Mississippi town in competition for ‘Strongest Town’ title
Published 12:02 pm Wednesday, March 24, 2021
A Mississippi town has advanced to the second round of the Strongest Town Contest, and is now competing in the second bracket against the city of Yellow Springs, Ohio.
Voters in the sixth-annual Strongest Town Contest have decided what many Oxford and Lafayette County residents already believe – that the community of Oxford is one of the Strongest Towns in America when it comes to “doing the hard work of becoming stronger, responding to local challenges—and addressing local opportunities—with creativity, intelligence, humility, and courage.”
Voting is underway and concludes on Thursday, March 25. The winner advances to the semifinals with the Strongest Town in America scheduled to be announced April 9.
“We’re killing it and we should be recognized for it,” said Oxford-Lafayette County Economic Development Foundation and Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Jon Maynard. “Residents of the area should be proud of the efforts the region has undertaken to ensure it is resilient in challenging times such as these, and remains in a good position for the uncertain but hopeful future.
“We are strong because of the leadership we have in all sections of the community,” said Maynard, noting that the values of that leadership coincide perfectly with Strong Towns’ values. “This organization represents the things that make Oxford really strong, and Oxford was doing it before we knew of this. Their mission and our way of operating match up.”
This year’s communities were nominated to the contest based on how their town rose to address the challenges that came with the coronavirus pandemic. Oxford’s application was completed by Mayor Robyn Tannehill, Oxford City Engineer Bart Robinson, Oxford Director of Planning Ben Requet, Oxford-Lafayette County Chamber of Commerce and Economic Development Foundation President and CEO Jon Maynard.
Strong Towns is a non-profit media advocacy organization based in Minnesota. Its mission is to help local leaders identify the cause of decline in our cities and take action to build a stronger, financially resilient future. The Strong Towns movement is reshaping the North American development pattern with a return to bottom-up, incremental growth.
During this stage, the competitors have provided five photographs displaying evidence of their strengths, with captions explaining how they illustrate the strength of their cities. The images can be viewed at StrongTowns.org. There voters have a chance to virtually tour each town through submitted images before choosing the communities to advance.
Oxford has captioned its selections: Cultural Connection, Beauty and Brains, Building Equity Through Housing, The Perfect Trail Mix, and Let Me Tell You Our Story. The images showcase its natural beauty juxtaposed with the manmade heritage, which come together to achieve Oxford’s status as a “cultural mecca for Mississippi and the Southeast.”
Images also showcase the long-term strategies the town has committed to when it comes to sustainable growth – its Vision 2037 plan to provide affordable housing that is planned responsibly. At the heart of the region’s success, however is its continued commitment to economic policies that have made Oxford the eight strongest micropolitan in the U.S., according to policom.com
Or as one of its photo captions this round reads, “From Main Street entrepreneurs to technology developers, Oxford has set its sights on growth from the inside out. … We firmly believe in sustainable economic development built on our homegrown strengths. Our community has created amazing growth while still maintaining the uniquely intellectual and funky mix of multi-cultural Southern hospitality for which Oxford, Mississippi has become known.”
According to Strongest Towns, if Oxford advances to the next round it will join representatives from three other cities to be interviewed by Rachel Quednau, Strong Towns program director and host of The Bottom-Up Revolution Podcast.
If Oxford advances, it will face the winner of the contest between Kenmore, Washington and Bentonville, Arkansas. While the winner of contests between Middletown, WI and Lockport, IL will take on the winner from the Bismarck, North Dakota versus Northfield, Vermont matchups.
Organizers say the contest is getting increased attention this year, as more than 12,000 individuals cast votes in the first round of the competition. Overall, participation in the event up 30 percent since 2019. The electorate is made up of resident of the community competing as well as Strong Towns members from across the world who “lend a third-party perspective,” said John Pattison, Strong Towns Content Manager and Contest Organizer.
“Looking at the uptick in voting over the years, it’s clear that the Strong Towns principles of financial resilience and iterative, bottom-up investment are picking up steam in North America,” said Pattison.
Strong Towns President Charles Marohn will visit The Strongest Town to celebrate the victory and share the Strong Towns message. In addition, Strong Town Media will profile the winning community on its website.