America’s best: Westfield aims to win millions for economic development in nationwide contest


By Anna Skinner

The City of Westfield has gotten one step closer to receiving $3 million.

Westfield has been competing in the America’s Best Communities competition, where they were just recently named as a quarterfinalist with 49 other cities across the nation, beating out more than 350 other communities who originally entered.

Sponsored by Frontier Communications, Dish Network, CoBank and The Weather Channel, the competition is described as an “initiative to stimulate economic revitalization in small towns and cities.”

By advancing to the quarterfinals of the competition, Mayor Cook along with the Downtown Westfield Association accepted a check for $50,000 from Frontier Communications.

The acceptance took place at Bridgewater on Aug. 13, accompanied by dinner and drinks with most of the Westfield celebrities in attendance.

If Westfield wins the competition, the city has said the money will be put towards the creation of Grand Junction and connecting the city’s five trails to make Grand Junction a destination point, similar to Grand Park.

“The Downtown Westfield Association is leading this effort and completing this application,” said Ken Kingshill, executive director of the Downtown Westfield Association. “The Grand Junction project itself is a community revitalization plan, and the whole project was to create an economic development catalyst. The idea was that if we build, they will come.”

Jim Ake, a city councilor and active member of the DWA, said, “We are a city on the move. We are a bold city. We make plans, and we complete them. We have a saying around here that Westfield is the best field.”

Right now, the city says they will use the $50,000 award money to “develop a comprehensive strategy to accelerate the revival of the local economy and improve quality of life,” something that is required of the competition.

The city was also awarded a GoPro camera to document their journey via social media in doing just that. By searching for the hash tag #ABC50, residents of the cities in the competition can see local videos and updates of each community’s efforts.

By Nov. 6, the final “community revitalization plan” must be complete. The plan will address both a short and long-term vision, complete with an 11-month implementation plan, where the city will spell out their plans with a budget of only $100,000.

America’s Best Communities says the $100,000 budget is low, but important, as it is the prize amount semi-finalists will receive after the next round of competition. Finalists in the competition will then be able to restructure and add to their plans using a $3 million budget.

Semi-finalists will be chosen early next year, narrowing the competition down to 15 communities or less. After that, eight or less will be chosen as finalists in April 2016, and in April 2017, three winners will be chosen with awards of $3 million for first place, $2 million for second and $1 million for third.

Westfield is competing against cities around the country, and the state.


“…How does Westfield do that?” Mayor Andy Cook asked at the event.  Mayor Andy Cook asked at the event. “We have this intangible thing called community collaboration, and that’s the main reason why Westfield is where it is today – the involvement of our citizens.”

Cook described three major programs with Westfield that brings it up to par with the other cities in the competition, pinpointing those programs as Grand Park, the Westfield Youth Assistance Program and the Grand Junction project.

“The fact is our community has worked very hard to develop these unique programs, and has it paid off? Right now, people are looking at Westfield in a lot different light than 10 years ago,” Cook said.

Fast Facts

  • Other communities Westfield has been pitted against in the competition include cities in: Arizona, California, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Washington, West Virginia and Wisconsin.
  • 20 percent of the competition lies within Indiana in the cities of Angola, Greencastle, Jasper, Lafayette, LaPorte, Madison, Richmond, Terre Haute, Wabash and Valparaiso.

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