Are You Planning for Changes?

John Reid, GMA President

February 7, 2013

John Reid
 John Reid
Whether we want it or not, change is inevitable. This is evident in our own lives; we begin as infants totally dependent on our parents for survival, move through childhood and adolescence into adulthood, have families, and then hopefully retire and enjoy our remaining years. We can’t help but change, it’s part of our “nature.” And all along, our likes and dislikes, as well as our opinions, beliefs and understanding of things, all undergo a transformation.

The same is true in the lives of our cities. Take West Point, just one example of many in Georgia. Once a thriving mill town, the economics of that industry altered significantly and the city experienced a number of years of decline. But positive change began and now the city is moving forward. Its downtown is the new home of Point University and because of the Kia plant and its suppliers, the city and the surrounding communities have become a manufacturing hub. Similar stories of transformation are happening in cities across Georgia.

The key to not being overwhelmed by “change” is to understand, believe in and focus our energies on the future.

It’s a balancing act for city officials. We must understand our past without wasting time and energy wishing for its return. We must deal with realities of the here and now. And just more than believing in a better future, we must create the vision for that future. That’s what West Point and others have done and it’s what we have to do collectively as members of GMA.

It is through our work together that we can tackle the changes happening to our cities by articulating a vision for the future of not just a city, but for all of Georgia’s cities. It’s a vision that recognizes that whether large or small, cities have an important role in our economy and that the density of activity and creativity found in them is an asset for the entire state.

This collective vision of cities recognizes the importance of the cost effectiveness of the infrastructure found in them and that it takes planning and ongoing investment to maintain and expand it.

This vision also recognizes the need for city officials to have the tools and autonomy to make decisions they feel that will make their community strong and prosperous.

To be successful, this vision must be grounded by an appreciation of cities by state leaders and a profound spirit of cooperation between state and local leaders. The desire of city officials for a better future for their community, through jobs and economic prosperity and a high quality-of-life, does not conflict with the vision our state leaders have for Georgia as a whole.

The challenge we have is three-fold. First, we must understand and accept the changes that are happening in our communities, the economy and in our politics. Second, we must creatively adapt to these changes. Finally, we must be willing to take the time to articulate a vision for the future of not just our own city, but for all the cities in Georgia.