A solid foundation to build upon and

challenges that can be met.

During the last days of 2020 the most common phrase heard was some variation of, “Glad to turn the page on this year.”

With the omicron variant flaring up, once again creating virus spikes and complicating life just as the holiday season arrived, the phrase is likely apt again. On to 2022.

Truth is—and most doctors will acknowledge as much—this virus in one form or another probably isn’t going away. But like other illnesses, a combination of vaccines and effective treatments and common sense prevention techniques will allow people to get back to normal sooner or later.

Taking stock as one year fades and another dawns is a long and good tradition. For individuals and families it’s about planning for the future, measuring progress toward goals while being sure to enjoy the journey.

It’s not so different with communities, in an effort to keep moving always forward. That doesn’t happen by accident. For leaders, it requires a clear sense of direction and sound planning. For residents it means electing good leaders and making certain they know what citizens want them to accomplish.

The Beloit community has reason to look ahead with optimism. In the first place, this is not 2020 when fear of the pandemic essentially shut down the world. Yes, 2021 had its challenges, and so will 2022. Even so, normality is closer than it’s been in quite a while. Thank the folks responsible, from healthcare heroes to first responders to the working people who kept society above water. They set the stage for the kind of recovery already being seen.

As the community looks to 2022 there are expectations of progress. The long-awaited Ho-Chunk casino complex is expected to break ground, promising millions in development and hundreds of jobs. The Stateline Boys & Girls Club will open its new facility, providing a positive influence for generations to come. There are major projects underway and on the drawing boards for the Gateway Business Park, one of Wisconsin’s most successful economic development sites.

Housing is hot with existing properties selling at record prices. And after years of sluggishness, new home starts are ramping up as Beloit increasingly becomes a destination for property seekers. There also are good signs that retail and service growth is taking hold, as a new highway corridor opens sites for development opportunities.

The reconstructed I-39/90/43 interchange, right at the state line, also showcases the Gateway park area and is likely to draw the attention of developers and investors over the next few years. Optimism is justified.

Obviously, that doesn’t mean the Beloit area can rest on its accomplishments or conclude all is good and right. Just as the progress stands out, so too do the challenges.

At the top of the list of needs is a full-scale community effort to take on the street violence that threatens to tarnish Beloit’s reputation. It’s not only a human tragedy, it’s also a potential barrier to continued development trends. Keep in mind the scale, as a small percentage of the population is causing high-profile damage. The vast majority of people are good and solid and focused on building a positive life for themselves and their families. The troublemakers are few.

That’s one reason development success is so important. The best social program is job creation, aligning opportunities with need.

It’s also important to continue improving educational opportunities and achievement, to provide not just skills but more critically a hopeful environment for young people. That is something concrete, and do-able, and deserves the entire community’s focus.

There’s too much poverty, creating a semi-permanent underclass, which can become a breeding ground for social dysfunction. The good news is that’s a solvable problem. It doesn’t happen overnight. But it can happen.

Likewise, even as so many parts of Beloit have been improved and taken on a showcase appearance, it’s important to invest money and resources into the older neighborhoods and infrastructure. Pride grows where people see improvements and commitment and caring.

There’s reason to believe the best is yet to come, because this is a community that has shown an ability to meet problems head-on and make dreams into reality. There’s a role for everyone to play.

As 2022 arrives, greet it with the resolve to make Beloit better. No one will do it for us. It’s our job.

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