Growing Pains
By: George Halford | 10.09.15

It seems like it was yesterday (well, maybe that’s a slight exaggeration) that I was a young boy finally having a pre-adolescent growth spurt.  One summer night, after a day of outdoor, free play activity (yes, we played outside), my legs began to have a dull ache.  I asked my mother about my minor pain, and she simply smiled and reassured me that all I had was “growing pains”!  Growing pains?

            I have thought about her medical opinion a lot lately as it relates to our community.  Cookeville, Putnam County, and our Highlands region stand on the threshold of potentially the greatest period of economic growth and quality of place improvements in our modern history.

            Over the past decade, we have developed and implemented a vision of our collective future that we could see even back then that is becoming reality today!  We created a regional branding and marketing program called the Highlands Initiative to get Nashville and Tennessee’s attention and provide a regional approach to economic development.  Just as any good business, we used the worst recession since the great depression as a time of retooling, of getting ready for the inevitable uptick of the national economy, by investing in infrastructure improvements including and not limited to the Highlands Business Park and the new interstate 5th interchange.  We developed a new visitor, retiree, and sports recruitment initiative that brought excellent early returns in sales tax dollars investments including TSSAA High School Football Championships, the Tennessee State Harley Owners Group rallies, and more.  We now have a nationally recognized workforce development program that will ensure that we will have a 21st century workforce with the skills necessary to compete and win in the global economy.

Whew! In the country music metaphor, we have a hit record and it’s moving up the billboard charts like a bullet!

            Now, back to reality!  We once again are at the proverbial crossroad.  I don’t want to sound like a “Debby Downer”.  It is not in our Chamber DNA, but the fact of the matter is that with growth and opportunity (long-term gain) comes challenges (short-term pain).  There is a quote that I had but lost that goes something like this:

“To go where you’ve never gone, you must become what you have never been.”

            Simply put, we are going to have “growing pains”.  Traffic is a growing problem and might get worse before it gets better.  New schools will have to be built; public policy decisions on urban density, zoning, regulations will need to be made.  Indeed, it will become more complicated.  However, we are greatly encouraged by the City’s and County’s commitment to planning a vision of our future by involving our citizens in the process.

            Finally, one might ask, why are we doing all this?  Why do we need to grow, to change?

            Well, there is an old 19th century Russian Bolshevik saying, “That which stops growing, begins to rot”.  It is the foundation of our way of life in this great country.

            At the end of the day, we are doing it for our children and grandchildren, higher paying jobs, a higher quality of life, and more and more giving our citizens less and less reasons to leave our region for good paying jobs, goods, and services.  It is the right thing to do!

            We urge our citizens to become actively involved in creating our future vision!