Pensacola may need the spirit of Sam Walton as it pursues progress.
Someone recently described to me the way Sam Walton grew Walmart -- building his stores in every other or every two towns, so that the "inkblots" they made eventually bled together -- and covered more territory.
The challenge now is making sure as that Pensacola’s budding progress spreads. And touches as many of her ZIP codes as possible.
We have big progress "points of light" at Pensacola Beach; at Main and Palafox streets; at the Community Maritime Park; at Navy Federal Credit Union in Beulah; at our medical facilities, including the Andrews Institute; at the University of West Florida; at the Institute for Human and Machine Cognition.
We have smaller ones at the Port of Pensacola thanks to Offshore Inland; at Belmont-DeVilliers; at the airport when the ST Aerospace effort comes to fruition; and potentially at the Pensacola Technology Campus if the deal with Space Florida comes through.
But the vitality, entrepreneurship and enthusiasm connected with those bright spots need to spread -- especially to the western parts of our community. If they don't, we will never get as far as our much-discussed potential could carry us.
The longer the former site of the Main Street sewage treatment plant sits empty, the bigger the hole in the donut of success in the city will grow.
We can't get any further than we've already come unless the next wave of progress includes the reception hall at Brownsville Assembly of God Church on April 22, with all 230 chairs full and folks going into the back for more.
When Commissioner Lumon May called a town hall meeting in his District 3, he did it at the spot where the county and the city’s jurisdictions bump right up next to each other.
Where one side of that street is inextricably linked with the other.
The people who came to that town hall meeting came to ask questions of their mayor, their sheriff, their school superintendent and their county commissioner.
Because they care.
They want their community to be better. To rise above its challenges. To show its children there are options for the future that are more promising.
But they need good tools to help them do it, including objective data that shows things as they are, and case studies that show how other communities with similar challenges faced them.
They don’t have all the answers; and some of them may even feel like the people who have the answers don’t return their phone calls as quickly as the calls from other ZIP codes.
They still have enough faith that they showed up and asked their questions. They came to get their answers and be counted.
Folks who were willing to start what will surely be a long journey and who seemed to be willing to take that journey together.
If the sheriff isn’t buying the old trope that people are afraid to talk to the police because there are avenues that let you give information anonymously, then I’m not buying the old trope that folks in “those” neighborhoods don’t care what’s become of where they live.
I have a church reception hall full of people for my proof.