Northeast Indiana has its cheerleaders and they’ve been moving a collaborative agenda forward for nearly two decades now.
But not everyone is a fan and even those who are can become complacent.
A couple years ago, the Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership threw a large celebration in downtown Fort Wayne when the area — 11 counties united — received Regional Cities Initiative funding. Hundreds attended to show their support of the development projects that the funding would help complete. Everyone present could feel the excitement in the air — our quality of life was improving, would improve, even more and our economic survival as a prospering, growing community was secured.
That was a couple years ago.
Although a number of quality-of-life projects remain underway, regional leaders continue to search for new ways to keep the energy moving forward. As much as local residents like to see their downtowns, parks and neighborhoods improved, it can become tiring to answer the rallying call year after year.
Take Fort Wayne for example. While downtown residents constantly see the construction of the riverfront project and have the old General Electric buildings hovering in the skyline, reminding them of what’s to come, those living and working in the suburbs can grow weary of hearing about this downtown project and that downtown project.
Even if a person understands how putting dollars into projects like the Kendallville Outdoor Recreation Center or Trine’s Thunder Ice Arena can generate economic payoffs for the entire region, championing the cause can grow exhausting, even annoying.
At times like this, when the region has so much more work to do so that it has a prosperous future, we must remember the allegory of the frog.
If a frog is plopped into a pot of boiling water, it will try and jump out of the pot. However, if you place the frog in lukewarm water, he will not resist and adjust his body temperature accordingly. He will not notice the temperature rising as you increase the heat. He will simply, unknowingly, boil to death.
A crack in a sidewalk, paint chipping from a lamppost or a piece of trash on a lakeshore — they may seem small but we cannot grow complacent to the sight.
We don’t want to live in a community with impassable walkways, deteriorating downtowns or polluted lakes. The example may seem extreme, but towns and regions don’t die because no one cared. They die because too many residents became comfortable with the status quo. As the status quo changed, they adjusted their expectations and slowly, without fanfare, residents moved away or died off until the town was all but forgotten.
Northeast Indiana has a bright future ahead, but only if all of us refuse to become complacent to our surroundings.
I encourage you all to find something in your community to be passionate about, no matter how small it is, so that you remain involved, connected and will notice the moment someone increases the heat, requiring us to do something to keep this area competitive and robust.