Into 2013, with momentum

Published 12:20 pm Saturday, December 29, 2012

As our nation teeters on the fiscal cliff, the outlook is considerably more stable – and hopeful – here at home as Western Tidewater ushers in 2013.

Could even the most optimistic among us have envisioned it – hopefulness, that is – three year-ends ago, when news of the closure of International Paper’s Franklin mill had just sucker-punched a complacent community?

Who would have predicted, amid the gloom that was the winter of 2009-10, that the mill would be operational again in three years?

That dirt would have been moved for a new manufacturing plant in Southampton County?

That a nationally known coffee roaster would be cranking out pods in Windsor?

That unemployment rates in Franklin, Southampton County and Isle of Wight County would be lower in October 2012 than in October 2009?

That taxable sales in Franklin would be up 10 percent from 2009?

That Franklin and Southampton County elected officials would be actively exploring ways to cooperate on delivery of services?

That Franklin-Southampton’s hard-working economic developer, Amanda Jarratt, would give up some scheduled vacation days close to Christmas in order to work some hot industrial-development leads. (She did so. With a smile her face.)

Despite all those reasons for encouragement, challenges – and, thus, opportunities – remain in 2013.

Franklin must confront its school problem. If the current school board fails to act, the City Council must use a round of summer appointments to put in place new board members who will lead assertively, who will reject the notion that Franklin’s education problems are too big to fix.

Southampton supervisors must draft a responsible budget that controls spending and, where necessary, adjusts tax rates to fund essential services. No more budgetary gimmicks such as “garbage fees” that kick the proverbial can down the road and balance the budget on the backs of working-class families while sparing corporate farm interests the pain of fiscally responsible government.

The “no” mentality on economic development – still too prevalent in pockets of Western Tidewater – must be confronted ever diligently by those who understand that communities either grow or stagnate, and that stagnation leads to decay.

Heading into 2013, momentum is on our side, a testament to this community’s resiliency during its darkest hour.