As a community, do we have a glass-is-half-full or a glass-is-half-empty attitude? In other words, are we positive and optimistic about our community or do we harbor a negative attitude? We have the opportunity to define ourselves as a community. If we fail to do so, then we risk letting others define us.
We have all heard some of the negative comments and slogans about Fort Dodge. These slogans couldn't be farther from the truth, so let's not let them define us. Even more than slogans, the real question is - what is our attitude about our community?
Winston Churchill once stated, "Attitude is a little thing that makes a big difference. I choose to be an optimist. It does not seem too much use being anything else." These simply spoken words really do say it all. Whether you're the leader of a nation or a citizen of Fort Dodge, this quote is quite apropos. Our attitude will make a big difference. And, have no doubt about it, our attitude can become a self-fulfilling prophesy.
The Fort Dodge Community Foundation and United Way has adopted the theme of "We're Up on Fort Dodge" to help spark a community-wide effort to change attitudes and perceptions. "We're Up on Fort Dodge" is a campaign that is focused on promoting all of the positive things about our community and our future. The timing couldn't be better because we have so many positive things happening in Fort Dodge and Webster County. Today we welcome Cargill and CJ BioAmerica to our community. In addition, a number of our current businesses are beginning to expand. The very good news is that hundreds of new, good-paying jobs are coming to Fort Dodge. New residents are moving to the area, which is making a huge impact on our real estate market. Houses are selling again and prices are going up. In addition, new home building has taken off at a pace that we haven't seen in a decade or longer.
It is not only the housing and job markets that are looking so bright. There are many other examples in the community development arena that are shining a positive light on our community; our the new Aquatics Park, 15 miles of new bike trails, a beautiful Corridor of Commerce, enhancements to our local parks. The list goes on and on. Human nature sometimes moves us toward focusing on the negative even when positive things are taking place all around us. It is crucial we resist that temptation and take the positive and optimistic view of our community and our future.
Most of us have a positive vision for our community. We want Fort Dodge and Webster County to be a strong and vital community - a place that encourages all sectors and generations to work together for the common good and to improve quality of life. We want our community to be a place that inspires positive and visionary action, encourages collaboration and mobilizes the resources of the community toward a shared vision; a place that fosters a sense of connectedness that will make us a stronger and more vibrant community.
Being positive about Fort Dodge is not only important part of healthy community culture, it is also very important from an economic development viewpoint. As Cargill, CJ BioAmerica and other companies are recruiting top-level people to fill positions in Fort Dodge, the challenge lies in convincing these people they should move to the Fort Dodge area. A very important piece of the recruiting puzzle is our ability to sell ourselves to these prospective new members of our community. Visitors can always sense when a community has a friendly, positive and optimistic attitude and culture. People want to live in positive, progressive communities, and Fort Dodge can be that place.
The renowned author and speaker the Rev. Norman Vincent Peale has said, "Any challenge facing us is not as important as our attitude toward it, for that will determine our success or failure." Let's stop for a moment and think about that. When has a person with a negative or pessimistic attitude about Fort Dodge and Webster County done anything significant to make it a better place? It rarely happens. It is always the people with positive, optimistic and forward-thinking perspectives who are making good things happen. We have much to feel good about and the time is now for us to think positive and be "Up on Fort Dodge."
Being "Up on Fort Dodge" also means we want our community to be a place that encourages all generations to work together for the common good. By helping youths and families meet basic needs for self-sufficiency and finding ways to improve their quality of life, we are fostering a sense of "connectedness" that will make us a stronger and more vital community. Our future success as a community depends on the degree to which we ensure that all children have the opportunity to thrive. To be a strong and prosperous community, we need to embrace a culture that supports our youths, lifts up those in need and invests in the quality of life for every child. We know that our youths are our future and more than ever, they need our support.
To this end, our United Way Community Campaign is focused on supporting programs and services that advance the positive growth and development of our youths. Priority will be given to programs and services that are designed to help youths reach their full potential as students and as responsible future citizens. We will be working with our local schools to identify ways to assist youths who are struggling and need a little extra support to help them succeed academically. We will be partnering with local agencies to enhance access for youths to health care and mental health services, and to emergency services when our youths are in need for some of life's most basic needs, food, shelter and clothing. And, we will be supporting organizations that are helping our youths develop positive character traits that will help them develop into positive, happy and productive adults with a future full of hope.
The Fort Dodge Community Foundation and United Way's mission is to serve as a catalyst for charitable giving and grant funds to advance quality of life and the well-being of youths and families. The United Way Community Campaign plays a very important role in this mission.
Our campaign goal this year is $350,000. This is an aggressive goal, but it is important that we make every effort to reach and even exceed it because the need is high. Ninety-nine percent of every dollar raised stays right here in Fort Dodge/Webster County helping us touch the lives of hundreds of youths. By doing so, we will all be "Up on Fort Dodge."
As individuals and as citizens of this wonderful community, we have a choice. We can choose to be positive or we can choose to be negative. Let's face it we have many reasons to feel good about Fort Dodge today. We have seen first hand when communities embrace a positive attitude; it can develop into a community optimism that inspires a sense of hope and a can-do spirit. Let's all come together and embrace this opportunity and celebrate all of the positive things about Fort Dodge and Webster County. We have so much to be optimistic about - that is why "We're Up on Fort Dodge."
Randy Kuhlman is chief executive officer of the Fort Dodge Community Foundation and United Way.