CIRCLEVILLE - Community leaders are keeping their eyes on a $3 million prize after Circleville was named a quarter-finalist in the America's Best Communities competition, designed to stimulate economic revitalization in small towns across the United States.
The $10 million initiative is sponsored by Frontier Communications, DISH Network, CoBank and The Weather Channel.
"We are excited and thankful to be selected as one of the America's Best Communities quarter-finalists," said Mayor Don McIlroy. "I am extremely proud of this community. We have come through some very difficult times; however, Circleville and Pickaway County have proven time and again that by identifying productive goals and objectives, good things will happen. This community is strongly motivated to make a difference, and we appreciate (the) recognition."
As one of six quarter-finalists in the state of Ohio out of 50 throughout the country, Circleville will receive $50,000 to further develop a comprehensive strategy to accelerate revival of the local economy and improve the quality of life in the community.
The city now has six months to complete its revitalization plan and compete for the top prize of $3 million to bring its ideas to life.
McIlroy said the application for the competition was developed by a committee of community leaders including himself and Dr. Mark Smith, president of Ohio Christian University; Tim Colburn, CEO of Berger Health System; Kirk McMahon, superintendent of Circleville City Schools; Amy Elsea, president of the Pickaway County Chamber of Commerce; John Ankrom, city service director; Ryan Scribner, executive director of Pickaway Progress Partnership (P3); and Chad Davie, a consultant for P3.
"We will be bringing that team back together probably late next week to talk about where we're going from here," McIlroy said.
In Ohio, the cities of Celina, Medina, Portsmouth, Troy and Wilmington also have advanced to the quarter-final round of the competition.
McIlroy said the $50,000 prize money will be used to put together an economic development growth plan for the city. The competition organizers will then choose 15 of the quarter-finalists to present their plans, then narrow it down to eight finalists.
"Those eight will receive $100,000," McIlroy said. "Then the next award will be the top three, with a $3 million prize for first place, $2 million for second place and $1 million for third place. I think we have a great chance to be in that top eight and a very, very good chance to be in that top three. I'm excited about it. We have a great community here."
Scribner said in the coming weeks and months, the team will use the grant and additional technical assistance to further refine the city's community and economic development plan that can focus on an array of different projects identified in the initial application.
"This is a big deal," Scribner said. "We talk all the time about the positive trends we see here on a number of fronts in this community, and this is really affirming that belief."
He said the America's Best Communities competition is not looking for a community that has already reached its goals.
"It's about communities that have been through a difficult time but have been creative and collaborative to turn things around and can use a little help to get over the top," Scribner said. "It felt really good to get the recognition to have made the top 50. I think we have a compelling story here, and this is our opportunity to tell it."
Tom Travis, general manager of Frontier, said the America's Best Communities competition is meant to inspire communities that are looking to the future, and Circleville's partnership has taken a key step.
"All of us at Frontier are eager to see the Circleville community develop its plan and take the next step in a competition that is making a difference across America," Travis said.
According to a press release, each community will now partner with a major corporation that will provide guidance and support throughout the next stage of the competition. The America's Best Communities Adopt-a-Community Program has brought together 50 distinguished companies from across the U.S. to support the quarter-finalist communities.
Each corporation will be paired with a community to serve as its strategic mentor, while also contributing $15,000 of the $50,000 in prize money. The corporate partners will forge relationships with local leaders and focus their efforts on successful implementation of the innovative business plans.
"I'm excited to congratulate the community leaders and citizens of Celina, Circleville, Medina, Portsmouth, Troy and Wilmington for advancing to the next round in the America's Best Communities competition," said Dave Davidson, senior vice president and general manager for Ohio. "We're looking forward to seeing the revitalization plans these communities build and implement as the competition moves ahead."
After its launch in September 2014, the America's Best Communities competition attracted entries from 138 applicant teams that represent 347 communities across the country, including 23 from Ohio, the most from any state.
All 138 applications were reviewed by a panel of independent expert judges who selected the 50 winning communities based upon an objective set of criteria.
America's Best Communities is a multi-stage, three-year competition that will provide $4 million in seed money and other support to assist communities as they develop new economic growth strategies. The top three communities -- those with the most innovative proposals being effectively implemented -- will share a total of $6 million in prize money. The winning community will be awarded $3 million, with $2 million for second place and $1 million for third.
"As the largest telecommunications company focused on rural America, we recognize the economic impact that strategic investments often have on the revitalization of small towns and rural cities," said Maggie Wilderotter, executive chairman of Frontier Communications. "America's Best Communities has already inspired new collaboration among local leaders, and it's just getting started. The innovative ideas the competition is investing in have the potential to become roadmaps to growth for communities across the U.S."