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Gary Moore: Kankakee River Valley … it is our time!

September 28, 2018

Along with being a columnist and author, I spend a lot of time as an inspirational/motivational speaker and business and organizational consultant.

I enjoy getting out of our community, traveling the nation and seeing how other communities work to move their goals and plans forward. In the last 60 days, I have spoken in Boston for the Red Sox at their Great Fenway Park Writer’s Series, The City Club of San Diego and the Denver (Colo.) Forum. All are different and unique, and all have a specific mission.

I enjoyed all, but I was and continue to be intrigued by the Denver Forum. A few years ago, the Denver Forum was noted as one of the top five positively influential groups in America. That’s an impressive claim, and after speaking there, I can see why.

My friend, George Mitrovich, heads the Denver Forum, an organization that provides a monthly meeting where speakers are brought in, ideas exchanged and positive solutions to the challenges facing the Denver area are enacted. They have been successful through the years at improving life in Denver.

As I flew home last week, as I usually do, I pondered what I had said, what I heard and what I learned. It was a short but great trip and quite educational. I typed into my notebook, “River Valley Forum” and stared at it for a long time. I remembered through the years, there were a few admirable attempts at a group like this, but the attitude of our community wasn’t yet conducive to a positive, solution-based organization. Our greater river valley area had suffered much, and the wounds still were open and painful. Get togethers such as this always devolved into complaining and finger pointing. That is who we were … that is not who we are today.

Our scars are visible, but our wounds have healed. Great and positive things are happening all over our area, and I believe our community has matured to the point we can get together and discuss and solve many of the challenges facing the new river valley in a positive and respectful way.

Friends and neighbors, we have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to make the greater Kankakee River Valley into the shining star of the Midwest and beyond. Who would ever believe that today, I will write that, “Kankakee County and the surrounding area is growing, building and leading our state in job creation and growth. We are leading in most economic indicators, and we must pounce on this moment with all our positive energy and create the best version of ourselves and our community that is possible.” Did I really type that?

I did, and it’s true.

Who should be involved? Anyone and everyone who wants the best for our community. One of the unique activities of the Denver Forum is that they also bring in 30 high school students to each luncheon to listen and interact. I think it is a great civic lesson for them.

Maybe it should be a monthly luncheon or maybe not. There is an expense attached to a luncheon. Instead, maybe it should be a weeknight meeting to encourage all to attend at no cost. The agenda can be whatever we choose, but regardless of format, this is something that should happen and now. The River Valley Forum is needed.

And, please … the few naysayers who still are out there … do not waste your breath on me in a feeble attempt to say this isn’t so. There are a few misguided people in our community who are so heavily invested in negative and destructive rhetoric, that to admit the new truth about our area would prove their years of attempts to convince us of their brand of doom and gloom was a lie. Their proclamation of the death of our area was greatly exaggerated and totally wrong.

We have survived, together. Now, let’s thrive together. I’ll say it again. Our time is now. Not in the past seven decades or more have we been so positively poised for success. Let the history of our community not record that we sat back and blew it.

We are the Kankakee River Valley. We are growing, prospering and we must take advantage of this unique time.

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