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Columbia leaders head to Florida for conference

About 50 community leaders in Columbia headed to Gainsville Florida for a leadership trip Tuesday morning.

The group is set to brainstorm solutions to different local challenges such as crime, health care, and airport transportation with Florida city leaders.

Several community members attended a similar trip last year and went to Knoxville, Tennessee where they discussed education.

Chamber of Commerce President Matt McCormick said last year’s education ideas are already being implemented into the Columbia Public Schools system.

Superintendent Peter Stiepleman is among the leaders heading out this week, including council members Clyde Ruffin and Ian Thomas. City manager Mike Matthes is attending as well.

McCormick said the goal is to look at something the city is already doing which might need tweaking and try to bring different ideas to the table.

“Usually they’ll present to us for a little bit on the topic, and then we have some good open discussion after that,” he said. “[Then we have] question and answers, you know, ‘what about this, has this been working for you, or we’ve tried this, what has not worked for you, what has worked for you’ and things like that.”

He also made clear the solutions and ideas that come out of the trip should echo through the community.

“It’s not necessarily programs for the chamber to bring back but programs for us as a community to look at or how can we take what we’re already doing and make it better or what are some things we can add in,” he said.

McCormick said the participants pay their own registration fees, but he said they do have some sponsors, including the Forum Development Group.

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