Inter-City Visit to Bloomington - Day 2

The 2nd day of our Inter-City visit was really fascinating, with interesting presentations and lots of good dialogue and ideas. We started with a panel discussion on economic development. Some tidbits from that discussion:

- Their Bloomginton Economic Development Commission focuses on all of Monroe County, but calls itself Bloomington because that is what people know (sort of like Chapel Hill and Orange County).

- They have three foci of their commission includes arts/culture, sustainable development, and business relations.

- The town owns a theater and a private company does programming.

-  64 blocks in downtown is designated as an Entertainment and Arts District.

- Of interest to me, the Director of the Economic & Sustainable Development cited social equity as part of their Sustainability Program, but it was not clear how they worked toward social equity as they seemed to mostly relate it to their carbon footprint.

- Their Sustainability Office has a program of redirecting items from the landfill that IU students jettison as they move. It is similar to the program UNC runs except IU/Bloomington collects items from off campus housing as well as on-campus housing - an idea that several in our group are talking about now incorpotating into UNC's program.

- A marketing campaign to encourage the LGBTTQ community to visit Bloomington has existed for 12 years including a Visit Gay Bloomington web page. The Visitots Bureau has awarded a grant to the Pride Film Festival held every year in January.


- Meg McGurk did an awesome job facilitating this discussion including getting the audience to think of taglines for our community like Bloomington has (Keep Bloomington Bloomington). Mayor Tom Stephens suggests 'Keep Hillsborough Happening.' Meg also made a call for a convention center in downtown Chapel Hill modeling after Bloomington's.

Cool ideas to bring back to Orange County:

-        Bloomington is really capitalizing on their arts and entertainment, including with an attractive marketing campaign. Our county is on it's way in this regard and is bringing back some good lessons learned.

-        Visit Gay Bloomington marketing for 12 years - we can do this too.

-        Bloomington Pedal Power - recycling program is pretty neat.

-        Bloomington has an Arts Capital Improvements Forgivable Loan Program – for building improvements that will stay with the building.

-        Downtown Bloomington, Inc has helpe to spawn a Gallery Association with dues paying members, has received grants from Visitors Bureau and the City, 468 local artists exhibited throughout the year, association allows for co-op marketing and promotion of the arts.

I finished up the day with a bike trip to the Bloomington Community Orchard on a bike loaned to me by an orchard board member. I got to sample quince, apples, figs, elderberries, and ground cherries (they are bright yellow and look like tiny tomatillos). 

We finished up the night at a karaoke bar (we have some talented neighbors) and I will leave it there.

There is much much more that we learned from Day 2. Aaron Keck has a great story on Day 2 at WCHL.

So, what have others found interesting from the trip that we should implement back in Orange County?


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