This year St. Joseph will celebrate its 175th anniversary. This is a remarkable feat for a community with a remarkable history. While I enjoy learning about and celebrating our local history, I am much more interested in our future. What is the future of St. Joseph?
I have lived in St. Joseph for more than 27 years, and during that time there has been change, some good, some not so good. We have made progress but, in some ways, we have regressed. The truth is this community has unlimited potential, but for a variety of reasons, we have not lived up to this potential.
From my vantage point St. Joseph is at a crossroads. There are many positive things to point to, such as the redevelopment of downtown, a growing job base, a wonderful park system and a low cost of living. But we also have challenges, such as the condition of our neighborhoods, an abundance of trash, concerns about crime and a lack of educational opportunities. Despite the positives and past accomplishments, we are losing the battle. What battle you ask? The competition between cities to attract and retain talent, to grow and to become more prosperous.
This may seem like a strange thing for a Chamber President to say, but the harsh reality is, in this competitive world, a community and its leadership must be willing to take on the difficult issues, understand and embrace the need for change and make the effort to be better. Doing the same thing will only keep us in the same place.
So where do we begin? It starts with creating a vision for our future, the future of St. Joseph. What do we want it to be? What can it be?
Over the next several months the Chamber will bring to St. Joseph a community visioning process called “Foresight Planning.” Other communities have pursued the process, most notably Omaha with its “Omaha 2040 Plan.” The process is designed to bring people together to create a future vision for St. Joseph and create shared goals that we can embrace and aspire to. From that, various organizations in the community, public, private and not-for-profit, can build their own organizational strategic plans, based on achieving a shared vision of the future. All of us on the same page, working together, achieving together on our shared future.
Unrealistic, you say? Perhaps. Naïve? Maybe. But this I know, there is nothing that we can’t achieve when we all work together and if we do nothing, we will leave a legacy of failing to reach our potential. Our future is before us, let’s seize this opportunity to be the kind of community we can be and want to be.
R. Patt Lilly
President and CEO
St. Joseph Chamber of Commerce