Impact Austin

About Impact Austin

As the placemakers, connectors, strategists, and activators for quality-of-life initiatives in Austin, MN, Impact Austin is a network of individuals and organizations dedicated to improving the community for those residing in, doing business in, and visiting Austin. We collaborate closely with community partners in the government, non-profit and private market sectors to ignite innovative and impactful actions, foster economic opportunity, promote resilient neighborhoods and support a thriving downtown. We believe that by cultivating a welcoming community of action, Austin can unleash the full potential of its diverse citizenry and offer a dynamic city filled with opportunity and discovery.

Impact Austin Speaker Series

The Impact Austin 2023 Speaker Series is a virtual community learning resource as strategic planning gets underway to address future growth, housing, economic development, immigrant support, food access and equity, parks and open space, connectivity and transportation, education, arts and culture, brand/story and tourism, city infrastructure, and public policy and planning. We hope this resource offers inspiration by showcasing practical models, working projects and ideas from across the county and within the city that inform innovative solutions to the challenges and opportunities within Austin, Minnesota. We also hope these discussions stimulate real-time conversations within the community, providing talking points for alignment and collaborations with all the various individuals and entities working on a stronger Austin.

Communities of Practice: The Power of Collaboration and Alignment in Land Use Policy and Development

Wes Craiglow, Executive Director of the Urban Land Institute Northwest Arkansas and Holly Wallace, Planning & Zoning Administrator for Austin, Minnesota discuss models for collaboration called Communities of Practice around challenging issues like housing, community growth strategies, quality development and city codes and zoning issues. Holly also outlines the role of her department in Austin and discusses several city planning initiatives currently underway.

Growing An Equitable, Accessible and Dynamic Regional Food System

With the emergence of Austin’s Food City Initiative, defining strategies and investments that unify efforts in growing, processing, transporting, selling, consuming, and promoting food and culinary experiences is crucial to the success of the initiative. Karin Endy, a national food systems expert, has been working with the Walton Family Foundation to design a national model for supporting the development of a robust and equitable food system. In this session, she discusses strategy development, the various elements to consider in the process and some of the catalytic projects that have played a significant role in advancing the strategies.

She was joined by Molly Lanke, Executive Director of the United Way of Mower County, who shared the work on the local Hometown Food Security Project.

Cultivating Planning and Development Alignment Between Cities and Counties

In this session, we were joined by Brad Lonberger and Ivan Gonzalez from Place Strategies as they highlighted models of collaborative public policy between cities and counties, as well as outlined the purpose and positive impact of aligned comprehensive land use planning, with specific focus on downtown master plans. 

They were joined by Trish Harren, County Administrator for Mower County, Minnesota and Craig Clark, City Administrator for Austin, Minnesota who highlighted current collaborations and future joint projects.

Stepping Over a Dollar to Get a Dime: The Impact of Land Use and Community Development Decisions on City Resources

An urban planner imagining new ways to think about and visualize land use, urban design and economics, Joe Minicozzi, AICP of Urban3 discussed the reality of market dynamics created by tax and land use policies and the short and long-term impacts on community resources. He was joined by John Garry, President, and CEO of the Development Corporation of Austin who outlined the economic development strategies driving growth and opportunity in Austin, Minnesota.

Investing in the Community Story: The Power of Brand and Experience Design

Impactful tourism strategies rely on the art of increasing awareness, appreciation and support of the community is which it is promoting. Bill Geist, chief instigator of DMOProz and author of Destination Leadership shared how investment in the story of a community while cultivating the unique sense of place offers profound returns to a region’s economy. He was joined by Kalene Griffith, CEO of Visit Bentonville, who has helped lead Bentonville, Arkansas in becoming a world class destination in culinary, biking, art, and hospitality. She shared the tools, process and economic structure of the organization and its activities. 

This presentation also included Nancy Schnable, Executive Director of Discover Austin and Savile Lord, Manager of the SPAM™ Museum as they shared their plans for growing the impact and importance of the tourism industry in Austin.

Housing Solutions for Everyone: Strategies for a Comprehensive Approach to Housing Challenges

Any city seeking to raise housing quality without adding to the burdens of developers and property owners trying to meet real and growing housing challenges, needs a sound strategy that incorporates multiple elements for success. Matthew Petty and Matt Hoffman founded Pattern Zones Co. to help cities and towns directly address their housing challenges. Pattern zoning is a novel technique that combines pre-approved architectural designs and expedited permitting for incremental infill projects that meet higher design standards, making it convenient to build housing at scales appropriate to existing neighborhoods. Their work in Bryan, Texas was awarded honors by the Congress for the New Urbanism and their follow-up implementation in Claremore, Oklahoma has helped reduce infill permitting times to five days or less. They are now working to implement this technique across the United States using the lessons learned from these early projects. 

They were joined by Taggert Medgaarden, Executive Director of the Austin Housing & Redevelopment Authority and Craig Clark, City Administrator for the City of Austin who shared recommendations from the recent City's Housing Study and future projects to address Austin's housing needs.

Designing Public Places That Welcome and Engage an Entire Community

As Principal at CIVITAS, one of the foremost landscape design and urban planning firms in the US, Scott Jordan shared their approach for engaging the public throughout the design process and furthering positive relationships between people and place. He showcased numerous projects that reinvented a community’s relationship with waterfronts, incorporated food access and equity, improved outdoor recreation and wellness initiatives and unlocked the nascent value of adjacent neighborhoods. He was joined by Dave Merrill, Director of Parks, Recreation, and Forestry and Craig Clark, City Administrator for Austin, Minnesota, who shared the recently completed Austin Parks and Trails Master Plan.