The most valuable quality in a successful corporate executive is the ability to envision the future, according to business-growth expert Kordell Norton.

The most valuable quality in a successful corporate executive is the ability to envision the future, according to business-growth expert Kordell Norton.

"You have to get that dream that screams," said Norton, host of an April 24 "visioning exercise," in which representatives from Pataskala's business community, school districts and local and county governments gathered at the Pataskala COTC branch campus to discuss their visions for city's future.

He encouraged them to assume the role of Pataskala's "corporate executive" and consider how to improve the city economically and socially, as well as take advantage of its assets. The Pataskala Area Chamber of Commerce sponsored the event.

Norton, who is based in Twinsburg, is experienced in marketing and brand consulting, sales and strategic planning.

He said several years ago, he held a similar discussion with a roomful of Pataskala and Licking County government and business leaders to discuss the region's past, present and future.

Last week, Norton asked the roughly 50 participants to list what they believed were Pataskala's strengths and challenges.

Most agreed that the strengths include a community desire to improve the city and its proximity to highways and Port Columbus International Airport.

They also said Pataskala has a small-town feel even though it is close to major shopping centers and has many of its own amenities.

Participants said Pataskala has many challenges, including securing funding for community improvements.

They said Pataskala, as a city, is so widely spread geographically that its individual communities are disconnected.

They also said the city's image suffers a little because Pataskala is not widely viewed as a destination point for tourists or consumers.

Pataskala City Council President Dan Hayes said Pataskala is unique because it did not expand from a central hub.

The city became vastly larger overnight, literally, when it merged with Lima Township in January 1997, absorbing the township's smaller town centers.

"We have three areas that are totally different," Hayes said.

He said the city should emphasize what is unique about each of them.

Most participants said Pataskala needs to create a positive brand, whether through creative signs or an appealing slogan.

Economically, participants said Pataskala should continue to do everything it can to attract business development.

Norton said Pataskala's volunteerism, such as those volunteers who are working to renovate the Sterling Theater and reopen the Pataskala swimming pool, shows strong community support.

"People love this place," he said.

City Administrator Tim Boland said workshops like the visioning exercise encourage residents to consider their community as a whole.

"This brought together a real strong and diverse group," he said.

Also, he said, the information presented during the meeting will be very helpful to the city administration as it plans Pataskala's future.

Mayor Steve Butcher said participants assessed how well Pataskala has progressed from previous visioning efforts.

He said whereas the city had accomplished much of what officials and residents had envisioned, some items, such as business and economic development and generation of revenue, will "remain high on everyone's list of things we need to work on for years to come."

Butcher also noted local officials and residents now have higher expectations.

"The vision is becoming clearer or sharper and people understand that we can indeed accomplish even greater things," he said.

"The participants' expectations were clearly higher given our successes, and the demand for better infrastructure, new revenue streams, more services, increased number of businesses and better image are all to be expected," Butcher said.