This Tuesday at 6 p.m., the public is invited to a community forum, "On the Fort Dodge Horizon," that will be held in the new BioScience and Health Sciences Building at Iowa Central Community College. The purpose of this forum is to celebrate the tremendous progress that is taking place in Fort Dodge and Webster County and to have a dialogue on how we continue to move Fort Dodge forward. Every so often, all of us need a little inspiration to raise our spirits and motivate us in our work or in our personal lives. Communities are no different. There are times when citizens struggle to keep thinking positively about their community and its future. The "On the Fort Dodge Horizon" event will give us the opportunity to take note of our progress and talk about how to keep the momentum going forward and stay focused on our positive vision for our community. At this event, 11 community projects will be showcased to demonstrate how progress continues in our community and county, even during these tough economic times.
Keynoting the event will be Debi Durham, president of the Siouxland Initiative. Durham has played a major leadership role in advancing economic and community development in Sioux City. Her leadership has helped the Siouxland area receive national recognition for outstanding economic development achievement for four consecutive years. Durham is a dynamic speaker who talks passionately on the subject of community and economic development.
The Fort Dodge Community Foundation and United Way will also be presenting recognition awards to two businesses, one volunteer group and one individual for making a difference in our community. The two businesses being recognized are UPS and Valero Energy Co. The volunteer organization is PICA - Pride In Community Appearance - for its outstanding volunteer work in enhancing our community's appearance. We are also offering special recognition to Lisa Koll, the former Fort Dodge prep who recently completed her athletic career at Iowa State University as one of Iowa's greatest collegiate track athletes. It should be an enjoyable and uplifting evening for all.
Building a 21st Century Community sounds like an abstract idea. In essence, a 21st Century Community is a city or town that is forward thinking, engaged and proactive in doing the things necessary to position itself for long-term economic and community growth. Many economists and economic development experts agree that 21st Century Communities share nine common elements that are ingrained in the culture of their communities. These elements are highlighted in the box at right.
The vitality of a community is often measured in terms of its quality of life and its economic vigor. Quality of life is a key element in an effective community-development plan and cannot be fully achieved without the support of a vibrant economy. Twenty-first Century Communities understand that community development and economic development are integrally linked together in a synergistic way. The economic vitality of 21st Century Communities is based on their ability to sustain and advance a growing economy that offers citizens good-paying jobs, opportunities for career growth and the expansion of wealth. Community development includes factors that impact quality of life such as education, health care, housing, environment, recreation, entertainment, arts and culture, etc. Implementing effective community-development strategies significantly enhances a community's ability to attract new jobs, new workers and retain current employees. Without positive community development, the chances of strong economic development are diminished.
Twenty-first Century Communities are addressing the critical factors that impact their ability to develop and sustain a vital community and a prosperous economy. Today, with a global economy and advancing technology, the paradigm for economic and community development has changed. Entrepreneurs and successful businesses across the nation are responding to the new innovation economy that has emerged due to the Internet and the use of advanced technology, supercomputers and digital, high-speed communication and information. In rural America, 21st Century Communities understand this new paradigm - that to compete in the global marketplace, they must develop regional partnerships and nurture cultures that promote the growth of local business, support innovation and advance entrepreneurship.
Nine Elements of 21st Century Communities
Visionary leadership: They have positive, energetic and visionary leaders in their business, civic and government sectors that are engaged and committed to collaborative planning, proactive leadership and progressive action.
Innovation and entrepreneurship: They are building an innovation economy - promoting an entrepreneurial spirit and fostering a culture of creativity and innovation to ensure sustained economic relevance.
Investment: They invest in themselves so they will have the capital and resources they need to grow and prosper. This investment is a combination of government, business and private investment.
21st-century jobs: They work diligently to attract high-paying, new economy jobs that offer opportunities to skilled workers, knowledge workers and entrepreneurs who value real potential for career growth and advancement, and an attractive earning index.
21st-century education: They are committed to sustaining high-quality educational opportunities for youth and all citizens, including a variety of advanced educational opportunities, state-of-the-art technology and lifelong learning that fosters innovation, creativity and entrepreneurship.
21st -century training: They partner with area institutions of higher education to provide state-of-the-art training to meet the changing and expanding needs of the business sector in the region.
Quality of life: They understand that today's workers value opportunities for recreation, entertainment, leisure and culture and want to live in a safe, livable and healthy community that offers a higher quality of life.
Social capital: They foster social capital, which can be measured by a community's degree of self-reliance, connectedness and engagement of its citizens for advancing their community through their commitment of time, talent and resources.
Regionalism: They are willing to break down old geographic barriers and outdated thinking and are open to collaboration and partnering with other communities in the region to share ideas, leverage resources and advance development strategies.
'On the FD Horizon'featured projects
City of Fort Dodge Corridor project
Downtown Redevelopment project
Aquatics Center project
Trail System expansion project
New Fort Dodge Middle School
Loomis Park project
Fort Dodge Regional Airport renovation
Trinity Cancer Center project
Friendship Haven renovation project
Fort Dodge Endowment project
Beacon of Hope project
From a local perspective, achieving an "innovation economy" is based on a community's ability to translate innovative ideas into new technologies, products and services. This requires the ability to attract and invest local and external resources and gain active participation of all stakeholders in a collaborative process to address the critical issues of the day with new solutions. Real community action takes place at the local level. As the slogan extols, "think global, act local," it will be action taken by individuals and communities, on a daily basis, that will cumulatively be able to stimulate, nurture and develop an innovation economy.
In the spring of 2007, Jack Schultz, a renowned community developer and author of the book "Boomtown USA," spoke to a group of business and civic leaders in Fort Dodge about communities across the nation that were thriving and the reasons behind their success. Schultz stated, "Communities that invest in themselves will be the ones that will prosper and thrive in the 21st Century. The communities that hope and wait for government help, be it from Washington, D.C., or their state government, will be greatly disappointed and will soon find themselves in a state of despair." Jack Schultz pointed out that thriving, vital communities have engaged citizens that understand that an investment of their time, talent and resources is an investment in the prosperity of their community for today and for the future.
Progressive, 21st Century Communities in the rural Midwest are implementing bold new community and economic-development strategies to transform their communities and their economies. The 21st Century pathway to growth and economic vitality incorporates five critical parts of a comprehensive strategy: invest in your community and its quality of life; promote a culture of innovation and entrepreneurship; support and invest in the growth of local businesses; foster collaboration and trust through all sectors of the community; and break down old geographic boundaries to advance regional partnerships.
The late Robert F. Kennedy once said, "There are those who look at things the way they are, and ask 'why?' ... I dream of things that never were and ask 'why not?'"
Twenty-first Century Communities ask themselves - why not? They value the importance of planning, dreaming and having a vision for a positive future. A community's vision is often built around the ingenuity and passion of its citizens and their desire for something even better. We have all heard the familiar quote, "If you aim at nothing, you will hit it every time." Having a vision for our community and then taking the necessary steps to make it happen gives us something to aim for in the years ahead. Knowing what it takes to become a 21st Century Community provides us with a road map that will steer us in the right direction.
"On the Fort Dodge Horizon" will be an invigorating event and will encourage us to continue our progress toward a vision of vitality and prosperity in the years ahead. We hope you will join us Tuesday at the new BioScience and Health Sciences Building at Iowa Central to celebrate our progress and participate in a dialogue about our community and how we continue moving it forward.
Randy Kuhlman is chief executive officer of the Fort Dodge Community Foundation and United Way.