07/15/10 — Think future: What attracts people to Wayne County -- and makes them want to stay?

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Think future: What attracts people to Wayne County -- and makes them want to stay?

This economy is not exactly conducive to making big plans for the future -- not as a family, as a community or as a country.

But now, while we are looking a little harder at budgets and what it costs to get things done, we might want to think a little more about what we want to see in the future in this city and county.

There are some obvious choices -- solid schools, more industrial development and neighborhoods that are safe and thriving.

And while it might seem a little pie in the sky, if it is broken down to individual goals, it just might be doable.

But what about the look of the county and its priorities for building and development in particular? Where should the money be put next?

The first choice should be schools.

Without good facilities, good teachers and programs that challenge gifted youngsters, support average learners and address the needs of those who are struggling, schools in Wayne County will not be able to compete effectively. They will lose the best personnel and enrollment to neighboring counties. And that means less tax revenue here and fewer places where Wayne County residents can find jobs.

Continuing to develop a quality education system allows businesses to look at this community as a good fit -- a place where their employees can feel comfortable enrolling their children in the schools and where training programs provide a ready, willing and able work force ready to take on new challenges.

Better school buildings will not increase test scores. That has been proven time and time again. But more concentration on facilities, as well as materials, extra programs and more opportunities for learning, are what give schools an edge and what attract the best teachers and the most motivated students.

That is the kind of school district we want to have.

So after the schools are finished, what's left?

Wayne County needs culture. A thriving arts community, as well as support of those organizations that bring those opportunities to local residents, are critical in creating a community that offers a little bit of something for everyone.

Investing in projects like libraries, the arts council and the Wayne County Museum give this community a life outside of the normal school athletic events and church gatherings. That creates a well-rounded experience for people who choose to make Wayne their home. Fixing up the community's parks and creating spaces for families to enjoy the outdoors are also critical goals.

And last but not least -- infrastructure. A pothole-filled road is a nuisance, but having a county and city with roads that are in disrepair, as well as a state system that ignores the transportation needs of this community, will stop development in its tracks.

Wayne County leaders need to be very conscious of the need to continue to advocate for this area when it comes to highway money and development. That is a key factor in what will happen next in terms of growth and development.

And then there are the wild cards -- what services do we need, must we fund; is there room for a convention center; is the rec center a good idea? All those must also be factored into any plans.

Money is tight and there will always be a need to be budget-conscious when it comes to taxpayer funds. But if the county continues to strive to grow into a place where people want to relocate and to live, the possibilities are endless.

All we have to do is make sure the money is spent wisely -- and that starts with continually analyzing our priorities and setting a course to achieve them.

And that, as a citizen, is the best way to protect your investment in choosing Wayne County as your home.

Published in Editorials on July 15, 2010 11:07 AM