Better Together

Guest Correspondence

Back in 2011, I was privileged to hear a wonderful speaker as he made the rounds, speaking to several area organizations about consolidation. At the time, we were at some our highest levels of unemployment in the recession, governments were forced to cut services and municipalities were raising taxes.  The city of Venice had just experienced a large turnover of its council and Jerry Abramson, the first mayor of a consolidated government in America – Louisville metro – was asked to come to Sarasota to share his experience, good and bad.

A guest of The Argus Foundation, Abramson, formerly the Lieutenant Governor of Kentucky, noted that when it came to attracting and creating new jobs, cities, counties and state governments were like 19th century organizations trying to solve 21st-century problems. While visiting with business owners, executives and elected officials, he spoke about how Jefferson County and Louisville, Kentucky. — the city for which he served as its elected mayor 15 years — collaborated to merge into one entity in 2000.

I was profoundly affected by his words, which emphasized how important community partnerships, public private partnerships and strong collaborative relationships can be to regional development and the well being of a community.

In Kentucky, the merging and alliances saved millions of dollars, created a more efficient local government and facilitated a region of 750,000 people to move forward in one direction. 

Every time I hear about another incredible partnership like the recent announcement of the Consortium of Colleges on the Creative Coast, or C4, I am reminded of Abramson’s notable message. Like C4, a joint effort among southwest Florida’s most prominent institutions of higher education that will allow Sarasota students to earn credit on six different campuses and will connect some 20,000 students to resources around the region, Abramson stressed that a collaborative focus will accomplish extraordinary things that can have a domino affect of wonderful achievements and vast regional benefits.

Another example of community collaboration is what is happening in South County at the Loveland Center. With partial funding from the state, thanks to the leadership of Sen. Nancy Detert, private donors and corporations like J.E. Charlotte Construction Corp., Halfacre Construction and PGT donating time, labor and materials, close to 100 adults with development disabilities will soon have a wonderful new apartment complex and clubhouse to enjoy. The Loveland Village is one more example of how community collaboration can achieve extraordinary results.  By the way, all of these community-invested companies are Argus Foundation members.

Additionally, just yesterday city and county officials gathered at Suncoast Technical College for the Convocation of Governments. Elected officials from the county and cities, the school board and planning staff, and members of the public shared ideas about joint use of facilities and partnering to maximize our public assets for the future. 

These wonderful examples should push us to continue this type of collaborative engagement. What more can we be doing to improve every aspect of our community and grow stronger? I applaud Ringling and its partners in the C4 initiative and the Loveland collaborative. I urge our community leaders to continue to engage in these important exercises that will make our community better and stronger for years to come. Together, we can certainly accomplish more. 

Christine Robinson the executive director of The Argus Foundation.

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