Efforts to initiate community capitalism in Newark and Licking County will take a step forward this week when author Ron Kitchens visits the Midland Theatre.

Efforts to initiate community capitalism in Newark and Licking County will take a step forward this week when author Ron Kitchens visits the Midland Theatre.

The event will be held Jan. 26 to give people an opportunity to hear "firsthand from the author, Ron Kitchens, of how Kalamazoo (Michigan) accomplished the daunting task of revitalizing and reinventing their town," according to information from the Licking County Chamber of Commerce.

About 1,000 people in Licking County have been reading Kitchens' book, Community Capitalism, which describes how Kalamazoo, Mich., prospered in spite of economic strife.

The chamber distributed copies of the book, and people were asked to get together at town-hall meetings and discuss what they learned and how they could help improve the area.

The result of those meetings was that people divided into smaller groups, and they've been meeting to find ways to accomplish objectives in the following categories: place, capital and infrastructure, talent, education and culture.

During the education meeting Jan. 13, for example, people learned that local schools already have programs in place to encourage students to go to college, and many offer guidance for parents on financial-aid applications and other funding sources.

The group discussed the failure to pass local school levies and how that negatively affects economic-development ventures.

Cheri Hottinger, president of the Licking County Chamber of Commerce, wrote in her blog: "Let's be honest. If anyone thinks that defeating school levies is about sending a message to the administration and school board members and that it doesn't hurt the community, they are not living in reality. Families have to look out for the best interests of their children. If Newark schools are not able to provide a quality education, we will lose them. And with them goes our current work force and our future work force, leaving behind a community that has declining property values and one that business and industry will overlook."

The education group also spoke about the need to have more mentors working with children - an idea that surfaced at the talent meeting held Jan. 22.
During the talent meeting, people talked about how many talented people live in the community, how to keep them and how to attract more.

During that meeting, members of the local Jaycees club said they are creating awareness that the club has been reborn and trying to do more in the community.

"We want to take on mentorship in the schools," said Lori Torrens, Jaycees member.

The newly revived Jaycees group was mentioned as one of the local pieces of "talent" that had been missing from the area for several years.

The talent group's moderator, Pat Jeffries, said local leaders need to harness talent, attract talent, develop opportunities for talent and deploy them.
"We've got all the talent in the world," he said. "We need to see what happens next."

Kitchens will speak at 7 p.m. Monday, Jan. 26, at the Midland Theater, on the northwest corner of the square in downtown Newark. Admission is free, but reservations are requested through the chamber by calling (740) 345-9757.

The infrastructure and capital group will meet at 4 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 27, at C-TEC.