It is said that if you don’t know where you are going, you can rest assured you will probably never get there. This raises the question, “Where is Owatonna going?” and subsequently, “How do we define where we want to be?” To leave these questions unanswered risks the time-honored identity and longevity of our community.
Owatonna Forward took on the challenge to help answer these questions. This required a large amount of listening, analyzing and framing what you shared over the last year. Your voices helped us chart a course that identifies our community’s destiny – to clearly appreciate where we are going – and to be purposeful with pace, process and the mobilization of community members to help us get to where we want to be.
To recap the distance traveled, Owatonna Forward officially launched itself as a grassroots citizen initiative in September 2016. Its mission is to help identify and guide residents with a forward-thinking community plan that is created with shared meaning and purpose. Civic-minded stewards implemented a process to capture public participation and through the engagement of your voices, the vision of where we are going and what we want to be has been remarkable.
You made a profound contribution by candidly sharing your hopes, fears and ideas to inform our civic efforts. We combed through over 2,000 community surveys and input of over 450 community members who attended workshops. Your willingness to play a part toward improving our hometown clearly demonstrates that we collectively share a pride and vision for a better and brighter tomorrow.
Our Shared Destiny (vision) has shaped up to be a clear and motivational statement that portrays broad themes and the community’s aspirations for the future. It aims to express the core of why we exist, what we are organized to accomplish, including who or what we aim to serve. It is based upon themes that were commonly spoken by the community during this phase of Owatonna Forward. These themes represent the qualities and characteristics of Owatonna that citizens aspire to protect, maintain, improve, change, or achieve in the future. In many respects, our Shared Destiny reflects the values of the community that are experiencing a certain amount of stress. It is important to realize that Owatonna Forward’s work to address our future is not just an answer, it is also a process, one that seeks to overcome the nervous tension that exists.
We further analyzed existing economic and demographic data, including public feedback, to identify specific goals that are intended to move us toward our community’s Shared Destiny. One thing is very clear from the voices shared throughout this process. Quality of life is paramount in order to maintain a healthy viable community, to thrive and maintain a competitive advantage for our very existence. More than ever before, Owatonna must meet the changing needs of today’s busy society. We must encourage people to want to live, work, visit and retire in our community. Planning for Owatonna is about ideas – ideas for innovation, seeing possibilities and for changing the way in which we approach how we live day to day.
Owatonna’s community setting is family-oriented, multi-generational, and lasting. It is bursting with caring, authentic people with a strong sense of volunteerism and pride. As community members, we share a spirit and culture of giving and philanthropy, making relationships one of the most valuable attributes about our community. We value inclusion and diversity, and the way old and new lifestyles come together. All of this is important as we strive to advance the betterment of our community.
Over the next few weeks, you will begin to learn about future goals, the specific Drivers our community has identified. These are “13” bold but achievable work platforms that will seek to create serious momentum during the next phase. Many will be seen as ambitious, aggressive, and comprehensive – yet, all are necessary to become the community we want to be.
These Drivers are positive opportunities for our neighborhoods, local businesses, education system, health and wellness programs, agriculture, community engagement, culture, and infrastructure. While some may be realized in the short or medium term, others are ideals toward which the community will continually strive. They will require that we, as community members, roll up our sleeves and become even more intentional – that we wrap our arms around and help to make them happen.
Champions willing to lead each Driver are being finalized. Their commitment is key. Each will be tasked with creating a roadmap and pulling together an effective team that helps to get the work done. More importantly, they will understand the importance of inviting and mobilizing committed and passionate individuals across all spectrums, providing new opportunities for civic participation and leadership, forging new partnerships and accomplishing outcomes that are important to community members.
Moving into 2018, Owatonna Forward will aim to achieve some early success and to engage many of you who will stand ready to bring our Shared Destiny and Drivers to life. You have already contributed to our community planning — and planning leads to doing. That means we have a lot of work to do, and we’re going to count on your time, talents and social connections to make our desired future a reality.