In the 350 years of recorded history on our island, life on Hilton Head has taken on many forms. But through centuries of change, one constant thread has been the island’s ability to reinvent itself.
It was only a couple of years ago that myself and other community leaders became critical of how complacent our community had become and how much the appeal of living here had diminished. Changing any of it seemed a distant wish, unless there was some clear vision of how to get there.
Since then, however, many things have happened and everywhere you look rejuvenation has taken, is taking, or will soon take, place. The most visible signs of life are the hundred of millions of dollars being invested in renovations of hotels, resorts, clubhouses, golf courses, bike paths, streets, the new mall center, parks, expansion of church facilities, new restaurants, retailers etc.
Less visible are the thousands of hours of volunteering that go into not-for-profit organizations, cultural organizations and events all aimed at making our community a better, more humane, more vibrant, more interesting, and even greener place to call home.
If you remember, in August of 2010 the Mayors Vision Task Force delivered a blueprint for the future, and it seems that some of the 11 action points are being followed.
A renaissance is by definition a time of renewal, where new ideas are taking place, not just in commerce, architecture or culture but also in how people interact with each other. It is the convergence of all these forces at the same time that spark the sense that we are entering an era full of new promises.
We are entering just such a renaissance on Hilton Head Island.
Looking back, one could say that the first thing that attracted people to the island was the climate and nature, followed by a new type of vacation and home ownership experience driven by a visionary form of community planning that integrated vistas and great recreational facilities. With the growth in the population, our physical and economical infrastructure became more robust. Cultural experiences and the ability to make a difference (via volunteering) followed. All of the above attracted interesting people from all over the USA and the world.
One huge asset, however, remained underutilized: brain power. Think about the vast amount of intellect, experience, talent, know-how and connections that we all brought with us when we moved here. It is hard to quantify just how much it is, but I venture to say that we could govern a small country or manage several large multinational companies. So imagine what this combined brainpower could do if there was a way to channel and connect it. This is precisely what a new not-for-profit organization the “Hilton Head Island Institute”* is aiming to do. The vision is to add a whole new dimension to our image where Hilton Head Island will also become known and recognized for intellectual encounters. Over time, this will change everything because it will attract the pioneers, dreamers, entrepreneurs, and inventors; the intellectually curious, and those who push the boundaries of what is possible.
By adding on this additional dimension in a more visible and interactive way, it will also help to instill a new sense of civic pride, completing the circle of why we came here in the first place: Great nature and exceptional people!