I’m not a very good golfer, nor is my father, but every year we take an early Springtime trip to some warm southern community for time together on the links. A highlight is discovering towns we haven’t explored in the past, from Birmingham, Alabama, to St Augustine, Florida. This spring, our travels took us to Savannah, Georgia . . . and, wow, were we impressed!
As the Boulder Chamber president, it’s natural for me to compare every town my father and I visit, and every other place I travel, to the best community on Planet Earth, Boulder. Still, I’m not immune to the attractions of other communities, especially when they seemingly contrast favorably in areas where Boulder is struggling. From my surface perspective as a visitor, at least, I’m always finding model conditions and potential lessons for my community.
Take the challenge of addressing diversity and inclusiveness. A brief walk around Savannah immediately exposed this visitor to a mélange of ethnic and economic diversity that I would love to see represented in the Boulder population. The celebration of that diversity, too, in everything from the arts to civic leadership and historic sites demonstrated a community that is forging a positive path toward overcoming its history or slavery and racial prejudice.
Another feature of America’s “first planned city” is the amazingly walkable environment Savannah has preserved around the 22 original town squares. Each square features a beautiful park with sculptures, abundant trees and comfortable seating areas. Surrounding the squares is generally a tight mix of historic and modern buildings, housing residents, college dorm rooms and businesses, all packed-in without apparent auto congestion or a loss of neighborhood charm.
Finally, among the many other observations that struck me about Savannah was the impressive array of mass transit options. Scooters everywhere — not intrusive, but readily available for trips across town. They made for a particularly convenient complement to the regular stream of busses that shuttled tourists and residents all around the town. And people seemed to be using that transit, too.
So where am I going with this travel log? As a visitor to Savannah, I can attest that my father and I came away impressed. It’s probably just the way most Boulder visitors leave this town. Among many other things, they rave about the amazing Flatirons views and open spaces, they remark on the pedestrian friendly downtown, they might even notice our fun HOP, SKIP and JUMP busses. And, of course, we boast a beautiful university campus that infuses our town with a lively innovative spirit.
Returning to Boulder last week, though, I was immediately immersed in the everyday challenge of addressing issues that fill our newspapers and social media feeds. The Boulder Chamber is engaged in the struggle to overcome the barriers to a more culturally diverse, welcoming and inclusive community. We’re working to appropriately integrate redevelopment that accommodates our housing and business needs. And who doesn’t have a gripe about our transit system? In my role, it’s hard not to discover a new issue lying around every corner of the community.
Maybe it was for sanity purposes, but I decided to take a little peek behind the curtain as a way of testing the vision of Savannah my father and I enjoyed so much during our visit. It turns-out that reality was just a telephone call away to my colleague at the Savannah Area Chamber, president and CEO Bill Hubbard.
Bill, like me, is a booster for his town. “Savannah is a wonderful town, featuring . . .” It actually made me a bit self-conscious hearing him talk like a prototypical chamber leader. But dig a little deeper, and Bill will fess-up to the continued struggle to achieve greater inter-racial relations. They, too, are working to balance business, college, and tourism growth with community impacts that include rising housing costs. Oh, and traveling into Savannah on a daily basis for commuting employees: a headache!
With that perspective, I offer this . . . When you live in Boulder and if you’re even lightly engaged in community issues, you probably can find fault. For those who care about the welfare of others, about our future sustainability, or simply about the maintenance of a median near your house, there’s always something to improve. But if I gained anything from the trip to Savannah with my father (aside from the extra pounds, care of our nightly visits to the Leopold’s ice cream shop), it’s this: quirks, warts and all, I love Boulder!
John Tayer is president and CEO of the Boulder Chamber.
Read on Bizwest.com