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I feel like Racine will be at a crossroads for much of 2017. We’ve been to the alter several times over the years with regards to potential suitors for development: the former Walker-Ajax Plant, the Arena, and Rodney Blackwell’s portion of the Machinery Row project.
Each are still viable, but could have taken a step forward this year and for various reasons they faltered. Each of the developers courted Racine saying all of the right things. They walked into city hall with great intentions, had beautiful plans, great pitches and then… nothing happened. And I’ve been thinking a lot about why these projects didn’t get the traction they needed to move forward in 2016.
The short answer: The numbers didn’t work out and the market reacted with skepticism. But it’s important for the community to understand that we can’t ignore the challenges we face in growing our city. The sites these development projects are attached to carried a lot of baggage, battle scars if you will of being used for manufacturing. The contamination on some of these sites is significant. So if we want big things to happen here, we need to be open to making it happen. And that requires a different attitude.
So here are my 5 things I want for the Greater Racine area in 2017:
- Let’s stop acting like development roadblocks are failures… because they aren’t. Seriously… I love this community. Constructive criticism about development in Racine is welcome and necessary to creating change. But if you’ve got time to complain, you’ve got time to get busy and help fix it. BE part of the change.
- Let’s own our shortcomings, but KEEP dreaming. This city was perfectly and wonderfully created by people who wanted a place for their dreams to take root. They valued education. They were risk takers. They learned from their mistakes. They figured it out. And they didn’t wait for people to give them work. They got busy and worked on creating their purpose. And if you’ve found your purpose here… great. Please consider sharing your time and talent with others. This community has silo’d itself in so many ways. We need mentors, problem solvers, tinkerers, and risk takers. WE NEED EXAMPLES…
- Let’s keep dreaming, after all this is Invention City. The high-speed fractional motor — the gadget that powered many appliances, malted Milk, floor wax, the first all-steel thresher machines, hair clippers… they all began here. So this whole notion that we need to make things here, yes it’s in our DNA… but we had to dream first. And I’m a big fan of these stories, which is why we’re now running columns by the Racine Heritage Museum. We need to reconnect with those stories… there’s power there. Trust me on this… READ THEM.
- Let’s back the badge, our teachers, and help build up our youth. When I get a phone call from the parent of someone whom I’ve written about when they have gotten in trouble with the law… it breaks my heart. And it’s those phone calls that I use as motivation when I write about the shortcomings we have with our mental health system. But it also reminds me that I want our site to be a better resource for the community. So we’ll be working on building resource pages to help the community. If you’ve got ideas around what that might look like, I’m open to hearing them.
- Let’s celebrate our successes. My favorite stories to tell are not your favorite stories to read. I know… I look at how many of you read them. People tell me they want “good news,” but they certainly don’t read it. Can we change that? I’d much rather write a story about your success than failures. So… that’s on you guys if you want to see more of that. Help me on this… please.
We need to make 2017 Racine’s year of making things happen. No more excuses. Let’s make our community a better place to live and all of that starts with our attitude.