Making Chillicothe a Better Place

I have been thinking about writing this blog for several weeks now but just now got the inspiration or motivation to do it.  I have heard people in the community I live in debate about how to make Chillicothe a competitive metropolitan area on par economically with places like Columbus, or Cinci.  This might be a lofty expectation but I don’t have a problem with aiming high because you become more successful by aiming high even if you don’t ultimately reach your goal.

Even though I wanted to discuss the subject I couldn’t really find what I considered good timing.  That was until tonight when I saw a post on Facebook that a friend commented on which had a map of the state and the county that we live in last year had a record number of heroin and prescription drug deaths and was one of the highest in the state; even higher than Cleveland, Columbus or Cinci.  This seemed like the right time to discuss the state of Chillicothe and what our aims should be, because I don’t like the idea of people being in such a pit of deprivation and depression.  It’s costing our neighbor’s their lives.

A little while back I was reading an article that was posted on the Chillicothe Gazette’s website about how we can turn Chillicothe into a place where our talented people don’t leave to chase higher paying jobs in cities like Columbus, Cinci, Cleveland, etc.  A lot of people had an opinion and some of them sounded really smart or noble, but deep down they were built upon pretty flawed logic.  (It felt like one guy was actually stumping for a political office).

One of the more popular responses, which was getting a lot of amens from people was the idea that we should clean up the city, heavily fine people who didn’t take care of their lawns or had any junk laying around, make the city a tax friendly place to businesses so that we could draw them away from Columbus and keep our young people who are getting college degrees down here so that we can use our local talent to become a more dynamic community.  This had people swinging from the chandeliers and shouting Amen and Hallelujah at the top of their lungs….metaphorically.

But the more that I thought about it the more this seemed rather silly to me.  The first thing we need to ask ourselves is “Do we need our local people finding local jobs?”  Not all people who get a job up in Columbus live up there.  I personally know many people that are perfectly fine with commuting back and forth so it’s not like the opportunity to make good money while living in Chillicothe is a pipe dream.

Another thing is that this person never considered that there are a multitude of other factors in play that cause clusters of highly skilled positions to exist in Columbus.  It’s centralized location in Ohio is a huge factor.  I know several people in the horse racing business that love the track up in Columbus because it is a pretty equal distance to travel to the other tracks in the state.  It’s location is also a major reason that the state capital moved from Chillicothe to Columbus.

But I’m sure if we had opportunities for people to get good paying, highly skilled jobs down here, we could get people to stick around.  But let’s ask ourselves a question; is cleaning up a few cluttered properties going to cause businesses to suddenly spring up here or leave other communities?  Realistically, no.  Real estate values can have a small part in population growth, but frankly it’s just not a realistic expectation that this move will get people into Chillicothe.  But what it would do is restrict people’s freedom and take money out of their pocket .

Would giving businesses that move to Chillicothe a tax break give them enough incentive to move to here?  Possibly, but how big of a tax break are we talking about.  Because the amount of taxes that they would save would have to be greater than other related costs of moving such as a change in customer base or distance from customers..  And when you consider whether or not profit margins increase or shrink due to added costs that a move would incur upon the business, would a measly city tax break be enough to entice them to come in and set up shop?  Maybe, but like I said it has to outweigh the logistical benefits of being in a place like Columbus and it has to be greater than the costs of relocation or building a business here.

These things sound good when you’re making a stump speech.  But to me if you want to increase the quality of living in Chillicothe enough that people don’t need to turn to drugs to feel good then you need to start at the root of the problem, and it ain’t jobs.  It’s the people in the community that are the problem.  It is the collective will of the people that is the problem.

The type and quality of city that you live in is a direct reflection of the people who live in it.  What I mean is that the reason we don’t have a more dynamic city is because as a community we haven’t displayed the kind of guts that it takes to make a great community.  You want people to stop killing themselves with drugs?  Have a community of people that are fiercely passionate about showing them how much they care about those people’s well-being.

We need a group of people that want to compete with Columbus, and chintzy ideas about throwing crumbs to a multi-million dollar business isn’t going to cut it.  I’m not saying that can’t be persuasive.  I’m just saying that it doesn’t fix the problem.  The problem is the people, because ultimately that’s all a city is.  It’s people.  It’s people who gather together and decide that they want to live among each other.

We need to start being more creative.  We need to stop being greedy.  We want all of these businesses to come in and save us.  Guess what?  There is plenty of money in this town.  We need more creative financing options.  We need people who aren’t afraid to lose everything.  We need citizens who are willing to give up money to get money.  We want businesses and entrepreneurs to come in and save us when we actually need to be the change that we’ve been waiting for.  We need to start up private financing groups.  We need to create our own skilled jobs.  We need to have a killer instinct and we need to have a group of winners step up and thirst for the opportunity to compete with surrounding communities.

Until we can stop being greedy cowards we can never help those who need help.  Jesus said “Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back.”  and “And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you?”.  We’re so afraid of giving up our money that we can’t do what it takes to create jobs.  We need to be the change we’re looking for.  God has given us every tool and natural resource we need to make this place a southern Ohio Renaissance.  I would love this place to be like an Italian Riviera.  I would love for this to be a romantic city on a river.  It would be a community that would have far less emotional problems which drives people to try to escape the bleak prospects that many in this community feel.  They try to leave their perception of their current situation and leap into a word of mind altering highs and physical euphoria because feeling something good temporarily is better than living with no prospects.

Who will stand up?  Who will join hands with others and form a core group of people who’s sole mission is to change the hearts and minds of others so that we can look at this town one day and know that we created a little bit of paradise on earth.  Who would like to know that we helped our brothers and sisters out?  Who would like to please God by loving Him and loving others as much as, if not more than, we love ourselves?  The potential is there.  But it’s like trying to find an object in a pitch dark room.  It could be half a millimeter from your finger tips but it might as well be 10 miles away because you can’t see how close you are.  We’re very close, but we often give up because we can’t see it.  We are on the verge of an avalanche of success but we just need some people to get it started.

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