The most apparent result from the recent First Impressions Program in Beloit is that city needs more signs. This and several views were the main topics which outlined a program presented by Community Vitality Specialist Nancy Daniels of the Kansas-State Research and Extension.
The Community Development program was held during the First Impressions results meeting at the Beloit Municipal building on Thursday evening. Mitchell County Community Development Director Heather Hartman introduced Daniels and gave thanks for those attending. City of Beloit Manager Jason Rabe also welcomed the crowd of over 50.
A volunteer team from Clay Center recently visited Beloit as secret shoppers. While in Beloit, the shoppers used a structured checklist to view areas they thought were in need for some first impression appeal improvements. Photographs were taken and a slide show presentation provided information which was gathered.
“I hope you will be thinking about what you can do as your part in making Beloit a better place,” said Daniels.
According to Daniels, all of the observations were different from one another among the secret shoppers. Handouts were provided to attendees containing information provided by the visitors which conducted their individual tours of Beloit on June 1, June 4, June 10 and June 12.
“The First Impression program is a fantastic way to get a visitor’s view of our community,” said Hartman. “Tonight’s presentation reminded us of some things we can do to help Beloit be even better.”
A “Five-minute” based impression showed an evident agricultural based community but suggested signs did not tell what those businesses provided. On the same note, shoppers were pleased with the well-marked street signs.
Positive impressions viewed a love for the old brick streets and the beautiful limestone Mitchell County Courthouse and the downtown street lights. Highway 24 provides plenty of businesses but directions of the downtown business district was not certain.
Now that the East Main main entrance into Beloit is open from Highway 24, this can be addressed with more informative signs. Chautauqua Park was highlighted as a wonderful site in Beloit, but directions and locations were viewed as lacking. A friendly atmosphere expression was given about the overall Beloit community in that they were greeted by everyone.
Old, empty store fronts were expressed as a needed item to be addressed to help spruce up Beloit. Some added bench seating and just keeping up with store front upkeep was also suggested.
Healthcare services were viewed as very pleasing with a nice medical center, county health services, hospital and long term care but again a more informational signage problem was addressed.
Overall, issues viewed needing attention largely came through as sign and webpage improvements.
“Signage is a consistent message for communities,” said Daniels.
Local schools were considered a positive for the area but emphasizing them through website services was suggested.
“Don’t forget to brag,” Daniels said. “Tell everyone about those awards and the quality provided through your services.”
Visitors noted that websites could be improved with photographs of the community enjoying life, making sure photos were true to reality of the structures viewed today.
“On the cities website, the Little Red Schoolhouse looks great with a new coat of paint and well maintained,” said Daniels. “When visitors arrived they found that not to be the case.”
Daniels spoke of and suggested a cross-market with Beloit online services.
Some of the topics voiced are already in progress in Beloit. During an after meeting open discussion, several attendees spoke about those areas.
Building new sidewalks and hiking trails are already being addressed by the City’s Safe Routes to School initiative and the HEAL work on walking trails. The Solomon Valley Transportation is a positive service offered in the area. Work is also being addressed at the West Side Park with updated bathrooms and upkeep.
When visitors were asked what would bring them back to Beloit, they were all in agreement that the Kettle, 204 S. Mill, and Gray’s Drug and Fountain Old Fashion Soda Shop, 100 S. Mill, would bring them back with no hesitation.
“The First Impressions meeting really highlighted some great ways that Beloit can better market itself including way-finding signage, a better website and Facebook presence, and showcasing all the great community assets that we have like Chautauqua Park, our downtown, etc.,” said Rabe. “It was great to see such a large crowd who wanted to take Beloit to that next level.”
Anyone wishing to view the entire documents provided can find them at the Beloit Municipal Building city office, 119 N. Hersey Avenue.
The next step is a Strategic Doing workshop that will be hosted by the Solomon Valley Community Foundation in conjunction with the Dane G. Hansen Foundation. That meeting is scheduled 7 p.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 27 at the North Central Kansas Student Unions Conference Room, 3033 US Highway 24, Beloit.
“A meeting is being called for all interested citizens who want to make our communities better than they are,” said Solomon Valley Community Foundation Chairman Curt Frasier.
“The process will help communities identify where they want to go in making them stronger and an even better place for their families.”
Individuals are asked to attend and to be a part of this process. To take pride in being a part of what will be a big step for the community. Daniels suggested Beloit highlight on what they are known for, on what makes them standout.
“I hope individuals see these suggestions as not to give the city things to do, but for all businesses to help the community,” said Daniels.
Thank you to Beloit Call Editor Sharon Sahlfeld for this report.