A Better Dayton

 A Better Dayton

Commission heads up multiple efforts to guide recovery efforts and improve the region’s futureKevin Michell As the planning organization for Montgomery County and several neighboring ones, the Miami Valley Regional Planning Commission is one of the parties responsible for aiding development through a wide swath of southwest Ohio. That responsibility takes on many forms, ranging from transportation and infrastructure oversight to managing environmental and economic concerns.

The planning commission is largely focused now on the long-term recovery efforts following last Memorial Day’s tornadoes. The organization recently received a $900,000 grant, which will be used in part to hire an experienced disaster recovery manager to oversee ongoing efforts in many communities.

“We’re expecting this to last a good 10 years in terms of the recovery,” says Brian O. Martin, executive director of the Miami Valley Regional Planning Commission, adding that the organization hopes to have the position filled by mid-April. “Having a skilled recovery manager here will help us be more in tune with the federal processes, from the best practices from other disasters that (have occurred) around the country as well as how to redevelop.”

The commission was tapped shortly after the Memorial Day disaster to coordinate recovery throughout the Miami Valley region and Montgomery County’s board of commissioners shouldered much of the funding for the organization’s administrative costs before grants were awarded.

The use of other organizations and the residents of the region to guide action is at the heart of everything the group does. Serving a diverse array of communities sprinkled throughout the Miami Valley the commission actively seeks feedback to supplement its staff’s own expertise in urban and rural planning.

Part of that is meeting residents of these communities where they are, in school gymnasiums before a basketball game or through town hall meetings at local landmarks. That approach proved effective when the commission worked with Jefferson Township three years ago to confront a lack of growth and create a roadmap to a better future.

The planning commission’s efforts, aided by the residents’ hopes for what Jefferson Township would become in 10 years, resulted in the Montgomery County Fairgrounds being moved there and recognition from the American Planning Association.

While the organization works to foster growth and development in many rural communities it is just as suited for addressing quality of life needs in the region’s urban centers like Dayton.

The commission’s partnership with the U.S. Department of Transportation resulted in the 2017 launch of the Miami Valley Equity Initiative, an effort to increase awareness and to combat racial and economic inequality in the area based on the findings of July 2017’s Miami Valley Equity Regional Profile.

Martin describes the initiative as an effort to create equal access to opportunity throughout the region, no matter where residents live—both rural and urban—or who they are. That will entail applying the 2017 regional study to focal points such as access to health care, career opportunities and reliable food and transportation.

“Making sure everyone has equal access and equal opportunity to the American dream,” Martin says of the equity initiative’s overarching aims. “To be able to buy a house, to be able to have a great job, to be able to put your kids through college that’s the goal.”