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Editorial: City benefits as finalist for All-American accolade

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Columbus has long striven to set itself apart from other communities, from architectural offerings to The Commons and kidscommons children’s museum.

That effort is earning national recognition for the city again — the kind that can reap long-term rewards for the community.

Columbus is one of 25 finalists — and the only one from Indiana — for the All-America City award presented annually by the National Civic league to 10 communities for outstanding civic achievements.

The city has put this feather in its cap before. It earned the All-America City designation in 1994, the last time it applied for the award. Columbus was a finalist and received honorable mention in 1963.

Cities making the finalist cut for this year are being recognized because of their inventive, community-based solutions to issues. Columbus’ application highlighted its obesity-prevention efforts, workforce development system and Columbus Arts District achievements.

Public/private partnerships have provided the foundation for the city’s successes over the decades. Much of what we know Columbus as today resulted from those collaborations, and the highlights in the application are no different. Years of collaboration on these projects made the nomination possible.

The Columbus Healthy Communities initiative has tackled obesity through policy, system and environmental changes that encourage healthy choices. For example, Bartholomew Consolidated School Corp. has worked to eliminate sugar-sweetened beverages in vending machines, to increase healthy food options in the cafeteria and on issues to promote better student health.

Efforts to improve the city’s health and safety go beyond schools.

Columbus was the first Indiana municipality to approve a thoroughfare policy that meets complete-streets criteria. That means consideration must be given to features that increase access and safety for bicyclists and pedestrians, for example.

Also, the city’s application noted that more than 100 workplace wellness programs in the community have been initiated or strengthened.

The application noted how the Columbus Arts District, designated in December 2012 by the state as an Indiana Arts District, plays a role in the city’s goal of being the cultural and creative capital of the Midwest.

Also highlighted is how the Community Education Coalition and the Economic Opportunities through Education by 2015 (EcO15) initiative is providing job opportunities in the manufacturing, health care and hospitality/tourism fields in southeast Indiana through emphasis on education. For example, narrowing the gap between the skills manufacturing employers need and the skills workers have is a focal point.

That Columbus is a finalist in a competition that doesn’t differentiate cities based on their populations further validates its efforts to stand out from

other communities.

Should Columbus earn the All-America award, the recognition would be added to an economic sales “tool kit” for economic development. Companies considering locating in Columbus would know that the community has taken issues facing it seriously, and stakeholders have collaborated to achieve solutions.

That kind of initiative to make the community healthy, educated and a good place to live goes a long way in a recruiting pitch.

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