A dozen years of positive changes

In May of this year, I celebrated 12 years at the Alpena Area Chamber of Commerce.

So much has changed about the community in that dozen years. This column is dedicated to some of the positive changes I have seen in that time.

Probably the biggest positive change I have seen is the improvement in our attitude about our own community. There were always positive supporters and there were always detractors.

It seems that the positive population has grown significantly. That is incredible to see. There are so many people cheering for Alpena, wanting it to succeed and change in positive ways, and rallying behind success. It is so fun to witness increasing numbers of people adopt a positive attitude about their community.

Another change I have seen, which I think may be related to the improvement in our self-esteem and attitude as a community, is the number of people stepping up to make things happen.

I was commenting recently that the chamber used to be more intimately involved with nearly every project happening around town. We were asked to be at the table, and we would help as much as we could. Now, though, there is so much going on that it would be impossible for us to be involved at that level. Which is good, because it allows us to focus more energy and resources on growing the value of the chamber. It is so awesome to see people stepping forward to make things happen and not expecting someone else to do it. From organizations to individuals, so much value is continuously being added to the community.

I just learned about the walking tours that were developed by the library. They are available on an app. One is a historic tour, and another is a tour through Evergreen Cemetery. Those are a fun addition to the community that add value for visitors and residents. I also recently attended an event that showcased Thunder Bay Theatre’s lobby renovations. Incredible! Projects like that, that are happening all over the community, are adding value, and people are tackling them head-on.

From my perspective, there seems to be so many more examples of that than there were just 10 or 12 years ago.

Our willingness as a community to accept change has also come a long way.

We seem to support risk and trying new things more than we did 12 years ago. We seem to be more willing to move away from a “this is the way we have always done it” mentality. Which is a good thing, because there are more changes coming our way soon. It seems like there used to be people who would loudly oppose anything that meant change, no matter how positive it could be. Although that attitude still exists, there seems to be a growing group of people willing to speak out in support of positive changes. It is refreshing to see people hungry for change, growth and development, instead of closed off to it.

Finally, one last positive change I’ve seen in 12 years is a shift in the attitude of our younger generations.

We work in the high school several times each year and it seems like there are fewer youth saying they can’t wait to leave, and more youth expressing a love for their hometown and a desire to either stay here after graduation or return here after a few years of further education or exploring other parts of the world. It seems that the positive attitude I shared in the first point is seeping into nearly all demographics of our community.

Witnessing those positive changes is so fun for me. I may not notice them daily, but, when I take a step back and look at the bigger picture — the entire 12 years — I can clearly see those positive changes and how they have progressed.

If we can keep this up — and I’m certain we can — and continue to build on those changes, we will continue to experience growth and development.

People want to be part of a winning team, and want to be where the happy people are. I’m happy to say that those two things both describe this community, where 12 years ago I don’t think I could have said that.

Jackie Krawczak is president/CEO of the Alpena Area Chamber of Commerce. Her column runs biweekly on Thursdays. Follow Jackie on Twitter @jkrawczak.