Many people long to live in a community where people know and care about each other. Surveys on happiness and quality of life indicate that the aspect most often correlated with satisfaction is regular contact with a network of friends-community. It ranked higher than income.
Laurent Beltsie, a reporter for the Christian Science Monitor was interviewed about his series, "Alone on the Range". He was asked if he thought rural communities of the Heartland would survive. He said that while all the trends were against them he would not count them out because he was so impressed by the people he had interviewed-their spirit, their entrepreneurial bent and devotion to working together to make their community work.
That is social capital. That is the place where communities can augment themselves to create great places to live. Communities can enhance their future by establishing a culture of working together to solve problems, launch new initiatives and make their communities a better place to live. Community development is essential to the process of economic development. We must make our communities attractive places to lure the companies that are relocating or expanding and the people that fill the subsequent jobs. How do we do that?
First young people and young families must be involved in the community. If we want to keep them, if we want them to move here, we need to give them some influence in making the community a place they want to live and raise their children. We need to find and develop the young talent that we have in the community so that they can be effective as our future leaders.
This generation has unique needs. They want activities such as aquatic centers, libraries, youth baseball and soccer, dance and music and other programs to enrich the lives of their children. They want activities to fill their free time such as access to outdoor recreation with biking/hiking/equestrian trails, scenic parks with accommodations for camping, lakes for swimming and boating. They desire cultural activities such as music, museums, the arts and entertainment and an attractive community with unique shopping and historic buildings with character. They want opportunities to develop hobbies. They want technology such as high speed internet, dependable wireless service and technical support. They want access to quality education for their children and to continuing educational opportunities for themselves to be lifelong learners. They want safety and security in their homes, on the streets and in the schools. They want the simple life but not so simple. This is a demanding generation, but we raised them.
I believe that Cherokee County has made great strides in getting these assets in place to make us more attractive and competitive. There is still much more work to be done. This is important work to the economic development of the County. CAEDC will continue to assist our member communities develop these features as well as business recruitment and development as they form a symbiotic relationship, each dependent on the other for growth.