We cannot underestimate the utility of viewing our work, our application of knowledge, and what we do to survive as anything less than a system. When we strive to pinpoint the golden key to everything economic, we miss the systemic view and the attachment of peripheral economic activity and their subsequent importance on the quality of life of a community and its citizens.
We must look beyond the notion that our well being as a community and for its citizens rests in the hands of the sometimes invisible being of economic development. The central issue as brought out in the economic summit was the community quality of life.
As Jo Ann McCormick noted, economic development leaders want the buy in of the community, but usually stop short by relying on the “safety” and “comfort” of those in their immediate circles. Economic development leaders want community input, but they don’t get it, nor do they ask.
While there is an obvious need for a community strategic plan for our economic development, their certainly is also a broader need for a community vision. At the heart of this need of a well crafted, representative vision, are the citizens of the community. What might be the most important aspect of the development of any sort of plan, is the process taken to achieve its final draft. No, we do not need a man, white man on a white horse to assume some understanding of the type of economic environment that our community wants. A couple of sessions in our Leadership Owensboro program will suffice to provide the historical, and current background as to how “business”, rather how “leadership” is conducted in this community. While the work and the agreement of a few may be easier “to get things done”, and may be better in the short term, it does not benefit the community in the mid to long term. This appears to me to be the struggle that was echoed in the economic summit. A different planning strategy for the mid to long term is needed, a process that builds relationships of community citizens, and outlines with citizens their views with the overall community vision of this community. I would suggest that for many community leaders, this is a scary proposition. The small power elite model of leadership is still in full force, and is unfortunately the foundation of which we are led to believe that rational, intellectual, and progressive thinking occurs in Owensboro-Daviess County.
Might we be best served to go to the community, to its workers, to its citizens, to its families, children, grandparents, and grandchildren, and ask them what their vision of the future of Owensboro-Daviess County would be? Might we build upon their dreams? Are the ramifications too grand if their hopes and dreams are fundamentally different than those in administrative and in community leadership positions? Do we know what the citizens of this community think and feel about our future? Is it not important that we ask them? Would community wide ownership of a strategic vision for the future enable us to be more efficient, effective, and successful in meeting our goals?
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