Anyone who has perused the magazines in the supermarket checkout knows if you want to impress, you accentuate your best features and work on your imperfections. This advice is important as our area attracts greater attention.
Last year Rock Springs won the National Main Street Center’s Great American Main Street Award and was a finalist to be featured in the “Small Business Revolution – Main Street” television show. Earlier this month, Smithsonian Magazine listed it among the top 15 best small towns in the United States. In July the National High School Finals Rodeo returns to Sweetwater County, and we haven’t even gotten to summer highlights like the Flaming Gorge Days, farmers markets, Fourth of July fireworks, International Day, Sweetwater County Fair or River Festival.
We’ve got a lot of stuff going on and going for us, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t room for improvement. A complete makeover isn’t required, but touch-ups would improve our appearance, attitude and attention.
“Don’t judge a book by its cover” is advice we’ve heard and ignored a thousand times. It’s quicker and easier to look at surface details; getting to the heart takes more time. While our cities are a little nicer after the annual cleanups, volunteers didn’t get everything. More can be done to make things more presentable for visitors and neighbors alike.
Rock Springs started the Downtown Locate Litter program to encourage people to pick up trash and recycle more. It’s a reminder that we can all do our part. You don’t want to be known as the house or business on the block that makes the others look bad. Property owners enjoy a lot of freedom, but this comes with responsibilities. They must maintain lawns, avoid clutter, and be careful where they park RVs and four-wheelers so they don’t run afoul of nuisance ordinances.
It’s a sign of courtesy to meet the standards established by the neighborhood. It may require people to go beyond what makes them feel good and concentrate on what’s best for the whole, but that sacrifice comes with rewards such as improved aesthetics and a sense of belonging.
Adjusting our attitude can also improve our relations with strangers. The value of visitors continues to rise. Many predict tourism is Wyoming’s best bet to replace the declining profits of the energy industry. Already we’re seeing more travelers stop here to explore or host events. If we want them to keep coming and bringing their money, customer service is the best place to improve.
We don’t think we’re being too critical to say a lot of local workers could improve their dress and conduct. Too many businesses have let their standards slip, if they even had any to begin. Outdated flyers in windows, a lack of wayfinding signs and distracted employees who can’t put down cellphones leave poor impressions. The golden rule reminds us to treat others how we’d like to be treated. If we can’t offer quality and consideration, we can’t expect it in return.
Moving forward, we need a battle plan to direct our attention and efforts. It should be obvious to look ahead, but with the way some leaders act, we have to be explicit.
We need to identify our goals. Do we want to be the go-to place for untouched vistas, unique fossils and geology, an exceptional art collection, or one-of-a-kind history? Do we want to harness alternative energy sources like wind power? Do we want to establish hubs on the fiber-optic line to take advantage of Wyoming blockchain or supercomputer opportunities?
This isn’t the type of decision that should be left to a handful of elected officials. Town hall meetings and surveys should be commissioned to identity priorities, and then our leaders should work to meet them. When the system works the other way around, resources may be driven by personal biases or existing business or family interests. Concentrating on the consensus formed by the public keeps us working toward the good of the whole rather than the benefit of a few.
Cooperation is a must. We can build greater things through teamwork than what we can accomplish as individuals. We want to see cities and towns coordinate with the county to maximize their impact. They can better brainstorm ideas, pool resources, avoid duplicating work, stretch their purchasing power, and bring more benefits to more people.
This undertaking will require more engagement from residents. Instead of sitting back and letting others make decisions, the public needs to fill out questionnaires, offer solutions, attend meetings, debate pros and cons, and hold leaders accountable to the results they produce. We can’t count on outside forces like the state or global economy to bail us out. It would be nice if they came around, but we should proceed as if the cavalry isn’t coming. It’s up to us to chart and blaze a new path forward.
If we want to attract national headlines for positive reasons, we’ve got to raise our standards. We’ve made progress, but one side effect of self-improvement is that it makes unimproved or deficient areas more obvious. Cities are defined by their extremes – the good and the bad – and the ones that raise the bottom line will attract and keep the best and the brightest residents of tomorrow.
Fashion magazines tell us the best makeovers aren’t about becoming what you’re not; it’s revealing who you truly are and what you can offer. Through hard work and creativity, we can create a community that’s cleaner, more welcoming and committed to a future worth working toward. We can all be cover models, but only if we work together.