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Joining the Renissance

August 14, 2010

The announcement of a $3 million dollar grant to the village of Leipsic has direct impact on our, if we choose to take advantage of this opportunity.

For those unaware, the Ohio Department of Development recently awarded Leipsic a grant to complete their work on the small railroad yard being built there to serve local industries. Leipsic’s unique position at being a junction point of three rail lines serves an opportunity and they have taken advantage of this fact.  The end goal of course, is more jobs. However, this is one piece of a multi-piece puzzle in a small industrial renaissance that is occurring in Putnam County.

Which leaves  our communities with a question to answer, what can we do to be a part of this renaissance? With two “industrial parks” (which, incidentally, are better described as commerce parks or business centers), one would think business would be flocking into the region like they are doing so in Leipsic. Why is this not the case?

Many small towns are suffering from an identity crisis. Much like a young person goes through as they reach adulthood, the angst of a small town finding its way is a similar crisis. Conflicting ideas and values, a desire to change yet not sure how, an uncomfortable-ness with it’s skin and a foggy vision of its place in the world all describes countless small towns across the Heartland.

What to do? We take stock…we take stock in the fact that we have options in education, we have a fantastic community pool, we have a data backbone with a regional high speed internet provider, we have a down town that wants to survive, we have small business owners that see the value. The upcoming sewer separations projects will begin to advance the utility infrastructure. The human capital of skilled, educated, and dedicated citizens exists in this community (however their voices are seldom heard).

Yet, there are pockets of issues that cause deep consternation. These issues are killing off our chances at being a viable player in this new economy.  We have crumbling sewer lines and sidewalks that lead to nowhere. Home sit empty and decaying. Empty store fronts stare blankly at a quiet down town street.

We have seen several towns revamping down towns into a more attractive street scape (see Bluffton and Spencerville as examples). Address the decaying homes by the enforcement of zoning laws and build new sidewalks, but this is only one part of the issue as we know.

Moreover, we must allow ourselves to be open to new ideas and change, accepting that we may mess up along the way, but with the right resolve, we can move forward and remake ourselves into the communities we once were. With our past firmly rooted in our sensibilities, we have can have a firm vision for the future.

Eric

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