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A new series of community conversations started last week at Wingspread as part of a Johnson Foundation program.

A new initiative called Resilient Communities brings together all of the eastern Racine County communities — Caledonia, Elmwood Park, Mount Pleasant, North Bay, Racine, Sturtevant and Wind Point — to mull the future of the region and discuss ways municipalities can collaborate more.

This collaborative effort is vital for this community.

As Helen Johnson-Leipold, chief executive of Johnson Outdoors and chairwoman of the Johnson Financial Group and Wingspread boards, explained: “You can’t just look out for yourself … I think until we can come together and work together, all of us, we are going to have a hard time.”

The Racine community is a treasure. We are lucky to have an amazing lakefront, beach and Reefpoint Marina. A story earlier this month highlighted how that marina came together because of collaboration.

Hundreds of millions of dollars of investment followed, including Lakeshore Towers, the Gaslight Pointe development, the hotel that is now a Doubletree Inn and the adjacent parking structure.

Jean Jacobson, former Racine County executive, also cited officials’ work getting water and sewer out to Interstate 94 after some 30 years of discussion.

Without that collaboration, our county wouldn’t be able to grow, to expand its tax base and expand job opportunities for residents.

Collaborations can be smaller, but still make a big difference.

For example, the James A. Peterson Veterans Village is in the works at 1624 Yout St. It’s a community of tiny houses to help homeless veterans. To help with that initiative, students in one of the new academies at Park High School built one of the tiny houses for veterans. They put their education to a real-life purpose.

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Based on those examples, we know collaboration with real outcomes are possible.

Racine County communities need to continue to figure out ways to work together, whether it’s on development or helping with social problems.

Municipalities and organizations are no longer able to depend on federal or state dollars or big grants they once received. They can only depend on each other.

Mike Frontier, a Racine Unified School Board member, said during the Q&A session that participants need a sense of urgency about working together better.

“We’re running out of time here. We need to work together to make this collaboration happen,” Frontier said.

We agree, and hope differences can be put aside to achieve, through collaboration, a better future.

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