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Think Tank Considers the Future of Richmond


For the past five years a think-tank in Richmond has been researching, crunching numbers and collecting interviews to answer the question: What does the region's future look like?  Thursday night, for the first time, they delivered some of their findings to a packed auditorium at the Richmond Times Dispatch. 

Topics of the evening varied, from how to attract new people to trends in population growth.  But Ken Johnson, one of the panelists and president of a local marketing firm, was the first in the packed room to directly address Richmond's troubled racial past -- and present.

"And I think our community refuses to have the real dialogue about it, and we have to find a way to have that real conversation,” Johnson says. “Not just in our homes, but in church on Sunday, and in our offices on a weekly basis. That's what we're lacking."

Many agree that could hurt the region's economic future. For instance, a major focus of the evening was how to attract millennials to the area, and near the end of the night a younger audience member stood up to speak.

"Good evening, My name is Michael Parsons and I think in a lot of ways I am one of the kind of people Richmond wants to attract," says Parsons.

Parsons moved here a couple years ago, along with his then-girlfriend, now-wife. He says he can almost see Richmond as their forever-home.

"If there is one thing that might eventually drive us away it is always having an East End and a West End, a rich end and a poor end, a black end and a white end,” Parson says. “I don't want my kids to be raised in a place where there's a black section of town or a poor section of town, and a white section of town and a rich section of town."

The group hopes results from their research can help guide the region’s priorities and policies over the coming years.


Mallory Noe-Payne is Radio IQ's Richmond reporter and bureau chief.
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