Chinese Philosopher Leo-tzu once observed that, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” Of course, this statement assumes you know where you are going.

For the past six months the community, through the Lebanon 2040 Vision Project, has worked to answer the question, “Where are we going as a community?” More specifically, what do we want our community to look like 25 years from now?

And, what values do we want Lebanon to possess in the year 2040?

The vision process to answer those questions involved an extensive and unprecedented outreach to residents and stakeholders throughout Lebanon, including small business owners, large business leaders, non-profit representatives, seniors, parents, educators, high school students, after-school program workers, medical students, health care workers, community leaders, Spanish-speaking residents, homeowners, renters, pastors and service club members.

All totaled, the vision program involved twenty-one different focus group meetings on various subjects, two online community surveys, numerous individual interviews, the Lebanon 2040 website which was visited by nearly 2,000 separate internet addresses, hundreds of discussions with participants at the Lebanon Biz Expo, a community visioning forum held at the Boys & Girls Club, and several meetings of the vision steering committee, vision sounding board and the Lebanon City Council.

The result of the outreach effort is a simple, yet eloquent vision statement that defines what the community wants to be true about itself in the year 2040. That statement is: “Lebanon is a friendly and thriving community.”

But, that statement taken alone will not do much for Lebanon. We need to know how to make the vision statement true in 2040. The backbone of the vision statement is its seven focus areas. These are the areas the community feels must be worked on so its aspiration to be both friendly and thriving can be realized for the future. These focus areas are comprised of:

Arts and Culture: Doing more to incorporate the arts and cultural events into the community,

Downtown: Revitalizing downtown and making it the heart of Lebanon,

Education: Promoting and providing quality education at all levels and throughout the community,

Healthy Community: Assuring the means for healthy lifestyles and the availability of quality healthcare,

Jobs and Growth: Fostering a thriving economy fueled by healthy businesses, local jobs with living wages, and infrastructure that supports both,

Safe Community: Securing safe neighborhoods through pro-active law enforcement and efforts that strive to eliminate illegal drug use, and

Small Town Values: Maintaining and building on Lebanon’s tradition of being a friendly and welcoming community that embraces inclusivity and diversity.

So, Lebanon has a vision statement. Now what? If we think about our Chinese philosopher and his journey that starts with the first step, there’s one more piece we need. We need a map that shows us the best and most strategic way to arrive at our preferred future. It’s called a strategic plan.

Beginning in early fall, the city will launch a project to develop a community strategic plan to take action on each of the seven focus areas. We, as a community, say we want more jobs, healthy businesses, a safe community, etc. But how are those things actually going to happen? That’s what the strategic plan will provide. It will be a road map that shows how the city and other community organizations can work together to assure that Lebanon is the friendly and thriving place we aspire it to be.