Friday, February 11, 2011

The Value of a Fresh Perspective

This summer our community has enjoyed the presence and efforts of 41 interns from the University System of Georgia and the Savannah College of Art and Design. Through the efforts of the Archway Partnership, The City of Dalton, Whitfield County Dalton State College, Dalton Utilities, and many of our floor-covering companies, these interns have been working on a variety of projects that will contribute to a more successful Dalton-Whitfield!

Over the last couple of weeks, these bright and energetic young professionals have spoken to civic groups, the Dalton City Council, the Whitfield County Board of Commissioners, and the Chamber of Commerce partners about their work. A fresh perspective is invaluable when seeking to do things differently or creatively. The work that these interns have produced is amazing. They have not only dreamed big in thinking what can be, they have also delivered their work product such that we can implement / execute these wonderful ideas over time and as resources become available.

The economic development goals of this community are fairly simple: insure that all who seek a job can obtain one, that wage rates and our standard of living increases over time, and that the community’s wealth also increases over time. These goals can be achieved if the community as a whole remains focused on quality growth. I believe most people want to be successful and be involved in successful activities, organizations, and teams. Businesses are no different. Successful communities are more attractive to new and existing companies’ more than unsuccessful ones are.

As I am afforded the wonderful opportunity to work for our great community, it is exciting to see and dream “what could be.” As I envision the new “miracle field” that Whitfield County intends to build, or hear Ty Ross speak about the City of Dalton’s green space improvements, or Mayor Peeples’ vision for a new Varnell, and the steady and consistent quality of life improvements that are routine for Tunnel Hill - I smile and stick out my chest grateful to live in such a dynamic place with tremendous potential.

To do things out of the ordinary takes courage. To break new ground is risky. The naysayers lack vision. They are happy or satisfied with the status quo. Many of them think the good ole days are worth returning to. Their favorite mirror is the rearview mirror. As Jack Turner once said, “I lived through the good ole days, and I don’t remember them being all that good.” Change is uncomfortable, painful, undesired, sometimes hated, confusing, scary, etc. Change is also guaranteed and constant!

One of the green space projects that seem the most logical in the short-term is the Crawford Street median improvement. This project will cost money. In these economic times, every dollar must be scrutinized. But all expenditures are not sunk costs. Many are investments. The Crawford Street project would create a beautiful and pedestrian-centric corridor leading into and out of downtown that would be an investment in quality of life for the citizens of Dalton. Just as the citizens of Varnell have benefitted from the park enhancing the Varnell Spring, downtown Dalton needs and can benefit from more green space.

With just the mention of this project, the objection of losing parking comes up. The area to be improved is down the middle of a four-lane street that the volume of traffic only warrants a two-lane street. If parking is affected, let’s do our homework and solve for it and not throw out the baby with the bath water.

The interns this summer have produced ideas by thinking about the possible not the impossible. They have truly had the freedom and encouragement to think big! Although budgets and funding and a thousand of other barriers exist that prevent breaking out of the pack, these talented young professionals have shown us not only what is possible but also what is doable.

The Dalton-Whitfield Chamber of Commerce is grateful for each of these interns, the institutions they represent, our elected officials and business partners who supported them, the Archway Partnership, Melissa Lu, Ty Ross, Don Cope, and Bob McLeod. We are especially grateful to Elichai and Melanie Hoenig for their outreach efforts and for creating a new and exciting partnership with the Savannah College of Art and Design. The value of a fresh perspective is appreciated!

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