area residents from 21 different organizations attended a master plan workshop Wednesday, June 25, at Consumers Energy. The meeting was organized by Jackson Young Professionals, a local group founded in April that caters to city residents ages 21-40.

Councilwoman Laura Dwyer Schlecte, 4th Ward, said the meeting was organized due to the low attendance of young professionals at the six public input meetings organized earlier this spring.

“Our generation isn’t used to engaging your generation,” she said at the Wednesday meeting. “This has to change, and this why we’re here tonight.”

Schlecte’s daughter and JYP member Jacqueline Austin emceed the event.

“The median age in Jackson is 32,” Austin said. “There are lots of young people in this city – this master plan is about us.”

Used as a long-term vision for a municipality’s land use, economic strategy and resources, the city’s master plan was last updated in 1989. Beckett & Raeder officials have worked on the rewrite of the plan since August, when city officials voted to contract with the Ann Arbor-based firm for about $133,000.

During the workshop, young professionals said they wanted a stronger university extension, fewer regulations for small businesses and events, and a general public that appreciates what Jackson already has to offer, among other goals.

“Arts and cultural events downtown are a huge part of getting people and businesses to come but we should embrace what’s already here,” Kevin Clark said. “Why would more things develop if we don’t support what we already have?”

The next step for Beckett & Raeder is to compile the data gleaned from public meetings and incorporate it into the write-up of the plan, which will take about eight months.

“We’ll spend about a month on each chapter of the plan,” B&R Spokeswoman Leah DuMouchel said.

Plan chapters include demographics, transportation, housing and economic development, among others.

Jackson City Council will likely vote on the revamped master plan in July 2015.

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