My beloved Greenville has been in my heart since I could walk alone as a first grader from our small modest home, on Sweitzer Street to East School. While living here, like many small town kids, I had dreams of moving away and exploring the world. Thankfully, the values my church, family and teachers instilled upon me carried me through my career in the Navy.
Those values are the same values that I strive to teach my children and pray that they are able to take with them as they become older and make their transition into the world. But, today my world is very different and doesn’t include Greenville, except for fond memories and an occasional visit. Like most of my friends we have moved away to other cities to seek jobs, marry and raise our families.
We each, for some reason or another, have decided not to return to Greenville to raise our children and pursue careers. I am shocked each time I return that fewer and fewer people I know are here and there is a cloud of defeatism in the air. Most of this is attributed to lack of quality jobs, increased crime levels that are hand-and-hand with a drug problem that is growing out of control.
I ask myself and I ask people that I know when I visit what is Greenville’s vision? What planning has taken place that will target companies to want to come to Greenville? Do you have Strategic Grow Areas that you are targeting? How are you establishing workforce ready educational programs? How are you telling your vision and engaging with residents?
These are hard questions to answer and if only a few people can answer those question, you have a problem. Every person in town should be able to say “this is our vision and this is how we are going to achieve this vision.”
I challenge Greenville’s Mayor and city council to appoint a Mayor’s Action Committee that includes 12-20 people from various demographical areas around the city to create your 2045 Vision. Their task is to create a shared understanding and provide a thoughtful vision for Greenville to achieve by 2045.
Visioning is a process that the committee will accomplish to identify a preferred future for Greenville that draws on the values of the community and your hopes for the future. By identifying where you want to go as a community this committee can present recommendations to the Mayor and City Council not as a plan of action but as a guidance that assists city leaders to plan and approve projects that will bring the vision to reality.
In today’s ever-changing world a community with a vision and ability to identify those goals is a community that will strive to manage their future while focusing on long-term outcomes versus fixing current issue/problems.
A community vision will focus on people and their quality of life while creating a mental picture that will inspire and challenge current and former residents. Visioning will emphasize Greenville’s unique qualities and provide direction and motivation for change.
The Vision Committee will not articulate specific steps on how to achieve goals for Greenville but will provide a shared focus on the shared destination and serve as a guideline to creating future plans and establishing future goals and objectives. These targeted, specific goals are what you as a city want to achieve. They are a bridge from where you are today and the vision of Greenville’s future becoming a reality. Each goal and identified objective are incremental steps and may change based on current trends, however your vision will remain constant.
Once the Vision 2045 has created a report providing recommendations to Greenville’s leadership it is upon them to review and identify what strategies they can adopt and how those visions can become reality. Greenville’s community vision begins with the Mayor appointing an action committee and city council supporting the vision planned actions.
Greenville’s vision begins at the doorsteps of the mayor and city council but the entire community is responsible for creating and shaping the vision. That means each citizen, local government, education institutions, businesses, neighborhoods, churches, non-profits and former residents must work together to make the vision a reality.
I recommend that the action committee develop their vision of what a connected, learning and diverse community are while identifying the unique environment that Greenville offers residents. Additionally, develop ideas for active lifestyles and most importantly how do you achieve a thriving economy. Each of these areas will assist in developing growth and prosperity and inspire ex-Greenvillian’s to return to their home town.
I find it refreshing and calming to return home and see all the activities surrounding the fair and students getting ready to return to school. When I do return to Greenville I still have memories of an amazing childhood and a love for my hometown that transcends distance.
Ty Swartz is a citizen columnist. Viewpoints expressed in these opinion pieces are the work of the author. The Daily Advocate does not endorse these viewpoints or the independent activities of the author.