Tuesday, April 10, 2007

State of Mind

The Great Flood of 1993 was the most devastating ever in the history of the Mississippi River. Approaches to the many bridges that cross the Mighty Mississippi were cut off. You couldn’t go from the IL side to the IA or MO side from the Quad Cities down to St. Louis. Normal business and trade along the river slid precipitously.

Community leaders along the river saw the impact and began meeting on a regular basis to discuss the things that the 35 counties in western IL, northeast MO and southeast IA had in common with each other. Their initial efforts led to the construction of a number of highway projects that have greatly improved infrastructure in the region, including the construction of the Avenue of the Saints, a new interstate from St. Louis, MO to St. Paul, MN that cuts right through the region.

I was there for their Tri-State Development Summit, pulling together 450 people interested in their regional approach. Current efforts include regional initiatives in entrepreneurship, agriculture, housing, tourism, rivers, workforce, media and transportation. Each area offers some unique opportunities to work together for the betterment of the entire region.

Calling themselves the State of Mind, their new mythical state of 35 counties with 18,815 square miles is larger than the states of RI, DE, CT, HA, NJ, MA, NH, VT and MD. And with almost 700,000 people it would exceed the populations of WY, VT, AK AND ND. Yet, this area is represented by five U. S. Congressmen and six U. S. Senators, giving it much more clout than any of the 20 states shown in red.

This idea of regionalism is brilliant and a major wave of the future that I see developing throughout the USA. Most regionalism efforts stop at state borders because of natural rivalries, silo-thinking mentality and the hassles inherent in working in multiple states. However, the people in the State of Mind (I love that name!) have conquered those barriers and are positioning themselves for great things in the future.

What barriers do you need to tear down to be working more on a regional basis, like the State of Mind?

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