Another Vision for Tallahassee


My Turn

Jim Croteau

Rob Clarke, Chair of the Greater Tallahassee Chamber of Commerce wonders why, as the capital of the third largest state, we lag behind other capital cities. Take Austin, Texas for example. Austin is famous for its outstanding food, great live music venues, culture, history, natural beauty, weather, friendly locals and genuine weirdness. Tallahassee has all of that and more. Yet, despite Choose Tallahassee’s efforts, new residents are not flocking in and college and university graduates are not choosing to stay here.

Chair Clarke echoed Florida Camber of Commerce CEO Mark Wilson’s call for a clear vision for Tallahassee, but I think it has to go beyond private sector economic growth. The vision that is needed is one that directs government, businesses and citizens to think big about the area’s future.

Tallahassee is Florida’s Capital City. My vision is that it should be Florida’s Capital for Learning, Leading and Living. The components are here, but community leaders have to think strategically how to be the model for the state and other communities seeking excellence for its citizens.

With a tier one research university in Florida State, a leading HBCU in Florida A&M, and now Tallahassee College, 60,000 students spend years in this town. Each of those institutions have the capacity to be the best in the state and among the best in the nation. But it will take big steps to meet FSU President McCollough’s research to innovation goals, FAMU’s business leadership programs and Tallahassee State College’s workforce partnership success. More is needed to become the Capital for Learning, like FSU College of Medicine making Tallahassee Memorial a first class teaching hospital, FAMU/FSU College of Engineering becoming a bio-medical and cyber engineering leader, and FSU/FAMU colleges of education making all of Leon County schools demonstration and research centers for PreK-12 model instructional practices. These are just a few examples.

As the Capital of Leading, no other place in the state has the political decisionmakers gathering and the key elements of government and the courts visible doing the business of the state. This diverse community of ours should be the training ground for future leaders in government, business and community development. FSU’s College of Business expansion, FSU and FAMU law schools, Tallahassee State College’s Institute for Nonprofit Innovation and Excellence are the starting points for real leadership training and practical experiences. Why are Marist and Quinnipiac colleges the source of polling data for national news rather than Florida State’s Askew School of Public Administration and Policy.

As the Capital for Living, many of the above mentioned qualities make us special as a place to live and raise children. Arts, sports, history, higher ed, health care and food options are all here. Workforce housing is becoming harder to find and a previous column suggested ways that FSU and FAMU could innovate in that area. But beautiful changes in seasons and fun sports, entertainment and social activities are not enough. Tallahassee/Leon County can lead the way in creating neighborhoods and new villages that encourage people to interact and share activities. Walkable neighborhoods with mini-parks and connections to shopping and recreation should be the norm. A strong non-profit sector helping those in need, supported by government, businesses, churches and citizens is essential. And a variety of employment opportunities with a living wage should be models for small and large businesses.

We have sent community leaders to Austin and Nashville and other places to see how they do things. My vision is that people come to Tallahassee to learn how we became the Capital of Learning, Leading and Living.

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