5 Key Areas of Focus

Commitment to public education!

 

There are many features that define Watertown in 2012; among them is a tremendous public education system, from elementary to post-secondary education. Maintaining and enhancing this feature is vital to Watertown™s success as a place to raise a family, but equally as important, as a place to do business. Residents evaluated the community public education system highly and the system shows admirable results in terms of student outcomes, from low dropout rates to ACT scores that exceed the national and state averages. In addition, the region is fortunate to have a strong continuum of career and technical education, from the Lake Area Multi-District to Lake Area Technical Institute (LATI). And while the community is certainly proud of these assets, there is always room for progress and residents want to make sure that education remains a top community priority. Furthermore, community input revealed that education is in many ways the tie that binds the community; many residents indicated that a second high school would divide the community in a detrimental way.

Diversity of employment opportunities!

 

Watertown relatively resilient economy has weathered the Great Recession rather well as compared to other communities nationwide; it has recovered quickly and manufacturers have re-filled many of the positions that were cut during the onset of the national recession. And despite strong growth in areas such as administrative, back-office, professional, and technical services, the community is still heavily reliant on manufacturing and predominantly local-serving sectors such as retail, health care, and education. The expansion of more export-oriented sectors, particularly higher-wage opportunities, was cited as a key priority for the community by residents and businesses. High school students, college students, and young all cited a limited availability of diverse job opportunities in higher-wage sectors as primary reason for their planned or potential departure from Watertown in the near future. And while new business recruitment will play an important role in the community economic future, a focus on existing business expansion and small business development will be equally if not more critical to the community ability to provide the aforementioned job opportunities to existing and potential future residents. A number of studies in recent decades have illustrated that existing businesses large and small area responsible for between 50 and 80 percent of all job growth in a community, outpacing the amount of job growth attributable to new firm recruitment. Accordingly, Watertown will need to ensure that its vision of providing a diversity of employment opportunities is supported by a holistic approach to economic development.

Safe and attractive neighborhoods and business districts!

 

Watertown residents frequently mentioned the community aesthetic character as an area they would like to see improve by 2020. The city gateways (including I-29 at Highway 212 and Highway 20 by the airport), its key corridors (particularly Highway 212), and its primary activity centers (particularly Uptown) were frequently mentioned as the areas that should be prioritized for beautification. Residents cited actions such as litter removal, landscaping and streetscaping, public art, signage, and code enforcement as essential elements to community beautification. In addition, while residents currently feel very safe in Watertown, many expressed a desire to see clean neighborhoods and safe neighborhoods as descriptors of the community residential and commercial areas in 2020. Simply put, first impressions matter. A community visual appeal, cleanliness, and aesthetic character are quite often the first things that visitors notice, and every visitor is a potential new resident, employee, student, shopper, or business owner.  Furthermore, the attractiveness and vibrancy of a neighborhood or business district is more heavily reliant on a single critical element above all others: people. Our neighborhoods, business districts, and public spaces the places we gather are limited in value without human interaction. Developing a more beautiful community, one that continues to make residents feel safe, and one that invites its residents to interact with each other and their surroundings will greatly improve the community ability to attract and retain both residents and employers.

Vibrant cultural and recreational amenities!

 

Simply put, Watertown residents want more things to do. When asked about their vision for Watertown in 2020, a desire to see continued investment to improve the community cultural and recreational assets was among the most common responses. Lake Kampeska was frequently cited as the community greatest asset, but many indicated that it was also the community most underutilized asset. In addition, residents lamented the lack of options for recreation in the wintertime, particularly facilities offering sufficient indoor capacity for children and adults to enjoy. And while residents desired these improvements for their own benefit and enjoyment, many also recognized the existing and potential economic impact of the community cultural and recreational assets from a tourism perspective. Building a more complete set of amenities for residents will also help develop the community tourism product and hopefully increasing the likelihood that travelers and tourists remain in Watertown overnight, as opposed to day-trips or quick stops off the interstate.

Welcoming, family-friendly, and appealing to all ages!

 

When focus group participants were asked what they would tell a friend that was thinking about relocating to Watertown, many participants first response was that Watertown is family-friendly.  A few survey respondents went so far as to suggest that Watertown has family-friendly covered and that it needed to focus on attractiveness to college students, young and single professionals, and retirees. Both quantitative and qualitative research revealed that the attraction and retention of young workers is among the community greatest challenges. And while strategic efforts covered in other sections of the Vision Plan will have a direct impact on the community attractiveness to young workers, a variety of other targeted efforts that seek to attract and retain this key demographic are necessary. On the other end of the spectrum, research also revealed that many Watertown residents were choosing to age in place and retire in the community that they have lived in for much of their lives. Watertown must be proactive in preparing for the needs of retirees as members of the Baby Boom generation begin exiting the workforce. While Watertown is aging, it also becoming increasingly diverse. However, minorities represent less than six percent of the total population and minority survey respondents were more likely to evaluate the community unfavorably in terms of its welcomeness and inclusive. And although very few community input participants expressed concerns about tolerance, many did express that the community could do a better job welcoming new residents of all races, ethnicities, and ages, and helping to integrate them into the community social, economic, and cultural fabric.