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Skipper: Learning how to walk together into the future
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Skipper: Learning how to walk together into the future

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Have you ever procrastinated about doing something simple like shining your shoes? You know how it goes -- you say to yourself, "I'll get to it."

Then one day, you're walking with a friend who looks down at your feet and laughs and says, "Boy, you need a shoe shine."

He (or she) isn't telling you anything you don't already know but, somehow, it hurts a little to have someone else point it out. You know you should have taken care of that.

I had that feeling Thursday, at the annual meeting of the North Iowa Corridor EDC, when the guest speaker, Jeff Marcell, a consultant with TIP Strategies of Seattle, told us we have "a culture of no" that is holding us back.

He said it was obvious when his TIP Strategies staff perused responses from more than 700 surveys submitted by residents as part of the Vision North Iowa program.

Obvious, he said. "You're awfully hard on yourself," said Marcell.

For many of us, he was telling us something we already knew. We're pretty negative sometimes, and we need to shine our shoes.

But when someone from Seattle comes in, takes a look at us, and notices it -- that stings a little.

Marcell had a lot of good things to say about us, too - our infrastructure with its highways and airport; our college; our history of successes -- he named the Park Inn Hotel and the cleaning of the lake in Clear Lake, and he could have mentioned many more.

He also said we have some issues that we share with many other areas of the state -- shrinking population, below average median income, loss of jobs, lower than average higher education level.

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TIP Strategies is going to help local leaders put together a plan to overcome our deficiencies and then, with the community's help, put together a five-year implementation program to make us a better place to live and work.

The intriguing and exciting part about all of this is that suggestions and ideas from the community will be incorporated into the five-year plan. 

Marcell's talk was not alarming; it was motivational.

But my mind keeps drifting back to his comments about "the culture of no." 

We all know it's there and has been for quite some time, especially in Mason City.  

It's not within all of us but it is within some of us, and that can be enough to discourage many of the rest of us.

To paraphrase a book title, it's "The Audacity of Nope."

Our goal of course is to build new roads and bridges and improve our schools, bring in new industries and have an atmosphere that will attract and keep young families here.

Can we do it if we maintain that "culture of no?"

How does a community get to feel good about itself and share that feeling with others?

Maybe collectively, we'll come up with an answer to that.

Maybe one of the results of the Vision North Iowa project will be that as a community, we will feel motivated to shine our shoes and keep them shined as we walk into the future together. 

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