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Gary Moore: Changing River Valley hearts and minds

October 12, 2018

Futurist Joel Barker wrote, “Every great nation, society, business or organization became great because they first had a profound and positive vision of their future.”

What do you believe about our Kankakee River Valley?

We have experienced and endured much in the history of our county. We’ve enjoyed the best of times and suffered through the worst of times. That’s true about our personal and professional lives, as well as the collective life of the place where we live.

I continue to be surprised when I hear people being critical of the river valley. When you look at the facts, we are leading the state of Illinois in almost every positive indicator and upswing.

We have more jobs than people to fill them, and they’re not just low-wage or part-time positions.

We are enjoying a dramatic upswing in the kind of jobs where you can build a positive future.

We are building a community where our children will no longer have to leave after graduation to find a good job. They can find one here. We are living in blessed times, and our prospects for the future only get better. There is every reason to be positive and optimistic about our prospects for a great life in the Kankakee River Valley.

So, why does the overall attitude of the community not reflect the positive facts?

I grew up in the 1960s, and the general attitude of our friends and neighbors were positive. We worked at Roper, AO Smith, Koehler’s, Gould Battery or one of the many other employers in the area. Life was good.

Then came the late 1970s and early 1980s, and our community was traumatized. Our major employers left us for warmer climates and lower wages. There was a mass migration away from Kankakee County of jobs, followed by people. A popular bumper sticker was found on many cars that said, “The last one out of Kankakee, please turn out the lights!”

That was almost four decades ago.

Our employment prospects finally have recovered, but the attitude of many of our citizens have not. We’ve mourned the loss of our past jobs too long, and it’s time to embrace the success of our new river valley.

Why does attitude matter? Think about the quote at the top of the column and realize the opposite also is true. If we believe the best, we will work with enthusiasm to make the best happen … but what happens if we believe the worst? Can we harm and hinder our progress? Unfortunately, the answer is yes.

It’s a new day in the Kankakee River Valley.

Our success as a community begins with a profound and positive vision of our future. If we want to start a revolution, we must change the minds and hearts of our friends and neighbors. If we want to keep the positive flowing, and to keep attracting higher paying jobs, we must reflect the attitude of a positive community on the move. We cannot allow the history of our county to be written that says we had a shot at greatness … then blew it because we didn’t believe.

Positive people attract positive results. Positive communities attract great jobs, private investment and become communities that attract the best talent. I know this to be true and realize it all begins with our positive belief in our future. Why not believe? Aside from all the positive economic indicators, consider just the tip of the iceberg …

We live in a community blessed to be the home of one of the truly great Christian universities in America, Olivet Nazarene University.

In the past, if you needed stitches, you’d go to a local hospital, but for anything else, you’d head north. Today, traffic has been reversed on Interstate 57 as people from Chicago and suburbs are coming to Riverside Medical Center for the best treatment.

Have you driven around Peddinghaus lately? They are not just creating great jobs, they are transforming the community around them.

Nucor is expanding and investing in our community, and this outstanding company easily could have chose elsewhere.

And, of course, CSL Behring. I think in five years, we will be astounded by the growth of this world-class company and their investment in our community.

CSL Behring, Nucor, Peddinghaus and all the other great businesses expanding in our area … they could invest in any community they choose … but they chose the river valley.

They chose us.

Be proud.

Be positive.

We are the river valley, and we are on the move.

Mark Nov. 1, at 7 p.m. on your calendar. The positive mind and heart-changing revolution has begun. Details to follow.

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