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What Could All American City Designation Mean for South Bend!

July 8, 2011

A delegation of 58 South Bend residents has descended on Kansas City, MO ready to make their pitch as to why South Bend should be recognized as an All American City. The group met one final time on Wednesday evening for rehearsal. This morning they will appear in front of a national jury of business, non-profit, and local government experts to make their case. Award winners will be selected Friday evening. 

The buzz around the convention is about the South Bend contingent, the largest and loudest of all of the city finalist delegations. Several participants on Wednesday commented that if there was a spirit award, that South Bend would certainly win it. The South Bend delegation, led by Mayor Luecke and largely made up of youth, stand anxious to make their case. Today they’ll highlight the partnership with Notre Dame and the  Northeast Neighborhood Revitalization, the partnership with IUSB and the Civil Rights Heritage Center/Natatorium Project, and the 212° Stars Program, a program that helps at-risk youth, among other South Bend positives.
The National Civic League recognizes 10 communities each year for outstanding civic accomplishments. To win, each community must demonstrate innovation, inclusiveness, civic engagement, and cross sector collaboration by describing successful efforts to address pressing local challenges. This year, there are 26 finalist cities including South Bend, representing 19 different states. There are no other Indiana cities amongst the 2011 finalists. Ann Arbor, Michigan and Cincinnati, Ohio are other Midwestern cities selected as a finalists.
The All American City award was first given in 1949. Since then, more than 500 communities have received the award. South Bend first received the award in 1967. Ft. Wayne and Richmond were the last Indiana cities to be recognized, in 2009.

Representing South Bend in Kansas City are 58 delegates, including Mayor Luecke, representatives from The Chamber of Commerce, The Convention & Visitors Bureau, and The University of Notre Dame, and various community groups.

I believe recognition as an All American City could be just the shot in the arm South Bend needs. The negative feelings brought about by the Newsweek story have dominated the conversation in recent months and been hotly debated in a lot of circles. Communities have reacted in different ways, and unfortunately some of the naysayers have beaten the drum the loudest in our community. I think we all could agree we have challenges, but what we do about those challenges will define our community over the next decade and beyond.

For our community move forward and be the community we all want it to be, we all need to recognize that each of us plays and important role and has a responsibility to do our part. We can’t sit on the sideline and simply be critical or wait for someone else to make a difference. We all need to roll up our sleeves.

It is my hope that recognition as an All American City can be a source of great community pride. The national attention it brings should help us as we sell our community to potential businesses and citizens. I also hope that the energy I feel here in Kansas City is contagious, and that we are able to bring it back to South Bend. We have an incredible group of young people here, committed to making a difference and to improving our community. Can’t we all get on board, rally, and work with them to build the kind of community where they will want to live, work, raise their families, and retire?

Jeff Rea is the  President & CEO, The Chamber of Commerce of St. Joseph County

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