Welcome to the second round of our third annual Strongest Town Competition! 8 towns are facing off right now and 4 will advance to the next segment of the contest based on your votes.

We invite you to view the photos and descriptions that representatives from these two towns submitted to showcase their economic strength and resilience. Voting closes at 12pm CT on Friday, March 16.

Twin Falls, Idaho

Entry submitted by: Nathan Murray, Travis Rothweiler, Shawn Barigar, Nikki Boyd, Suzanne Hawkins, Greg Lanting, Chris Talkington, Ruth Pierce, Chris Reid, Jeff Fox, Brady Dickinson, Zeze Rwaswama, Rebecca Wildman, and Steve Irwin

Main Avenue

If Twin Falls ever wins a World Series this is where people would go to celebrate. It’s where the original townsite was surveyed and developed and still remains a vibrant location or retail and dining. Recently, the City completed a $6.5m redesign and upgrade to seven blocks of Main Avenue, including updated sidewalk, festival streets, storm drain utilities, furniture and landscaping. The goal is to better handle the large number of events that happen downtown all year-round.

 Source: Drew Nash

Source: Drew Nash

Snake River Canyon

Like many communities in the desert Mountain West, Twin Falls is a City that respects it’s water. Since the days of the Carey Act and our enterprising farmers who developed ways to get water out of the Snake River Canyon and onto the fertile plains, community leaders have cared for this precious recourse and worked hard safeguard it for future generations. The Magic Valley Region of Southern Idaho has some of the most progressive water laws in the country and in the past five years the City of Twin Falls has invested over $130m to improve water and sewer infrastructure.

 Source: Marjorie McBride

Source: Marjorie McBride

Base Jumping

The Perrine Bridge in Twin Falls is the only structure in North American that you do not need permission to jump from. We see this as a symbol of pioneering and adventuresome spirit of the west. The thousands of individuals that jump from the structure, and the visitors that come to watch them, naturally care for the bridge and its environs and act responsibly around this priviledge.

 Source: Josh Palmer

Source: Josh Palmer

Canyon Rim Trail

For many years, the Canyon Rim Trail on the south edge of the Snake River Canton was two separate, disjointed paths between Shoshone Falls and Auger Falls. Last year, a concerned group of citizens formed the Magic Valley trail enhancement committee and raised over $600k to purchase the property to connect the two trails, and perform improvements to the 8.5m contiguous pathway. The group is still active and raising money for additional trail improvements throughout the City.

 Source: Marjorie McBride

Source: Marjorie McBride

Christmas Tree Lighting

Currently, the City of Twin Falls is constructing a Downtown Commons across from its City Hall. A tree lighting ceremony this past December was the commencement for construction and many people gathered to celebrate the holiday season.

 Source: Marjorie McBride

Source: Marjorie McBride

Pensacola, Florida

Entry submitted by: Studer Community Institute and Pensacola News Journal

Palafox St. named one of America’s great streets

The heart of downtown Pensacola—Palafox St.—was named one of the great streets in the U.S. in a 2013 ranking by the American Planning Association. The recent revitalization along the street was facilitated by the City’s decision to return it to its original two-way traffic flow, as well as adding stop signs, which helped to calm traffic and create more pleasant conditions for pedestrians and outdoor seating at restaurants. The street is a hub of activity among preserved late 19th and early 20th century buildings, with many restaurants, bars, and retail stores mixed with office and residential space above.

 Source: Leadership Pensacola

Source: Leadership Pensacola

Pensacola Business Challenge helps to spur renewal

To help to jumpstart the redevelopment of a mostly vacant block of Palafox St., the Pensacola Business Challenge was funded by local philanthropists Quint and Rishy Studer. The winner of the challenge received reduced rates on a three-year lease in an empty storefront, a startup fund of $25,000 for capital expenses, and continued mentoring and business training. Entrepreneur MariCarmen Josephs won, opening Carmen’s Lunch Bar and helping to spark the renewal of a prominent block that is now fully renovated and occupied with a mix of retail and upstairs residences.


Intact street grid helps create transportation choices

With so much of Pensacola built prior to the proliferation of autos and car-centric street standards, the city has a broad and mostly intact street grid that makes bicycling and walking much easier. Covering most of a roughly three miles by four miles area of town, this street grid helps to slow traffic and provides the short connections between locations that help create mobility choices other than the automobile. One of the great community projects made possible by the connected street network is a monthly Slow Ride, which brings nearly 500 cyclists at a time onto city streets for a leisurely ride through a diversity of neighborhoods.


 Early learning gardens encourage childhood brain development

In looking for solutions to low high school graduation rates, research by the Studer Community Institute determined that a large percentage of local children are not getting the stimulation needed in early years of life to prepare them for kindergarten and lifelong learning. The Institute is working with local partners that include hospitals, schools, and community groups to educate parents about communicating with their children—especially during the most critical first three years of life. Early learning gardens throughout the city are a hands-on part of that effort, helping parents connect with their children in ways that stimulate early brain development.

Blues café brings life back to prominent neighborhood

The Belmont Devilliers neighborhood was once the thriving heart of African-American life in Pensacola, as a distinct and highly-walkable community where all daily needs could be met.  After decades of disinvestment and decay, the neighborhood saw its first major infusion of new life in 2010 when local investors renovated a historic building and opened a soul food restaurant that has inspired additional investment around it. The Five Sisters Blues Café takes inspiration from the neighborhood’s rich musical history, and is co-owned and managed by Jean Pierre N’Dione, who grew-up in West Africa and rose from server into management and ownership after immigrating to the U.S. in 1998.


Voting is now closed.