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Yesterday the Times Union ran an in-depth article about a Vision for downtown development. The Guest columnist was Mike Balanky, a local developer. I’ve run into Mr. Balanky at numerous business events and have heard him speak at two local civic organizations. He seems to have his head on his shoulders and his upbringing in Jacksonville adds to his desire to see her do well.

What I enjoyed about his column was his openness to working with all types of organizations and people to see his vision take root. It was refreshing to read. You can find it here: Mike Balanky’s Vision

Mr. Balanky’s vision reminded me of another business owner I met on a chartered boat excursion down the St. Johns River. John Williams of Lamb’s Yacht and Marina was speaking and pointed out how the St. Johns River is the crown jewel of North Florida. He felt it was under-utilized and under-valued when it came to developing downtown. He shared a few ideas of how downtown could be developed from the River to the Land instead of the other way around. He has traveled the world and seen many cities that have used their waterways to generate revenues, create events/opportunities and open up fun to all who visit and live there. He has an idea to get boaters more involved in downtown development. That would be nice and would hopefully add more insights into attracting boaters from around the country to our downtown.

Vision drives people to do big things. Downtown Jacksonville has sat on the sidelines as politicians juggle priorities of giving “deals” to their donors vs what’s best for all of us. It’s time to fix that scenario and bring downtown Jacksonville into the arena with other cities of like size and resources.

I hope our next Mayor — or even this one we have right now — will make a decision to open up their minds and hearts for new ideas from other people outside their realm of influence.

The schools are setting up listening sessions to discuss changing the names of some of their schools. (Not that we agree with this but at least they are open to discussion.)

Maybe it’s time to have a forum of home grown business owners/experts/citizens who have ideas that just might create a new and better downtown.

Something has to change. A big vision from homegrown people might just be the ticket. It’s worth a try!

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Billie Tucker Volpe Founder of Eye on Jacksonville and Leadership Consultant to CEOs/Executives

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