It’s so disorienting to walk into a favorite store for a drink and find that the store has been rearranged. You can’t easily find what you came to buy. It’s frustrating.
Most of us are creatures of habit. We love our routines. They form our comfort zones and make us feel safe. This is why so many of us resist change. However, change is the only real constant in this world.
It is likely that when man first discovered how to use fire, the people he lived with were horrified. His arguments against it were probably quite similar to the complaints people make today when faced with change. There’s no need. It’s too different. It’s scary. The cost is too high. Things are fine as they are. However, it is impossible to imagine life today without using fire.
Nothing improves without change. As the adage goes, “If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always gotten.” We simply need to understand and accept why change is necessary and how it can improve our lives.
Since change is inevitable, the real questions are: how can we make things better without causing too many people too much distress in the process? Where is the common ground? How do we make and keep everyone happy?
People resist change mainly because they fear the unknown. They don’t understand why a change is needed. It’s even worse when no one asks for your opinion before making a change. This often results in skepticism, concern, and angry rejection. A frequent complaint is money. People don’t like to see their tax dollars being spent. They don’t realize that all of our tax dollars are earmarked for specific purposes. If we don’t apply for the funds, the money will be spent in some other community. We are lucky to have people smart enough to develop plans so good that they are chosen for funding. Instead of complaining, we should be eternally grateful for their efforts on our behalf.
This is why people need to understand the reasons for any change and how it will benefit them.
There are always proactive leaders behind any positive change. They are the people who refuse to sit back and watch the assets of their community slowly wither away. They decide to do something before it’s too late. They organize and adopt a collaborative can-do attitude.
A local example of positive change can be seen along the three miles of Central Avenue that connects the city of Dunkirk and the town of Fredonia. Improvements were made at both ends and throughout the corridor. Dunkirk Pier and Barker Commons in Fredonia are now more attractive and welcoming. Beautiful new crosswalks at some of the larger intersections have improved public safety. There are street signs on the light poles. More changes are coming because we are lucky to have caring people in both communities. For example, we will soon have access to shared ride scooters.
This happened because local leaders connected with the University of Buffalo Regional Institute’s School of Architecture and Planning to develop a visionary plan for the Central Connection in 2016. Among the recommendations was the need to focus economic development efforts on the corridors and existing historic centers. to create vibrant and pedestrian-oriented places. What better place to start than with Central Avenue?
They decided to take advantage of the city centers, the coast and the university as economic engines to boost local businesses. They strengthened access to recreational activities such as fishing, cycling, boating, and festivals. We are also starting to see better connectivity between trails in the area. All of these efforts impact our quality of life and make the area worth visiting. Ultimately, this could spur growth outside of our urban centers. That could bolster the area’s tax base.
The Northern Chautauqua Community Foundation Local Economic Development committee strongly supports the people in our community who are working hard to make our communities safe, healthy and vibrant.
Recognizing that this sometimes requires change is essential. As Charles Kettering, the famous inventor and engineer at General Motors, pointed out, “The world hates change, but it is the only thing that has brought progress.”
Patty Hammond is the Economic Development Coordinator for the Local Economic Development committee.