Originally printed in Valparaiso Magazine, Vol. 12 Issue 1 | Winter 2012.
I like history. I enjoy learning about people who have come before me and forming a mental image of what life must have been like. My imagination puts me in a time I was never able to experience firsthand.
This year, the Valpo Chamber celebrates its 100th Anniversary. That is remarkable, not only because 100 years is a long time. It is no accident that the Chamber has survived – in fact, flourished – for so long. That longevity is the result of great leadership and active participation within Valparaiso’s business community. At its core, the Chamber’s success can be attributed to the vision of those upon whom the community’s future has depended.
Valparaiso has always looked to its future. In the 1920s, a group backed by the Chamber envisioned a first-class hotel in what was a quickly growing city. Their vision and efforts culminated in the financial commitment of Charles H. Lembke and the eventual construction of the five-story Lembke Hotel.
More recently, the determination and vision within our community are no less brave or imaginative than they were generations ago. Entire neighborhoods and commercial corridors have undergone a dramatic transformation in our efforts to redevelop and renew. Our downtown has become a destination for dining with the addition of six new restaurants. And, let’s not forget the unique public space that is Central Park Plaza, offering the opportunity to gather as a community.
As with our physical environment, Valparaiso’s institutions show the signs of growth and progress resulting from their visionary leaders. Ivy Tech Community College and Porter Hospital have attracted attention and generated excitement with the construction of new facilities. Valparaiso University, under the leadership of President Mark Heckler, is embarking upon a courageous strategic effort to multiply its enrollment and add to its world class reputation among private universities. Changes like these will affect Valparaiso forever.
Like the community as a whole, the Valpo Chamber is a product of bold leadership and vision over the years. It occupies one of the most notable, and certainly historic, office buildings in downtown Valparaiso. It enjoys unique relationships with Valparaiso Community Festivals and Events, the Valparaiso Economic Development Corporation, and the city’s Redevelopment Commission. With over 700 members, it is not only the largest chamber of commerce located in Northwest Indiana, but offers unparalleled events and programming that fuel the success and growth of those members.
These achievements and our successes are far greater reasons to celebrate than are the 100 years it took to achieve them. I will enjoy celebrating with you this year, but I will not be satisfied knowing that we have achieved so many goals.
In a tribute to the past and a focus on our future, there are few words more inspiring than those of one of the most defining characters of the Italian Renaissance, Michaelangelo:
The greatest danger for most of us is not that our aim is too high and we miss it, but that it is too low and we reach it.
The challenges and opportunities that lie ahead stir my imagination far more than what has passed. I will be looking to our future. I hope you will, too.