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Regular people working together can achieve incredible things.
Editor’s note: Thrive 2055 requested an opportunity to respond to recent comments in a “Shades of Green” column.
A lot can happen in 40 years.
During the 1970s, Chattanooga was struggling to overcome the stigma of its designation as the “Dirtiest City in America.” Today, we’re the “Gig City,” attracting a wave of individuals and families seeking prosperity of mind, body and wallet. This would not have been achieved without the actions of people who shared a passion, organized together, and dreamed big.
Thrive 2055 has built on that lesson, bringing together people from 16 counties to work together to address the common issues that potentially threaten our future prosperity, this time as a region.
When it launched in 2012, Thrive 2055 and its volunteers didn’t know what those issues would be. What they knew was that the area had seen $4 billion in new investments since 2008; that the region was forecasted to grow by nearly 400,000 new people; and that if we didn’t start talking about the change on the horizon, we would be reacting, rather than innovating.
And so came the question: How can we preserve our quality of life while seizing economic opportunities? Sheriffs from the 16 counties, meeting together for the first time ever, said the best way to improve public safety was to help kids to read and to create more jobs. “That’s one less jail cell we have to open,” one said.
During public input opportunities, communities across the region affirmed that education and jobs were priorities. So, Education and Training and Regional Economic Development became two of the four initiatives of Thrive 2055.
In addition, people expressed concern about conditions that make traveling around the region for work, school and leisure difficult. They also revealed that some of the most appealing aspects of living here are scenic beauty, access to outdoor recreation and pristine natural features. “We don’t want to ‘love’ to death the land that that gives us not only pleasure but also sustenance,” someone commented.
So, Regional Transportation and Natural Treasures became the other two initiatives of Thrive 2055.
Volunteers from across the 16-county region are working together to pursue solutions to those concerns. Some of these include bringing about a first-time regional transportation vision, creating a brand to successfully market our entire region to job creators, equipping students with the skills they need to get good jobs, and prioritizing special outdoor places that we should protect.
These are big ideas that require not only time but also the voices and hands of many. In today’s world, where change is inevitable, collaborating with our neighbors to preserve our common values, and to dream—and act—BIG is not only beneficial; it is a necessity.
To learn more about Thrive 2055, visit www.thrive2055.com
Thrive 2055 is a local, citizen-driven, volunteer-led initiative funded by private businesses, foundations, and local governments. The 16 counties of the project are Jackson and DeKalb in Alabama; Dade, Walker, Catoosa, Murray and Whitfield in Georgia; and Bledsoe, Bradley, Hamilton, Marion, McMinn, Meigs, Polk, Rhea and Sequatchie in Tennessee.