Thanks to the benefits of some decent parenting at the hands of my mother, who is a teeny, tiny woman with exemplary manners, I am a reasonably humble man. You will not find me standing on a stump telling the world what an amazing individual I am. There are two reasons for that, really. First, I’m not that amazing. Second, the women in my life, of which there are many, would gang up in a heartbeat to point out a series of flaws I possess that are so deep and so catastrophically damaging I might never be able to leave the house again.
Perhaps I’m overstating the point. But you know what I mean.
The crux of all this build-up is that I do not typically make a point of drawing attention to myself. Not intentionally, anyway. I do however make it a point to step up and speak in glowing terms about the Polk Aviation Alliance, an organization that is unique, growing, and finding real success.
Those are not attributes that fit many aviation-oriented organizations these days, so I feel somewhat justified in my praise of the Alliance, even if I am clearly biased in its favor.
The “Polk” in Polk Aviation Alliance refers to Polk County, Florida. This area of land, which is located in the geographic center of the state, is large. It covers more than 2,000 square miles, making this county significantly larger than the state of Rhode Island. Heck, if we annexed in a couple farms from the surrounding counties, Polk would be as big as Delaware.
Admittedly, Rhode Island and Delaware are small states. The point remains, however. This is one whopper of a big county.
Included in Polk County are 17 municipalities and a county government that oversees the whole shebang. And while that may not seem pertinent information in a publication that is dedicated to aviation, it is.
Here’s why: It is the Alliance’s intent to brand Polk County, Florida, as the most aviation-friendly destination in North America. Further, it is our hope that cities and counties across the country will compete with us for that title, essentially starting a pro-aviation wave of civic pride that will propel the industry in this country back into growth mode.
That’s not just a slogan, however. Setting your sights on being the most aviation-friendly destination in North America takes some effort. It means getting the governing bodies of those municipalities and the county focused on the benefits of aviation.
We involve aviation as a whole. We include the educational aspects of the industry, from elementary school right up through high school, technical school, and college.
Finding success requires letting the movers and shakers in those towns realize that even if their city doesn’t own an airport, there is a municipally owned field within a short commute — and that’s a benefit the city can use to its advantage when getting serious about its economic development efforts.
Public officials have to see the advantages of aviation to everyone within their borders, from 10-year-old kids riding a bus to school, to the banker and the manufacturer sitting around the lunch table downtown. Let me tell you, if you take the time to share the vision with them, they get it.
This is no pipe dream. We’re making it happen. You can, too.
Unlike most places in the U.S., we’ve got multiple city governments issuing proclamations of support for general aviation. We’ve got city managers wondering how they can more effectively leverage aviation to the advantage of their cities. We’ve got businessmen and women coming out to ask how they can get involved. And, perhaps most important of all, we’ve got teenagers headed to the airport after school to fly, to work on aircraft, and to lay the groundwork for success in school that will lead to rewarding careers in or out of aviation.
I tell this story a lot, because our goal isn’t simply to become the most aviation-friendly destination in North America. No, our plan is to help others become increasingly aviation friendly and benefit from the process. I’m happy to say that’s happening, too.
Last week while driving to an appointment my phone rang. On the other end was a gentleman from California who had heard about what we’re doing, the kind of success we’re having, and wanted to ask how he could get his town headed in the same direction.
People are talking. I encourage you to be one of them.