Ben Warner, president and CEO of Jacksonville Community Council Inc., said his presentation Friday to JAX Chamber's Downtown Council was the 166th time a group had heard about the JAX 2025 community visioning program.
More than 14,000 people completed a survey sharing their concerns, hopes and dreams for Jacksonville for the next 12 years.
Warner said the results of the survey have become the outline for a series of community meetings at which the priorities identified in the survey will be distilled into an action plan.
He said one idea was made clear by the responses: people who live in Jacksonville love their city and agree it has a lot of potential.
"But Jacksonville has been a city with potential for 40 years," said Warner.
"We can be one of the great cities of the world, but we have lacked focus," he said.
Warner cited past decisions that, in hindsight, have resulted in missed opportunities.
He said Jacksonville early in the 20th century was a center for motion picture production but decided the business wasn't right for the city.
"We drove Hollywood out to California," Warner said.
He said another missed opportunity was the decision to pass on a state university in Jacksonville – an institution in Gainesville known as as the University of Florida.
Even when Walt Disney approached Jacksonville to be the location for a new Florida theme park, he was turned away, Warner said.
"He was told 'we don't do business with carny folk,'" said Warner.
Another factor that has hindered Jacksonville's emergence as a top city has been the attitude toward how improvements will be achieved, he said.
Over the past 20 years more than 200 studies have been conducted to find ways to "solve Jacksonville's problems" and all had one element in common – the conclusion that government agencies should solve the problems.
"The citizenry has responsibilities. Government doesn't have the power and resources to solve all our problems. If it did, we'd call it tyranny and overthrow it," Warner said.
JAX2025 is designed to identify priorities for growth and development and create and implement a plan to achieve the objectives, he said.
"Great cities figure out where they want to be and work together to get there," said Warner.
The next phase of JAX2025 is a series of meetings open to the public to refine the survey's results.
At the final meeting in April, "pledge cards" will be distributed to those who have participated in the visioning process. Warner said the pledges will represent a personal commitment to be part of the solution.
"I will, in the next six months, do something to move this city forward," he said of the pledge.
For more information about JAX2025 and how to be involved, visit jax2025.org.
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