Survey may alter Kent

Ben Breier

President Lester Lefton would like to see the city of Kent become a “mecca for students.”

“Towns like Ithaca and Ann Arbor have developed into student-friendly towns with their own economic vitality based on business,” Lefton said. “Kent State University has been here for nearly 100 years, and the city should take advantage of ways to prosper with its built-in student population.”

He thinks it is a shame that Kent State’s 23,000 students are taking their credit cards to surrounding cities to spend on entertainment and clothing, rather than keeping the money here in Kent.

But a 10-question survey available on city manager Dave Ruller’s blog may change that.

Ruller’s survey was generated to get responses from Kent State students and graduates to see what residents would want from Kent, or any other city they would consider starting a life in. So far, about 30 people have replied to the survey.

“Today’s student is potentially tomorrow’s resident or Kent business owner,” Ruller said. “Some of our best success stories in the last five years come from Kent State graduates who have started their own businesses downtown.”

Ruller cited BarCode, Glory Days and Alpha Micron as examples of Kent graduates contributing to the city’s longevity and success.

The city manager hasn’t been surprised by the results of the survey thus far – respondents want safe streets and neighborhoods, unique opportunities and a vibrant downtown.

Lefton wants to see more book stores, restaurants, coffee shops and record stores be involved with shaping downtown Kent. He is working with the city to develop a closer link between it and the university. He said plans to develop a hotel and convention center complex are in the early planning stages. He also discussed extending the University Esplanade -ÿa pathway that goes across campus – to downtown Kent.

While the survey will remain online indefinitely, Ruller hopes to compile the results over the next couple of months.

“The more responses we get, the more useful it will be as we structure our economic development programs over the next couple months,” he said. “Now’s a great time to get online and take it so your voice will be heard.”

Emma Fischer, sophomore speech pathology major, plans on leaving the state when she graduates -but said she wouldn’t change a single thing about Kent, describing it as “the perfect college town.”

“Kent is the town – there’s really nothing else to it, there are no big stores,” Fischer said.

Junior biology major and Warren resident Tom Humes would consider living in the area. He said there are plenty of things to do in Kent, despite the apparent lack of downtown night life for people under the age of 21.

And voids like this one are the holes that Ruller hopes to fill.

“It (Kent) is not just a city, but a chance to create opportunities,” he said.

Contact public affairs reporter Ben Breier at [email protected].