Sometimes it takes stepping back to see the bigger picture and understand just how much progress has been made.

After living in Lake County for three years (2014-2016), where it felt like many of the articles I wrote detailed possible things happening, now that I am temporarily back it is refreshing to see that many things that were once discussed ad nauseam are now happening. It can be easy to get caught up in the day-to-day grind of our lives in Lake County to not recognize how much tangible positive change there has been, but after three years away the change is notably dramatic.

When I first came to Lake County in March of 2014 Lakeview felt run down, decaying and slowly dying, like many rural communities across this country that had once thrived on a singular industry that was no longer economically viable to carry an entire community. I had my pick of rentals from which to choose.

I spoke with community leaders who had high hopes for new plans – embracing renewable energy, new potential industry partners, and lofty goals to push forward new ideas to keep Lake County aimed at the future rather than be stuck in the past.

The first was development of the Innovation and Learning Center, allowing adult education and college credit courses for Lake County students for the first time. Expansion of the program with classrooms at Paisley and North Lake is offering new opportunities, and greater incentive for people to stay local rather than pursue interests beyond Lake County’s borders.

The development of renewable energies is obvious. Multiple solar projects have been built or approved for construction, geothermal energy is now utilized extensively, and in only a few months Red Rock Biofuels will begin operations. Not only Red Rock, but several new businesses have brought new jobs, new construction, and new people to communities.

Many buildings have a fresh coat of paint, or have completed renovations. Thanks to the efforts of Lakeview Community Partnership and others, downtown Lakeview looks revived and thriving, and the acquisition of the Alger Theater returns a key social epicenter functional for the community once more. A completed soccer field in Lakeview has provided an all new place for youth to play, and new sports programs emerging at schools offers new opportunities.

There is a lot to be proud of, and much work that still needs to be done. Roads in the northern part of the county remain a common complaint, railroad upgrades are needed before Red Rock begins operations, drugs and housing remain major dilemmas – the latter of which will only get worse as more people flock to the area to fulfill jobs. There is much work ahead, and the job may never completely be done, but the collective efforts of community leaders to improve Lake County’s standing has resulted in dramatic positive changes over six short years.

Change can be hard, but it is not impossible. Those who have fought hard to overcome naysayers deserve gratitude for working to better Lake County and its citizens. Is it perfect? No, of course not. But the work that has been completed is noticeable, if we just take a step back and look at the big picture. Good things are happening, and I for one applaud those who have spent the past decade striving to create a more perfect Lake County.

— By Kurt Liedtke

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