LETTER: How Rising Sun And Ohio County Can Recover After COVID-19

Monday, April 27, 2020 at 2:55 PM

By Letter from Lane Siekman, Executive Director Ohio County Economic Development Corporation

Nobody knows what the future brings, but local residents should be prepared for some sort of change.

While we don’t know the exact timeline, in the near future, we expect Indiana’s “hunker down” restrictions to be lifted, and all of us will be eager for things to reboot and get back to “normal.”

Don’t expect the reboot to put Rising Sun and Ohio County right back to where it was before COVID-19. For starters, it’s not possible. I’ve read and heard this many times and I agree: When this is over, the world will have changed in many ways. But also, even if we could, we shouldn’t settle for a return to the “old” normal. We owe it to our community to aim higher.

As world-famous hockey player Wayne Gretzky said, “I skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it has been.”

Now is the perfect time to start moving toward the puck. This may be a unique opportunity for building a better Rising Sun and Ohio County.

Winston Churchill said, “Never let a good crisis go to waste.” Pensacola, Florida followed that guidance when Hurricane Ivan came through in 2004. Pensacola had already been working on revitalization, but that crisis turned out to be a springboard for bringing big, meaningful change to their community. Once the initial shock was over, things really took off.

Our entire world is struggling through another storm right now. And we’ll all emerge from this one in different conditions. This is true for people who will have been in their house for 60 days. Some will come out more fit. Others will gain weight. Some will learn a new skill or write a book or work on their business strategy. Others will not. The same is true on a community level. We can choose to come out stronger and better. It will take work, but it’s possible.

It may be time to finally realize that we really need each other, especially on the local level. Garbage collectors on the empty streets of NYC and other frontline workers are now being recognized as heroes. In many cities, hospital workers receive nightly applause. We may be physically separated, but in spite of that (or perhaps because of it), our emotional bonds are stronger than ever.  

This is our time to get back to basics. Creating a vibrant local community requires everyone working together on the same wavelength. The power of localism is at an all-time high. We cannot let it go to waste. We need to leverage it as we seek to make Rising Sun and Ohio County all that it can be.

We have to put some real objectives in place around what we want our future to look like. No, not another strategic plan, but better yet, a shared vision of what we want to become. Without a plan, how can we know where we’re going? We have to share this vision with the community openly and often. Everyone that lives or works in Rising Sun and Ohio County has a stake in our future and deserves transparency to know what is happening.

We have to be smart with our money. The casino funding is not a given anymore. We may be getting some stimulus funding, but it will be crucial to spend it in a way that invests in the future. This is another reason to carefully think through what that future will look like. And while this may go without saying, we need to be transparent here, too.

We need to make small bets and embrace incrementalism. Fix what’s broken first and make small, doable changes that will generate a return on investment. This is how a community build in resilience. Restoring vibrancy won’t happen quickly, but people will be hungry to see things moving in the right direction so we have to communicate and celebrate our wins.

We must put in place a framework for making decisions. If not, the possibilities will overwhelm us. We can’t afford to chase every shiny ball. If the goal is to attract investment, make every decision through that lens. Job one is to continue to make Rising Sun and Ohio County a great place to live that attracts talent. Talent follows place, and investment follows talent. People want affordability, opportunity, and vibrancy, and we have to pursue only initiatives that create those conditions.  

The Ohio County Economic Development Corporation is committed to working on a framework that improves our local quality of life and working with everyone together to drive our community forward. Economic development takes both leadership and participation. You can be part of this by adding your voices to this important discussion.

Thank you for reading and I look forward to your feedback.
I am so grateful to be a part of this wonderful community.

Lane A. Siekman
Executive Director
Ohio County Economic Development Corporation

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