Seven Hardin County communities have collectively shown visionary leadership and taken the first step toward creating a thriving future with this placemaking action plan. While each community has its own unique opportunities, true, sustained success in the county will only be achieved by working together towards implementing the projects outlined here.

While they will stand on their own, the catalytic impact of each of these placemaking projects will be maximized when they all are realized. A synergistic effect has been embedded in the various projects, underscoring the necessity of maintaining the county-wide approach. While some projects will come to fruition more quickly than others, it will be essential to not leave any projects – or communities – behind. After all, a rising tide should lift all boats.

City and county leaders, both elected and not, must be bold in advancing the vision laid out in this action plan. Timelines may seem aggressive, and capital needs may seem daunting. The money to implement these projects, though, is out there; groups like ArtPlace America, local and statewide institutions, philanthropists, or governmental entities are good starting points. While there will be challenges, local leadership must be persistent in seeking and securing these funds. Apply for grants regularly, and strategically develop and nurture relationships with existing and potential donors. Show them the economic and social impact of their contributions, and paint the picture of how additional support could further transform the community.

Be persistent. There will be setbacks and disappointments. It will be important to remember that community development is a marathon, not a sprint. Potential developers may walk away from a deal, and nonprofit champions may leave a board. The faces may change, but the vision should remain: An even better Hardin County. The placemaking steering committee must find more local champions for these projects and help build the leadership bench for the coming decades.

The communities, county, and residents must continue thinking towards the future – not just next year, but five, ten, and even twenty years down the road. What do we want our communities to be when they grow up? How will we evolve to keep up with ever-advancing technology? How will we prepare that next generation of leaders?

The manner in which Hardin County leaders answer these questions will determine if the county simply maintains the status quo or if it flourishes in the future. The playbook to flourish is in hand. Now it’s time to act.