Whole is greater than sum of its parts

Published 11:55 am Saturday, May 4, 2013

There are any number of clichés that speak to the fact that teamwork often gets us farther in life than flying solo. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts, together everyone accomplishes more, united we stand – divided we fall, and so on. And though we know these things to be true, it’s part of our human nature to want to go it alone. Perhaps it’s because we think we can just do things better if others stay out of our way. Maybe we feel others aren’t capable enough to be of any real help. In many cases we don’t like sharing credit when things go well. In any event, I can personally speak to the fact that we often waste valuable time and energy stubbornly insisting that our way is the best, only to come to the realization that we need the help of others if we want to be successful.

A case in point is the continually developing partnership between the City of Franklin and Southampton County. We at this paper have gone on the record any number of times insisting that the two localities could reduce their costs, more efficiently provide services and realize greater economic growth if only they would bury old hatchets and work more closely together. Yet for years, old grudges or, more likely, the stubborn insistence that each felt it was better off without the other, led each locality nowhere. The truth, that each locality really would benefit from a more formal and practical partnership, was masked for years by the false promise of a stable economic future provided by only a couple of major employers.

And we all know how that story turned out.

The good news, however, is that some fairly forward thinking individuals on both sides of the fence have taken time in the last couple of years to really examine opportunities to work together. The even better news is that we are starting to benefit from the fruits of their labor. But now that things are beginning to move forward and many of us see a light at the end of what has felt like a pretty long tunnel, it’s important we not become complacent. In fact, it’s probably time to double down on our efforts.

Recent successes, the new Enviva plant, the AMAC concrete and asphalt project, the Love’s truck stop that was announced just this week, all serve as a reminder that we have a tremendous opportunity ahead of us because of what has turned out to be our most valuable resource: our location along Routes 58 and 460. These two thoroughfares, the primary arteries in and out of a rapidly expanding port in Hampton Roads, position us perfectly to take advantage of the fact that we sit at the gateway of international commerce. Few communities, let alone a sleepy little mill town and a vast rural county, have the opportunity to experience explosive economic growth without undergoing a major personality change. Yet that is the opportunity we have before us today if we properly utilize and exploit the development opportunity that is available along these key travel routes.

Ongoing partnership between Franklin and Southampton will only serve to expedite that growth. Whether it be to further develop growth opportunities in revenue sharing zones, combining efforts to improve and expand utility offerings across jurisdictional boundaries, or to simply fully fund our current shared economic development entity, by working together the whole will certainly become greater than the sum of its parts.

TONY CLARK is the associate publisher of The Tidewater News. He can be reached at tony.clark@tidewaternews.com.