Five Things I Learned From Leadership Owensboro
Having grown up in Owensboro with parents who were very active in the community, I have always thought that I know everything there is to know about Owensboro. When I was encouraged to apply for the Greater Owensboro Chamber of Commerce Leadership Owensboro program, I was told that it would be an insider experience into all aspects of our community, good, bad, and ugly. What they left out, was that I would gain 30 new friends from all walks of life who share the same passion I have to make Owensboro a better place for EVERYONE who lives here.
We started off the experience last September with a retreat at the lovely Hampton Inn & Suites downtown. We learned about the history of Owensboro, heard from speakers about current challenges in the city, and got to know each other through team-building activities. My favorite was the Owensboro trivia. I totally brought that victory home for my team if I do say so myself!
Staying at the Hampton, and enjoying downtown restaurants gave us a tourist point of view. For anyone out there who says there is nothing to do in Owensboro, I am SO sorry, but you are just plain wrong. Check out Visit Owensboro to see why folks from all over the world come to our little town for sports, conventions, concerts, and more!
After the retreat, we met once a month for an interactive overview of various topics relevant to Owensboro. We heard from panels of experts and participated in activities that often gave me a new perspective.
Economy and Innovation
Visiting both the Owensboro-Daviess County Airport and Owensboro Riverport Authority, we dove into discussions about Owensboro's economy; both the blessings and challenges. We learned that good land is hard to come by in this area, but the river plays a vital role in our agriculture shipping grain and other crops. The riverport handles over 1.2 million tons of freight per year and its warehouse is a designated Foreign Trade Zone.
It's no secret that teachers and staff in our local schools are going over and beyond to meet overwhelming student needs like never before. Owensboro is SO lucky to have such amazing school systems which work to creatively solve problems despite budget cuts and the ever-changing world our kids are growing up in. They get all my appreciation every day!
Owensboro is also going to be home to a state-of-the-art medical Innovation Center. Plans are in motion for a ground-breaking facility where students can receive hands-on virtual reality learning experiences that will begin to solve the shortage of healthcare professionals we are currently facing. Owensboro Health in collaboration with nine area colleges and universities is bringing this vision to life putting Owensboro at the forefront of a new wave of learning experiences.
Human Needs and Services
This day was especially impactful for me and a lot of my classmates. We are all involved in non-profits and have a heart for folks in need, but after spending the cold December day either on foot or using public transportation, our eyes were all opened to the struggles so many of our citizens face every day. We have a plethora of resources, but there are often many unnecessary roadblocks that make receiving help harder than it should be. The statistics on how many of our neighbors struggle in abject poverty, especially children, moved me to tears that afternoon. It doesn't have to be this way.
After each of us participated in an eye-opening ride along with Owensboro Police Department, we experienced a day learning about our local justice system. We all have our various opinions, but I feel like there were a few themes that stuck out.
We desperately need a new judicial center. The security challenges as well as the lack of space are only going to get worse over time.
Poverty and drugs are the two most glaring factors when considering what is happening in our local judicial system.
A little look on the bright side, however, is that Daviess County is leading the charge for the rest of the state with our mental health court pilot program. The wonderful folks making this happen are keeping sick people out of jail and are getting them into treatment for the help they desperately need.
Changing Your Community Day
Madison Silvert and Joe Berry were our tour guides for a trolley ride downtown. They were at the helm of the Economic Development Corp. when Owensboro's city and community leaders decided Owensboro was worth investing in. After much time spent researching what makes other small towns successful, the data showed that a thriving walkable downtown was at the top of the list of must-haves. Not without risk, the work began to plan and execute their incredible vision for our state-of-the-art Smother's Park. Did you know those giant trees are actually the support system that allows the playground to be wheelchair accessible? So cool! The best of the best urban planners, the design folks from the Bellagio fountains in Las Vegas, and the Tri-State's own hard-working construction teams are responsible for what we now enjoy every day.
That is the "cliffs notes" version, of course!
We also welcomed a panel of folks representing the diverse communities of Owensboro. They shared heart-wrenching stories of discrimination and racism they have experienced here in our community. I was personally inspired to continually work on becoming a better version of myself by confronting social biases I may have without even realizing it. In order to continue to grow, we must embrace the strength that comes from sharing different viewpoints.
The wonderful folks at The Malcolm Bryant Corporation sponsored and supported me throughout the process, and I am so grateful for the opportunity. The friendships will last a lifetime and we will be collaborating on projects to support our community. If you feel called to do more to improve the world around you, Leadership Owensboro is absolutely the program for you. You can contact Ashtin Warren at the Chamber for more information.