I’m indebted to Camden resident Don Abbott for the subject of this post. Don spends part of his winter in Naples, Florida each year (getting a little late winter sun and the perspective that comes with occasional distance: a useful thing for all of us) and a while back he passed along a link to a piece by my counterpart down there, celebrating the 10 best things about Naples.
I was thinking about doing a ‘top ten’ list of my own, running down all the elements that make this part of the world such a pleasure to live and work in. However as I started thinking about what would make the cut I realized that the idea of a top ten was fundamentally limiting. Those of us in the Chamber and economic development worlds often talk about this region’s four ‘Qs’: Quality of Place, Quality of Life, Quality of People, and Quality of Product: but what makes those four elements so appealing is that each one speaks to individuals differently. My top ten list is going to be different from your list, and therein lays the strength of our region.
So what I’d like to do instead is invite you to send me your top ten lists. Think about the four ‘Qs” listed above, ponder the reasons you like living in this area, and then send them along via email to me at firstname.lastname@example.org I’ll compile as many as I can into a later column based on those four ‘Quality’ elements I wrote of above and share it here.
There might be some of you out there who consider this nothing more than fluffy cheerleading. To be sure, there are some structural and systemic challenges facing the global, national, state and local economies that are also accompanied by demographic and geographic red flags that indicate how steep the gradient on the climb to success will be. We should try at all times to keep a level view of the field in front of us, both our challenges but also our assets, and seek to minimize the former while finding ways to leverage the latter (if I may be permitted to state the blindingly obvious). To draw on an example from antiquity, when faced with overwhelming odds at the Battle of Thermopylae, King Leonidas did not bemoan his lack of 100,000 soldiers but counted his blessings that he had 300 Spartans at his side (and he obtained his strategic objective of stalling the Persian Army with the tools he had to hand). Knowing your strengths can be quite empowering.
With that in mind then, we need to articulate and list the things that we feel speak to the strengths and the values of our region. In many ways, just taking the time to list the things we are actually quite proud of helps frame the conversation about our region’s future in our own minds, and in the way in which we talk about our towns to others, both from within the community and from outside. Knowing what we have and how that balances with what we don’t have (and in some cases will never have) makes it a lot easier to figure out what we want.