Recently I had the opportunity to be part of the Chamber’s annual Community Leadership Visit to Greenville, South Carolina! Each year, dozens of leader from across the Springfield area visit a peer city to learn lessons and bring home great ideas. I attended as current president of the Leadership Springfield Board.
I must say, if you ever get the chance to visit Greeneville, say “yes!” It’s a great city, with a lot to offer, not only to those who live there, but to their visitors as well. The leaders of Greenville have had a common vision for their community that goes back many years, and it shows.
Like so many downtowns throughout our country, theirs had seen the glory days come and go. It had become a place you really didn’t want to be, especially after dark: broken windows, closed up businesses and abandoned store fronts. But some individuals had a vision. An idea. A hope. Their vision included not only a thriving downtown, but residential development, schools, businesses, medical – all were a part of the dream. They met – a small group at first. But the group grew, and grew and grew. And with that growth, so did the support. The one rule: as ideas were shared, the leadership group never, ever let their minds tell them, “We don’t have the money to do that.” With that thought, and common dreams, and a lot of hard work, they have created a community that I think anyone would be proud to live.
Schools are top of the line; business (big businesses) have found it a place they want to be; beautiful, less wealthy neighborhoods have been refurbished and are thriving! And the downtown … the downtown is incredible. We saw tree-lined streets that were also lined with businesses, hotels, professional baseball and restaurants that bring in visitors and locals daily, and nightly, to enjoy the vibe. And the waterfall – it’s the highlight of it all. The beautiful waterfall was once covered by a four-lane highway and bridge, and few local even knew it existed. Now it has become a beautiful attraction, a scenic lynchpin that moves people to stroll a footbridge above just get a glimpse. I saw it at 11 p.m. on a Thursday night, and there were people everywhere!
I came home to my community, which I love, and immediately had to go to my downtown. The place I frequent for work and play, and dearly love. I looked around with new eyes, new ideas and new dreams! We really weren’t that different from a place like Greenville. I love our beautiful buildings, our businesses, our lofts and restaurants. We’ve got great leaders. We’ve got a great community. And we, too, have dreams. I know I’m personally more committed than ever to doing my part to make sure thoughtful planning and hard work continue to push our community forward. I’m ready to help Springfield find its own “waterfall” – whatever that may be….
Leadership Springfield Board of Directors