As we count off the final minutes of 2008, the challenges of the new year can seem quite daunting.
Ahead are 365 unknowns. After a year of disappearing jobs, seesaw gasoline prices, a long and sometimes divisive presidential campaign, the continuing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the threat of economic collapse, it may be difficult to warmly embrace Baby New Year.
For some, the natural response is to ignore the realities and purchase an extra-strength pair of rose-colored glasses. For others, the turmoil calls for extreme caution and hiding inside their personal shell.
Here’s a different response. It calls for planning and persistence and replaces worry with work.
It comes from the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce and is headed up by Dave Adkisson, who happens to be a personal acquaintance of mine as well as the state chamber’s president and CEO.
The proposal is being called Bold Steps to Advance Kentucky.
While most of the attention on the upcoming General Assembly session has been on the state’s financial troubles, Adkisson and the chamber are stepping up to push for an attitude of thriving rather than just surviving.
“Despite these tough economic times and the state’s budget shortfall, it is imperative that Kentucky continue to push for progress,” Adkisson said. “In fact, a strong focus on these areas can help strengthen our economy.”
Adkisson always has seemed to have a knack for the right words to motivate people. I recall his days as Owensboro mayor when he helped convince the community of the value of a community college, recruited industrial employers and successfully pushed for a new bridge across the Ohio River to provide a direct link to Interstate 64 in Indiana.
Another accomplishment that impressed me was a drive to revitalize downtown. That campaign which resulted in construction of a performing arts center, relocation of a natural history museum and an overall improvement in property appearance and pride. What impressed me most in that effort was Adkisson’s frequent references to downtown as the community’s living room. He stressed that it should be a place to impress and entertain guests as well as focal point for the community.
I lived four years in Owensboro while Adkisson was in office. While maintaining a journalist’s distance and critical eye, I found myself becoming an admirer of Mayor Dave.
After leaving office, he became Chamber Dave – leading the Owensboro-Daviess County Chamber of Commerce, first as project manager and later as its chief executive officer. After six years directing the chamber in Birmingham, Ala., he returned to Kentucky in 2005 to head the state chamber here.
He’s successfully served in other public service capacities, including time as chairman of the Kentucky Advocates for Higher Education, chairman of the Kentucky Center for Public Issues and co-founder of Leadership Kentucky.
I have outlined part of his background and accomplishments to tell you this: If Dave Adkisson believes Kentucky can take bold steps in the coming year, we should listen. Sometimes it pays to back a winner.
As you might expect, the organization’s agenda deals with the chamber’s core constituency in the business community. It also steps well beyond into education, wellness and modernizing government.
Details about the ideas are online at www.kychamber.com. I urge you take a few minutes during Thursday’s holiday and read about the initiatives and encourage our state legislators to do the same.
At the very least, I think you’ll be encouraged about its thoughtful, positive approach.
Ben Sheroan is general manager of The LaRue County Herald News.