Rudy Araujo

Rudy Araujo

As the year grows older and summer is announcing its arrival, there are reasons for hope. More than a year has passed since the pandemic changed our way of living. This past year will be impossible to forget. It was a painful year with several losses for many people, and for most, it was a period of heightened uncertainty.

There is little doubt that the crisis has tested our resiliency as people and a community. It has also proven the value of caring for each other to overcome significant challenges. The empathy demonstrated is a testimony of our social resilience and the energy it harnesses to protect both life and the social good.

Therefore, as the vaccination process moves along and the policies adopted to keep the economy from further slipping back are now turning into seeds for growth, the time may have come to work on the future. Indeed, the resources committed to recovering the economy promise a rewarding growth period for our community that needs to be capitalized through good choices.

According to REDI, Columbia has a “strong economy rooted in education, research, health care, life sciences, manufacturing and high-tech industry.” These strategic areas rely on the city’s higher education and health care systems that must be complemented with the entrepreneurial wealth of its young population. The community has a plan, a healthy economy, and now an opportunity to take advantage of the resources committed to the national economy’s recovery. The outlook is promising, which allows the city the opportunity to address some pressing challenges such as income inequality, infrastructure insufficiencies, and environmental sustainability.

Let us assert that both good education and health are vital during our formative years. Thus, the benefits of the expected economic growth should be used to support our children and youth. The community can invest in our daycare centers, pre-schools, primary, secondary, and high-school education, procuring the best education possible for our children. At the same time, programs that look after the health of our younger population can complement the efforts made on the education front. These actions will help reduce existing inequalities, not as a handout, but as an investment in our human capital. Thus, any effort in this direction will provide rewarding gains in productivity, social health, safety, and general well-being. After all, it makes little sense to think that one out of five residents lives under the level of poverty or in extreme poverty in a community that has not stopped growing, even in the worst of crises.

The community’s communications infrastructure is essential. For example, as the pandemic moved us to work and study from home, many have found that their internet coverage was inadequate and expensive. The investments companies make in equipment such as fiber optic cable are significant to serve a market like ours, which helps explain the current prices of these services to the consumer. There is an opportunity to be seized if we seek competitive and stable services to most of the population. High prices keep part of the population without optimum service or with no service at all. Increasing coverage and reducing costs may result in a profitable proposition for both vendors and the community.

Another issue is the protection of our environment. The pandemic has taught us to enjoy the beauty of nature and the value of clean air. As we prepare for a period of growth, it will be necessary to keep in mind that any contribution to reducing carbon dioxide is expected behavior from a newcomer. Therefore, any new industry shall be asked to commit protecting our environment as part of its engagement. Making a contribution to the protection of our environment is an investment in our health, productivity, and ultimately, our quality of life

Our city has much potential, yet its good outlook requires decisions about how we want to capitalize on these opportunities.