Tallahassee’s future is in our hands | Opinion

From the Tallahassee Democrat

Last weekend I was thrilled to hear a riveting keynote speech by Tom Fanning, CEO of Southern Company. Fanning said something that resonated with me: “Find it in your spirit to unleash the fire in your belly. Be a patriot for your community.”

I heard those words while seated next to over 500 business leaders at the powerful Tallahassee Chamber Annual Community Conference. The energy, passion and commitment for the future of our community was contagious. We return motivated to build on our progress and improve not only our businesses but also Tallahassee itself.

As we count down the days to our community’s bicentennial in 2024, our most important work is in front of us. The more we can establish a vision for our future and set a strategy to support it, the less of that hard work will be wasted. Knowing this, how can we set Tallahassee on a path to prolonged success? Here are my top five suggestions:

1. Dream big. If we want Tallahassee to be better tomorrow, we should look for the biggest and greatest opportunities for our city. We must envision the community we want and set our expectations high.

2. Have a plan. Business leaders believe in the truism that “Failing to plan is planning to fail.” The same holds for our city. First, we must set goals and identify who we need to bring on board to help achieve them. Then we need to set a strategy and lay out metrics for how we will measure success.
3. Be one community. Tallahassee is always better served when we recognize our diversity as an asset and acknowledge that we are all in this together. We must act as one team cheering each other on and working together toward success. As business and government leaders, citizens and activists, we must appreciate all voices as important.

4. Know our brand. What is it that Tallahassee stands for? What is our “why”? What are our best assets? We must identify these answers and then become our best brand advocates. We need to lead with the why to help others emotionally realize that “Tallahassee is a place I want to be.”

5. Stay focused and committed. In growing cities, it is common to find tremendous collaboration between citizens, business leaders and government: They are aligned and growing in the same direction. To achieve similar greatness, we must stay focused on achieving our goals and not let ourselves (or sparkly distractions along the way) deter us. Small wins along the way will fuel us to stick with our important work.

We must do these things consistently and at an even more heightened level without distraction. We may not have a full vision for Tallahassee’s future yet, but I’m confident we all want to make it an even better place to raise our families and build our businesses—for it to be a safe, prosperous community where everyone has the opportunity to achieve their potential.

We must create a burning imperative that drives our community to new heights. Every fire starts with a spark, so we must find that spark within ourselves and nurture it into a steady flame that brings dynamic, galvanizing change for our shared future.

Terrie Ard is president and COO of Moore and a board member of the Tallahassee Chamber.