Chelsea Schneider, Municipal Innovations Specialist
Union City leaders aren’t afraid to think differently. In fact, they’ve built the city’s reputation on trying new ideas.
From a history of ingenuity (the U.S. postal service box was patented in Union City) to reorganizing local government when the city was among the hardest hit by the property tax caps, the community is focused on telling the region’s story and the amenities it has to offer.
“When you are trying to reinvent yourself, you are really looking at different options – maybe it’s non-traditional,” Union City Mayor Bryan Conklin said. “We have done more with less just through managing the money we have available to us and partnering with different community organizations.”
In the aftermath of the revenue hit coupled by the loss of a leading manufacturer, Union City started thinking outside of the box. The southeast Indiana community was an early adopter of alternative energy, installing wind turbines and solar panels on a water tower and downtown amphitheater. The city also put apartments on the second floor of city hall for artisans and opened an artist co-op in downtown as a place to sell wares.
“We are trying to give people the opportunity to follow their passion and dreams and figure out how to make a living doing what they’re doing,” Conklin said.
The city also has aggressively focused on economic development and strengthened its relationship with surrounding counties and Union City, Ohio.
“Everything is an opportunity for us, and we’re trying to be prepared for the next opportunity,” Conklin said.
This year, Union City also is a finalist in the state’s Stellar Communities program, which provides designated cities and towns funding for community development projects. Through the program, the city is requesting funds to help aging residents with home rehabilitation projects and open a daycare and youth center. They’re also pitching to remodel a former factory dating back to the 1900s into a residential development with senior and affordable housing.
“As partnerships go, we know we can’t do it all,” Conklin said. “Government helps facilitate. What I try to do is connect the dots within our community to make it good for everybody.”
Among other projects, Union City is growing community events and created a downtown amphitheater to make up for its lack of public square. The amphitheater behind city hall has hosted a farmers market and movie nights.
“My hope is that home values will increase,” Conklin said, “and that Union City is a destination place where people want to come and spend an afternoon.”