Beautifying exit 13 a win for all

Published 6:17 pm Wednesday, February 21, 2018

What is in a first impression? How much do we judge a person, a business or even a community based on what they look like?

A trashy appearance, or even an thoughtless appearance can lead first time acquaintances to believe that is what that person — business or community — is like all the time.

What does it say to a potential employer if a job applicant shows up to an interview in dirty, wrinkled clothes? What does it say to potential customers if a business leaves garbage out in clear view? What does our county’s appearance — specifically at the first location that visitors will see, the exits — tell visitors about our community?

In the next few months, anyone who travels past exit 13 on Interstate 85 regularly will begin to see a concerted effort to improve that first impression of our community.

The Ray C. Anderson Foundation began working to create what it calls “a green corridor” through the county back in 2014. Last week the City of LaGrange provided the final financial commitment needed to create a major change to the exit which currently services the industrial park and will soon be the main exit for Great Wolf Lodge and the proposed 500-acre shopping center.

The improvements to the exit will focus heavily on boulders and other elements that require little maintenance over the long-term, but we think it is significant that our local government is only paying for about a third of the $600,000 project. The rest of the money comes from groups investing in what that exit will be in the future.

Great Wolf Lodge and Selig Enterprise’s financial commitment to the project is an investment in not just the entrance to their own properties from the interstate but our community. As part of our community, they are making an effort to ensure that visitors’ first impression of the community where they will soon operate major businesses will be a good one.

Of course, making a good first impression will take more than landscaping by one exit though. We have to commit as a community to bettering our own small corners of the city and county where we live.

If we want to see people drive beyond that beautiful entryway and shop in local stores and eat in local restaurants, it is up to us as a community to make sure that we reinforce that good first impression through our most traveled roads.

We don’t all have to commit to investing the hundreds of thousands of dollars into our landscaping everywhere though. For many of us, there are much simpler steps that we can take to create a good first impression. Perhaps the simplest step we can take though is for each of us as individuals to make a conscious decision not to litter and not to allow those around us to litter.

It is up to us to ensure that visitors have a good first impression of our community.