Rod Pender said that it was honor to introduce one of his best friends and today’s speaker, Joe Williams from Old National Bank, who spoke to us today about the efforts of One Lenawee. One Lenawee, Joe said was simply a group of concerned citizens who want to make Lenawee a great place to live and work. The group was formed in 2009 with a goal of forming a county-wide vision in terms of where do we want to go and what do we want to be five years from now? A Steering Committee was formed and the mission began.
A couple of community meetings were held at the beginning of this past year at SHU. Experts were called in to give us suggestions about what counties our size should be doing. The next step was to hold separate community forums consisting of civic leaders, profit and non-profit organizations and students that were facilitated by a representative from MSU. During those meetings participants were asked what they felt the strengths as well as the weaknesses of this county were and what we needed to do improve. Meetings were also held separately with 200 college seniors and with high school-aged students in the county who were asked the same questions.
“How do we retain our young people?” Joe said, was the big question. He went on to say that those with a 4-year degree and higher in Lenawee County fared below the state average and also below the national average. On the other hand, the county’s high school graduation rate was better than the state and national average as well. That tells us that these kids are going away to college but not coming back to the county. So, Joe added, “if you look at successful communities in the state and country, the higher educated people are, the more thriving it becomes.”
From all the information collected during all of these meetings, the data resulted in the formulation of seven priority areas. Those areas are: Placemaking – Arts/Culture & Natural Resources; Community/Collaboration; Workforce Development; Promotion/Marketing; Lifestyle Choices; Infrastructure; Entrepreneurships. These groups continue to meet and have been tasked with setting 3-5 goals (while keeping them simple) they would like to see implemented within the next 1-3 years by next month which will be followed by determining the strategic initiatives to accomplish them.
There is still time for anyone interested to join one of the seven areas and make suggestions and provide input. You may call Joe Williams if interested at Old National Bank.