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01 Jun

Our View: Walking the walk of a top community in the nation

What happens when a city of mostly older people decide to turn their city into a place where young people can create, take entrepreneurial risks and ultimately flourish?

Anyone lucky enough to call Lake Havasu City home is going to find out.

Buoyed by a top prize in the America’s Best Communities competition, and the $2 million that goes with it, Lake Havasu City is now in position to take the next steps. The results – which won’t be fully seen for years – promises an economic and cultural makeover for the city now best known for a bridge and for boating and as a retirement paradise.

The local Vision 20/20 team that entered the ABC competition never did it just for the competition, but rather to show and test the community’s vision for an economic resurgence. The vision sprang from hundreds of local participants, with the ideas winnowed and ultimately presented in the competition.

The $2 million will go a long way toward getting the three initial projects going.

About half will go toward creating the public “town square” portion of what is known as the downtown catalyst project at McCulloch and Querio Drive. The public portion is designed to drive development proposals for the remainder of the property.

Some $500,000 will go toward initial work on the water-centered eco-environmental center on the Havasu 280 land parcel.

The vision for this educational center is broad but scalable and focuses on the science and management of Lake Havasu and the Colorado River. It should become both a knowledge center and a community attraction.

Also presented and funded is $400,000 for a business entrepreneur center anchored by a co-location space where established and emerging businesses rent space even for short-term uses. It addresses practical needs but also facilitates competition and creativity, two important economic sparks.

Another $100,000 of previous prize money will go toward developing future projects in the central areas of education, water, tourism and public engagement.

These projects are exciting in themselves but more exciting because of the promise they hold and for what they say about this city. All great communities are built upon a great sense of community. Lake Havasu City is certainly showing it’s at the top.

A driving force is a recognition of the aging demographics, a need to drive down the average age of the population to assure a bright future.

The baby boomer swan song (aptly, perhaps, the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper album was released 50 years ago this week, by the way) reflects the same awareness and commitments as it did when the boomers were young.

Passage of extra money for schools? Check. Community engagement? Check. Facilities to nurture creativity and competition and entrepreneurism? That’s next.

Winning even a huge economic development competition is based largely on talk. Lake Havasu City is doing what the best do: Walking the walk to back it up.

— Today’s News-Herald