Tuesday, September 16, 2014




Upcoming trip aims to incorporate elements of North Carolina into Crossroads

By ALLISON MILES
Sept. 4, 2013 at 4:04 a.m.

Huvar's Artisan Market and Catering opened in December 2010 at 110 W. Juan Linn St. The downtown eatery got its start as an idea stemming from a 2010 trip Victoria leaders took to Paducah, Ky.

TO LEARN MORE ABOUT RALEIGH, N.C., VISIT:

The city website at raleighnc.gov

The Greater Raleigh Chamber of Commerce website at raleighchamber.org

The Greater Raleigh Convention and Visitors Bureau website at visitraleigh.com

Heads up, North Carolina: Victoria is soon headed your way.

Crossroads residents will soon take it to the streets, meeting officials, scouring the downtown and digging into what makes Raleigh, N.C., work.

And it's all in the name of research.

The Victoria Chamber of Commerce will host an eight-person trip to Raleigh from Sept. 16-18, in search of ideas to incorporate in the Crossroads, said Randy Vivian, the chamber's president and CEO.

This isn't the city's first such excursion.

A group of Victoria movers and shakers took a similar tour in 2010, then to Paducah, Ky., after Robby and Tami Burdge created a $10,000 grant to help fund the trip.

The Burdges ventured to the Kentucky city often to visit family, Robby Burdge said, and through the years saw its downtown transform from a dilapidated area to a thriving, family friendly space.

He said he felt Victoria could learn from the experience.

"I think it's always good to benchmark ourselves against other communities," he said of the 2010 visit. "We were looking at lessons learned from another community, getting ideas and seeing what was working. That's the idea."

The 11-person group toured facilities, met with city personnel and brainstormed ways to incorporate some of Paducah's elements into Victoria life. And more than one bit from that trip took hold, Vivian said.

He credits Paducah for helping to usher in both Huvar's Artisan Market and Catering, which opened in December 2010, and the Victoria College Emerging Technology Center, which broke ground in July.

Vivian said the idea for another trip - this time to North Carolina - came after business events gave him a glimpse into the area.

Classmates he met during a certification course told him about Raleigh, he said, while a conference later took him into the city itself. That spurred the inspiration to take a closer look.

The upcoming trip is sponsored not only by the chamber but also by Klean Corp International; the Burdges, who funded another $10,000 grant; and Invista, Vivian said.

"This is a chance to do some in-depth study," he said. "To see what they're doing to make it so appealing."

Victoria isn't the first community to venture to Raleigh, said Harvey Schmitt, president and CEO of the Greater Raleigh Chamber of Commerce. Charleston, S.C., visited in May, he said. Fort Collins, Co., arrives the week after Victoria, and others have gone in previous years.

He attributed the city's popularity to quality of life, noting Raleigh sits on a number of "best of" lists. Half of Raleigh's workforce age 25 and older has a college degree, for instance, and smart talent attracts smart companies.

Schmitt, who has been with the chamber for 20 years, said there is value in getting away from one's hometown and seeing what others have to offer.

"The reality is, people's visions are sometimes constrained by their experiences," he said. "What these visits do is allow the community's leadership ... to gather experience a different way or an expanded view of what a community can do."

Schmitt's chamber takes a trip each year, he said, noting Oklahoma City and Pittsburgh have joined the ranks before, while next year's visit is to Indianapolis, Ind.

His aim isn't to find a particular project and simply take it back to Raleigh, he said, but to examine another community's solution to an issue, learn how they got there and then bring ideas home to help shape a solution for Raleigh.

Vivian said there are a couple aspects of Raleigh he plans to hone in on.

First comes the city's vibrant downtown, he said, something the community worked to develop with time.

"It used to be that if you weren't in the state government, you didn't go downtown at night," Vivian explained. "They've made it into a vibrant social scene."

An "early college high school" program, which Vivian said is a high school program tied with the medical community, is also something he said might apply to Victoria.

"This is something we could maybe implement in our medical or petrochemical community," he said. "This is a chance to foster ideas."

Larry Clark, board president of the Victoria Main Street Program, can't make it to the Raleigh trip but said the venture is good for the city.

Anything that benefits Victoria means good things for the downtown region, he said, and it's good to have different groups joining for one cause.

"We're all together in that," he said of efforts to better Victoria. "It's good."

As for Vivian, he said he's ready to get on the ground and not only see what Raleigh has to offer but also see what he can bring back to the Crossroads.

"Sometimes, it's not reinventing the wheel," he said of problem solving for a city, "but making a good copy."

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