The full four-hour meeting was an interactive workshop that included
guest speaker and moderator John Cox. Cox is a native of Lincoln, a
lifelong friend of the mayor and CEO of the Cabarrus Regional
Partnership in Cabarrus County, N.C.
In addition to Cox, Joel
Smiley of the Lincoln & Logan County Development Partnership offered
a presentation on the work of the partnership.
The summit was well-attended, with a wide variety of interests
City officials participating were the mayor, four of the city's
10 council members -- David Armbrust, Stacy Bacon, Kathy Horn and
Marty Neitzel -- as well as Fire Chief Kent Hulett and city attorney
Bill Bates, who was also representing the Woods Foundation.
Terry Carlton, chairman of the Logan County Board, was present
representing the county.
Andi Hake of the chamber of commerce, along with Wanda Lee Rohlfs
and Chris Elam from Main Street Lincoln, and Geoff Ladd of Abraham
Lincoln Tourism Bureau of Lincoln and Logan County were also
Adding to the diverse mix was Tom Funk, an associate circuit
judge in Lincoln; Richard Funk, an 89-year-old lifelong resident of
Lincoln; and Crystal Alley, another lifelong resident of the
There were also representatives from Lincoln Christian
University, District 27 Elementary Schools, Lincoln Community High
School, Illini Bank, CEFCU, Illinois American Water, Abraham Lincoln
Memorial Hospital, St. Clara's Manor, plus a variety of other local
businesses and representation from Hanson Professional Services out
Bruce Ferry, of Ferry and Associates, who served on the task
force for the redevelopment of Lincoln Developmental Center, also
attended, bringing with him a large-scale model of the task force's
vision for the future of the LDC campus.
Cox opened with a 30-minute discussion on his experiences with
economic development and then shared with the group some statistical
information about Lincoln and Logan County.
Smiley also talked to the group about the state of the city
currently, how much progress is being made in bringing new business
and industry to the community, and the CEDS and SCORE programs. He
talked about wind as an asset in Logan County and touched on the
possibilities of future development of wind farms, saying that he's
entertained five interested parties recently and that there is still
room for wind farm growth in the county.
Earlier in the meeting, Cox had recounted his arrival in Cabarrus
County, saying that the situations there were good, they had a good
plan and were acting on that plan, but then in almost the blink of
an eye the face of the county changed, as in one day 5,000 jobs were
lost with the closing of Pillowtex, a major textile company in the
This closing was followed closely by the loss other businesses
and industries, which totaled nearly 10,000 jobs lost over a
seven-year span. He recounted that he personally was in attendance
at a ribbon-cutting for a new Wachovia bank branch when the news was
announced that the financial institution was in dire straits.
He recounted all of this to drive home one point: In the blink of
an eye, all the strategic plans for Cabarrus County flew out the
window, and it was all to be done over again.
As Smiley spoke, he latched on to Cox's comments and told the
group that the current five-year plan that is written down and being
implemented is not carved in stone. He said that it is an evolving
plan that can be changed according to new ideas and new visions.
The first exercise Cox asked the group to participate in was
answering this simple question: "What would you like to get out of
the next few hours?"
With five tables in the room and participants at each table, he
permitted each subgroup time to discuss what their answer to the
question would be.
Cox then went around the room and asked each table to present
The end result was very similar in all the groups. They wanted to
come out of the meeting unified, with a plan of action.
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They wanted to have a clear direction of which way to go to build
from this initial summit, and spend their time working toward
economic recovery rather than just talking about it.
Cox supported that, saying that the meeting did need to come to a
conclusion with a plan of action for carrying on. "You don't want
this meeting to end and say, 'Well, that was nice' and have nothing
happen," he said.
Cox also told the group to take inventory, asking if there were
people missing from the meeting who should have been there. He
encouraged the group to act on this, saying: "Look around the room
and see who is missing. You need to whisper those names in the ear
of the mayor, and he needs to make an effort to get those people
The group discussed unity between the city and county, and Cox
said that such unity was vital to the success of this type of
program. He noted that the major city of any county is its heart,
and the heart needs to be healthy if the entire county is to thrive.
Cox later addressed the mayor, council members and county board
chair directly and told them that in order to be successful they had
to communicate well, and there had to be trust in the group.
He emphasized that trust was a key issue that would not be
accomplished in a single meeting. "A core group that has trust, that
is the main thing you have to start with," he said. "When I go to
these meetings people will say, 'Well, they have an agenda, they're
pushing their own agenda.' And I'll say, 'Well, what are you doing?'
and the answer comes back, 'I'm sticking up for myself.' So they are
pushing their own agenda too."
As the meeting progressed, the group's ideas literally drew a
picture of Lincoln and Logan County. Some of the ideas that came out
appeared to be fresh, new, worthwhile and attainable.
In Part 2 on Tuesday, LDN will continue to bring you details and
results from this important gathering. See the first responses from
local leaders on what would open the doors in Lincoln and Logan
County: "Can city and county work together?"
Then in parts 3 and 4, the group's discussion lists strengths of
the city and county: "What are our strengths?" A number of projected
ideas for the future were brought forth on this base.
[By NILA SMITH]
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