Originally published in the Columbus Telegram
Well friends, for the 21st year The Telegram has given me the opportunity to share New Year’s resolutions as we turn the calendar.
First, a few reflections on the wishes from last year. Twelve months ago, we were hoping there was a clear end to the pandemic on the horizon. Certainly nobody would claim we’ve reached that point, so what positive can we take from this? I hope that perhaps we’re building resolve and resilience. Those are qualities not built when things are easy, so maybe this period of testing is making us more resilient as Nebraskans, as Americans and as humans—and more resolute in our intent to be good neighbors, friends and community members. Maybe?
A year ago we shared a wish for Greater Nebraska to pursue greater partnerships to move us forward together on some big issues. In fairness, I have to admit our progress on this one has been slowed by ongoing virus uncertainty, so I’ll characterize 2021 as a year of “setting the stage.” While we haven’t necessarily seen results on Nebraska issues like people attraction, broadband, childcare and housing, I would submit there have been significant early steps.
As an example, the Nebraska Department of Economic Development’s new “The Good Life is Calling” people attraction campaign launched in October. This marriage of marketing and recruitment holds real promise, and it’s great to see a state-level effort to move people to Nebraska with serious resources behind it. New partnerships are beginning on the housing front, which is a necessary corollary to any people attraction campaign. There are serious discussions about rural broadband alongside increasing public resources becoming available.
Further, I would submit that the recent Transfer of Wealth (TOW) Study, the NCF Nebraska Youth Survey and the 2020 census indicate that the stage is set for us in these areas. I could share many examples of rural Nebraska counties where the 2020 census shows the most positive population trends in many decades. It is my belief that this decade or next will be the first since the 1890s that shows overall growth in rural Nebraska. And the TOW Study and Youth Survey show us the human and financial resources will be there to capitalize on that growth.
So, just as we thought a year ago, 2022 holds that promise of unprecedented progress. But it’s only potential until we act together. And potential doesn’t change lives or change communities.
In that light, my wish is that Nebraska makes a joint New Year’s resolution to build the partnerships necessary to go from “setting the stage” to “launching.” Specifically, I hope we’ll see a model built this year that brings together public, private and charitable resources to do housing work in at least one Nebraska region. I hope we’ll see at least one example of a new regional marketing and recruiting effort that builds on the state’s new people attraction campaign. And I resolve that NCF will have at least one awesome example of youth being engaged in community leadership that builds on what we’ve learned in the Youth Survey.
From those efforts will come examples of success that will inspire, motivate and teach others to do what works in their region. And that’s when big dreams start coming true, giving us a much higher bar to start from on the New Year’s Resolutions of 2023!
For now I’ll say Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to you from Nebraska Community Foundation and all the local affiliated funds that are building that bright future in our hometowns!
2022 holds a promise of unprecedented progress. But it’s only potential until we act together.