STARKVILLE, Miss.--Sustainability isn't necessarily a reference to going green. It can also indicate a system that maintains, replenishes and pays for itself.
That's what Charles "Chuck" Marohn, president and co-founder of Strong Towns, will mean when he talks about creating a sustainable community-growth model during his four-day Magnolia State tour beginning Monday [Nov. 11]. Marohn will lead five "Curbside Chats," sponsored by Mississippi State University's John C. Stennis Institute of Government and Community Development and the Appalachian Regional Commission.
Towns where chats will be held include:
--Tupelo at the Bancorp South Conference Center on Nov. 11, 6-7:30 p.m.
--Starkville at the Greensboro Center on Nov. 12, 5:30-7 p.m. MSU County Extension Offices in Cleveland, Laurel and Raymond will offer free live broadcasts.
--Amory at Gilmore Foundation on Nov. 13, 10-11:30 a.m.
--Winona at Winona Community House on Nov. 13, 4-5:30 p.m.
--Water Valley at Water Valley Main Street Association Office on Nov. 14, 10-11:30 a.m.
--New Albany at Magnolia Civic Center on Nov. 14, 5-6:30 p.m.
The chats are open to anyone interested in long-term community success, including community volunteers, business owners, elected officials, tourism representatives, economic development representatives and design and planning professionals. Organizers encouraged community stakeholders to register at http://mscurbsidechat.org, though preregistration is not required to attend.
"At Stennis, we tried to make the chats accessible to people within one-an-a-half hours travel time to hear Chuck's message and participate in the curbside chat," said Joe Fratesi, Stennis Institute project director.
Marohn, a native Minnesotan, emphasized that the issues that impact his rural community are the same ones that affect communities all over the nation. Mississippi is no exception.
He said his professional engineering background, along with his urban and regional planning experience, have prepared him to address the challenges communities face, including availability of resources, maintaining basic infrastructure and creating financial prosperity.
"It's really important to understand for thousands of years, our towns were built incrementally, a result of literally thousands of investments. Now, we have a centralized, coordinated approach," Marohn said. "The chats are about finding ways to reintroduce that power of incremental investment into developing other places.
"That can only be done in a different type of a city, one that gives ownership to average, ordinary everyday people. It's about the power of the individual person making individual decisions," he said.
Jeremy Murdock, Stennis Institute research associate, said Marohn's books, blogs and podcasts emphasize ways to create financially sustainable places of value.
Marohn said he will have opportunities to tour the towns he visits and meet local residents. Then, the first part of the chat will be a presentation specifically addressing that location's challenges, followed by discussion with attendees.
"It's more than a Q-and-A. Locally, we're going to let people react to an eye-opening way of looking at cities and their finances," he said. "We want to help them break through the preconceived notions that we've all come to believe. We're going to see these issues and challenges through a different set of eyes."
Learn more about Marohn's work at http://strongtowns.org, and discover more about MSU at http://msstate.edu.