The St. Joseph Chamber of Commerce and the United Way of Greater St. Joseph are partnering to lead the community, businesses and non-profits through a visioning process to determine what residents want St. Joseph’s future to look like and what steps need to be taken to achieve that future.

“This process is going to   demand bravery, you can’t just be nice,” said Rebecca Ryan, a nationallyrecognized futurist and economist who will lead multi-month visioning process. Ryan kicked off the strategic foresight process at the Chamber Chairman’s Breakfast on March 28, 2018.

She described how St. Joseph can get to a preferred future in March 2040. Ryan and her team at Next Generation Consulting study trends -- demographics, economic, environmental, urbanization, workforce mobility, technology, education and others -- to help clients make informed decisions about how to plan their communities.

“In this competitive world, a community and its leadership must be willing to take on the difficult issues, understand and embrace the need for change and make the effort to be better. Doing the same thing will only keep us in the same place,” said R. Patt Lilly, President and CEO of the St. Joseph Chamber of Commerce.  “This planning process will provide the opportunity to create a preferred future and define the steps to get there.”

Ryan encouraged the audience of more than 300 to close their eyes and think of the youngest person in their lives, and then imagine them 20 years in the future.

“We need to think about that beloved kid with every decision we make,” she said. “Who is this city for and what do we stand for?”

She explained how generations are born in and grow up in various economic and political seasons. “Winter,” which was plagued by the Great Recession, started in 2001 and is expected to end in 2020. Spring, which historically is a prosperous time, follows and it’s time to get prepared.

“Much is expected of us,” she said. “We must act with wisdom…We must know where we’re going.”

And that happens by looking to the future, analyzing trends and data and contemplating positive and negative disruptions. This process is strategic foresight, not strategic planning, which is largely based on the past.

“We must come together to make some serious decisions about our future and create action to better our community,” said Kylee Strough, President of United Way of Greater St. Joseph. “The United Way is about helping people, and this initiative will do just that.”

The Chairman’s Breakfast, presented by Farmers State Bank, concluded Ryan’s first trip to St. Joseph, which included meeting with many community groups. Additional meetings were held in April and May, with hundreds of community members participating.

Another session is planned for July 17 and a Facebook Live event is planned for July 16 at 6 p.m. Go to to participate in the Facebook Live event. To learn more about the process and the areas of concern that have been identified so far, visit

Throughout a series of meetings and analysis, these areas have been identified as areas of concern (*in alphabetical order):

• Actively engage community in a positive, proactive way

• Be proactive toward start-ups and existing businesses to stay and grow here

• “Better together” – leverage and strengthen partnerships, e.g. public/ private/non-profit

• Communicate: transparency and trust

• Develop a first responder team to retain or retrain the newly unemployed

• Develop a reputation that values education and lifelong learning

• Emphasize downtown development – housing and business

• Engage community in crime prevention efforts

• Frame issues clearly with the public on critical and future issues

• Identify and develop strong new leaders

• Improve conditions for a thriving animal health industry

• Increase intergenerational mentoring

• Invest in and improve infrastructure

• Make St. Joseph a place where people want to come and stay, e.g. livability

• Poverty intervention – address root causes and best practices

• Support and encourage new and innovative ideas


What items in the list above should be the top priorities moving forward What other issues concern you? Go to to complete a survey to help make changes for our future.