Blog: Bob Guenzel

Bob Guenzel is the Administrator for Washtenaw County. A U-M Law School graduate and resident of Ann Arbor, Bob has been deeply involved in local community organizations, sits on several boards and is currently the Vice-Chair of the Board of Directors for Ann Arbor SPARK. He will be writing about the potential opportunities our current economic downturn provides us, as well as leadership and literacy in Washtenaw County.

Post. No 1

The idea of a blog has always held special appeal to me and I thank Concentrate for this opportunity. I think you could say, pretty easily, that one of my core beliefs - one that's been demonstrated over and over again in any public leadership role I've held over the years - is the importance of relationships.

Relationships are about conversations. People learning about people, people taking the time to listen and to understand different positions and different ideas: I've seen them move mountains.

So, this site and these blogs are just higher tech' ways to keep those conversations going – and here in Washtenaw County we have a lot of new, important and compelling conversations to have. 

If you think I'm going to spend time with you in this space talking about the downturn in our economy, you might be right. But I'll speak of it only in terms of what opportunities it can bring to this community. Sound backwards? It's not.

We will deal with this downturn. We will find ways to reduce costs with as little pain as possible to the citizens of Washtenaw County. But these economic hard times are also doing something else. In order to find ways to do more with less we are beginning to reach out beyond our own organizations, our own "comfort zones", to collaborate for the future. Villages, townships and cities; private sector businesses and public sector government and educational institutions; entrepreneurs and artists and advocates – all seem to be reaching out to one another as never before. A lot of conversations are beginning to happen.

In the next few days, I will use this opportunity to have a conversation with you about a glass that is definitely more than half full. I don't have to consult anyone or any backgrounder - there's a lot to be hopeful about in Washtenaw County: The Aerotropolis Project; Ann ArborSPARK; the Blueprint to End Homelessness; Washtenaw Area Teens for Tomorrow; WALLY; the Eastern Leaders Group; the Countywide Natural Area Preservation Program and Greenways Initiative; the Literacy Task Force; the 4-County Community Mental Health Partnership of Southeastern Michigan; the ArtsAlliance Community & Culture Plan for Washtenaw County and the regional outreach of the Community Success Process – and that's just off the top of my head.

In fact, this website itself, Concentrate, is more evidence of positive impact through real collaboration – real conversations.

When I read Richard Florida's "The Rise of the Creative Class" a few years ago, I have to say that his idea of the "Three Ts" for attracting the new Creative Class – Talent, Technology and Tolerance, really resounded with me. I can't speak for other communities, but I think I know this one pretty well and I think we have all three. And we have more. This County has diverse communities having great, forward-looking conversations.

Like this one. I look forward to hearing from you.