This article originally appeared in Midlands Anchor on July 2016

Written by Greg Hilton and Heather Dughaish

Change is in the air. You can’t put your finger on it, but it’s palpable. Yes, our city is “under construction” with more than $1 billion in development occurring in our downtown alone. But, a city isn’t defined by its buildings. It’s defined by its people, culture and aspirations. For the first time, there’s a glimmer of hope that we’re becoming the place that we always talk about becoming: an exciting city, revitalized, re-inspired, a city looking forward.

Yet, struggles remain. Our entrepreneurial community struggles to grow. Our city’s aspiring innovators and change makers hit roadblocks at many turns and new ideas struggle to gain the traction and support they need. We see our talented friends leaving, drawn to “other places” pulsing with life, thriving creative and tech scenes, and the chance to fulfill one’s purpose. We find ourselves asking the question “why?” Why is it that our city struggles to retain (much less attract) these “creators”?

There are also signs of an emergence of this creative culture in our city. Creative ‘treps like Kristian Niemi and Sarah Simmons elevating our food scene; pioneers like River Rat, Conquest and others defining our craft beer scene. Organizations like One Columbia, The Nickelodeon and Scenario Collective are helping to redefine our arts scene. Social activists and citizen investors mobilizing around What’s Next Midlands.

We see aspiring entrepreneurs connecting, sharing and growing through 1 Million Cups Columbia. We see growing numbers of creators reinventing themselves every day at SOCO, Columbia’s first platform and community for creators, and people from all walks of life choosing to change their trajectories by learning how to code at The Iron Yard.

We know you are out there. In labs at USC, garages, coffee shops dotting our city, in cubicles and classrooms. You’re makers, writers, designers, tinkers, students, small business owners, independent workers, educators…people with dreams of doing something big and creating things the world needs.

So, what to do? Get involved. Help make change. Join a group or organization of your interest, start supporting organizations and events in our community that support this vision. Can’t find what you’re looking for? Then, start something. Being a creator is not limited to one ethnicity, gender or income level.

So, for all you aspiring entrepreneurs and creators out there. It’s time to write a new narrative for our city. Where big ideas, grit and determination define us and unite us. Where people don’t find jobs, they create them. Where our city is known as a “place of creators” not just a “place of consumers”. But, the time is now…right now…to start. There is much at stake. So, the question for all of you is what will you do to create a city that inspires you to wake up every day and love where you live?

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