Community spirit as an economic engine

It’s useful to honestly measure the things that make a city attractive to its current and future residents. Clean streets, low crime rate, diverse retail options, value for the housing dollar and jobs are obvious elements of attractiveness. A thoughtful city planner or economist would measure these things, understand their impact on revitalization and then target spending to get the biggest bang for the buck.

However, there may be a secret ingredient to revitalization success that economists don’t measure.

  • There must be a reason Cleveland has rebounded while Detroit remains a basket case or why Chattanooga has had a successful re-birth while Camden continues to fail
  • There has to be a spark that starts even the most planned of revitalizations.
  • Money and analysis can’t be the only ingredient in a re-birth

What is the intangible missing ingredient that helps a city succeed?

With little supporting evidence, I suggest that a loving community spirit will be a big part of making Trenton an attractive place to live.

This revelation came in the most unexpected and tragic of ways. My 19 month old son passed away unexpectedly on December 20th. He was a perfect child: happy, fearless and out-going. Those that knew him comment that he lit up a room and was generous with hugs even to people he’d recently met.

In many ways he was Trenton to us. We took him out to dinner at Settimo Ciello and the Trenton CC. He’s been to Art All Night, Trenton2Nite and Patriots Week. He was part of the Mill Hill baby boom and an instigator of the city’s growing mommy network. He is even multiracial, like our city. His death has devastated his parents but also affected the lives of neighbors in Trenton and the surrounding area.

In the days leading up to his memorial service on Dec. 23rd and at the service itself, we were overwhelmed with the showing of support for our little boy.

What we were feeling was an outpouring of community spirit. We knew most of the people at the service from working on community endeavors like Passage Theatre, the City Museum, Leadership Trenton, The Trenton Film Society, Junior League, Child Placement Review Board, Artworks and neighborhood associations. Others we know from being active in the city’s political discourse and not always on the same side of the argument.

This week we’ve heard words of support from The Mayor and City Councilpersons, we had quick and compassionate help from the police, EMTs and staff at Mercer Hospital. We’ve heard words of encouragement from Alexander’s daycare, tenants and our pest control company. Most of all we’ve had staunch support from friends in the community. These are the same people who steadfastly support Trenton and its institutions.

Their support and love stems from a common thread; that being involvement and spirit for their community. Their support showed a true capacity for compassion. My friend, developer Michael Goldstein, commented the next day that Alexander’s service reinforced his belief that though Trenton is small city, it can absolutely feel like a community.

This brings us back to Alexander. Several speakers at the service pointed out that one of the lessons from his life was that he loved people and didn’t sweat the small stuff. I can’t help thinking that if we, as community spirited Trentonians, could work harder at attacking issues with love in our hearts and a focus on the big things, we’d really get the ball rolling. I know I could do more to foster such a cooperative spirit.

Our community events would be easier to put together, our political discourse would be more civil and our institutions easier to run. We’d be more trusting of each other and more open to newcomers and visitors. A community spirited Trenton with a true sense of loving cooperation and perspective would surely be one of the most attractive places to live in the country.

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2 Responses to “Community spirit as an economic engine”

  • [...] “Community spirit as an economic engine” [...]

  • Bonnie:

    I am so very sorry to hear of the loss of your child. I have a son and can not fatham the grief if I were to lose him.

    I live in Chambersberg and my Mom in Mill Hill.

    I believe that community sprit is just a begining to re building a community. Chambersberg receives littl if any support for basis like trash cans to keep our community clean. The police are down right hostile and community meetings are posted after they have taken place.

    Id not believe that since most of my neighbors ma or may not be legal or are renters not owneres (I own) that they do not want to improve our living conditions as part of Trenton. These are HARD working people/families. We need rescources and speed limit signs to save our community and children from danger.

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