In the town where I live, there are two rather large divides across sections of the community. The first is cultural, with a growing Hispanic population that is not well integrated into the town as a whole; the second is generational, with the older population striving to keep our town more historic and serene instead of growing with ‘box stores’. Both of these problems are stifling the ability of our town to grow and may in fact cause it to shrink in population and revenue. I sat down recently with the Director of the Chamber of Commerce to talk over some of my thoughts regarding these divides.
One of the main hurdles to overcome is acceptance. This is a two-fold issue in regards to the cultural diversity – acceptance by the community for cultural differences and then acceptance by the Hispanic community of efforts to better join all members of the town together. Acceptance though means trust. We can only accept that which we trust either as safe or as truth. It comes down to leadership to establish the necessary trust relationship. In this case, top down is the way to go. The community leaders from all facets of the town have to work together to bridge the gaps. By demonstrating the efforts and benefits of melding instead of isolating, leaders will set the example for others. With an issue as emotional and personal as cultural diversity, it will take time and perseverance for trust and acceptance to build on both sides of the divide. I believe that all of the community leaders see the value in the efforts but it will take a lot of work to build the necessary relationships for a long lasting and supportive community.
As mentioned above, cultural diversity is only half of the battle – the other half is generational. The town has deep roots from the Civil War and the Route 66 era. There are indications of the rich history all over which many people enjoy and want to maintain. The issue is not that the community should destroy the history or cover it up, but there is a sentiment that if more industry or larger stores are brought in to the area that the quiet, peaceful nature of our town will be corrupted. Again it is up to leaders to build the trust relationships with community members to prove the goal is to grow in meaningful ways while not forgetting our past. It takes leadership to show that accepting growth for the future does not mean history is lost.
– Lori Buresh
CEO, The Professional Development Team