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When I first moved to Racine, I knew very little about our town — but over the last 15 years, I have learned that we live in a special place. It’s a place filled with history, with tradition and with family values.

It was known by travelers as the Belle City of the Lakes, or invention city if you were an entrepreneur looking to make your mark in the emerging industrial age. Did you know that Racine High School (1851) was the first public high school in the state and that Gateway (1911) was the first publicly funded technical college in the nation? One of the world’s first automobiles was built in Racine in 1871 by Dr. J. W. Cathcart, as was the Pennington Victoria tricycle.

Today, we celebrate it as the Kringle Capital of the World, as a city where the re-invention of advanced manufacturing, or Industry 4.0, is taking place, and a place marked by early pioneering efforts in smart city technology applications. Whether you enjoy reminiscing about the past or are visioning about the future one thing that is true, Racine is our home.

Recently, Carthage College hosted a community forum with authors James and Deborah Fallows. The focus of the discussion was on their new book “Our Town: A 100,000 Mile Journey into the Heart of America.” In the book, they describe the conditions, events and stories of the people in 29 towns across America, concluding with common elements that successful towns have in common, what they call 10½ signs of civic success. These are things such as people working together on practical local possibilities rather than allowing bitter disagreements about politics to keep them apart, and people knowing the civic story about their community.

They spoke about the importance of public-private partnerships and that successful towns have distinctive and innovative schools. Number seven on their list of characteristics was “They have, and care about, their community college.” That is where I will end my comments.

We are fortunate that our civic leaders had the vision and courage to start Gateway more than a century ago and to leverage its resource capacity to work through the good times and challenging times for the betterment of our town.

Gateway Technical College is proud to be on this journey with you.

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Bryan Albrecht is president and CEO of Gateway Technical College.

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