Lemuel, thank you again for your thoughtful reply.
What I found really interesting about observing Detroit after the municipal bankruptcy was that when the city was faced with losing its art collection, and some other assets that people really cared about civil society geared up. They had leadership contributions from civic leaders, industries, foundations, churches, politicians, and influential and concerned citizens.
When this mix came together they were able to achieve a lot, and changed the discussion and the momentum of the city.
Yes, you are right, high quality leadership is vital – but looking at the Detroit example, it needs to be much wider than just municipal leadership – the leadership needs to be from all across good civil society.
Of course, there are a lot of voices, and it takes time to communicate and build agreement of the paths forward, but when you have that broad agreement then much can be accomplished.
To start answering the question about what does the future as a growing, thriving city look like for Jackson, it might be useful to answer these questions:
1. Does the USA as a whole have a bright future?
I believe (as someone who visits about once a year, and looks in from the outside) the answer to that is a definite yes.
It might not feel like it at the tail end of a long recession when recovery is slow, but the simple facts are:
- the USA generally has very good government; a large and innovative economy;
- an integrated banking, monetary, economic and legal system;
- a well educated and hard working population;
- the best long term demographics in the western world (due in large part from Hispanic immigration); and
- a long term lowering energy costs.
The USA is generally in the top 10 countries in the world in any positive metric or comparison that is made between countries. In summary, the future for the USA is very bright especially compared with almost all of the rest of the world.
2. Does the State of Mississippi have a bright future?
Well, a quick read of Wikipedia on Mississippi suggests some problems in the state, but also good news with some recent manufacturing investment, and plenty of opportunity for the state to improve.
The gulf coast damage from Hurricane Katrina a decade ago has no doubt set the state back more than is realized. The State of Mississippi has some baked in geographic advantages, with one of the worlds great navigable rivers running through, so some good opportunities to leverage there.
In summary for the State – there are plenty of opportunities and some built-in advantages.
3. Does the City of Jackson have a bright future?
It is located in a country with a very bright future, in a state with plenty of opportunities, and is the state capital. It is a reasonable population size, and the total metro area is big enough population wise to create its own momentum.
There are plenty of opportunities, but as you have noted, plenty of challenges which will require high quality and sustained leadership.
Where this conversation started – with infrastructure funding, is one of the challenges the city faces but it is not insurmountable.
The fundamental question for the City of Jackson is do the people who choose to live and do business there believe it can thrive, and so invest their time, energy and money into making that happen.
Investment in the economy, civic investment in infrastructure and other services and improving ‘liveability’ though amenities, the arts, social activities, sports, etc., have the potential to change the city and help it thrive. Tens of thousands of conversations and individual investment decisions will provide the answer to that question.
High quality leadership can of course assist in changing the conversation and inspiring changes in people.
What do you think?
Inframanage.com notes, with regard to the City of Jackson’s crumbling infrastructure – with careful infrastructure asset management, and sustained long term investment at appropriate levels, the City’s infrastructure and related services do have a bright future.