Journalism is flipping over rocks and seeing what things lie underneath— the things that crawl and sting and bite. The things that we want to be aware of while hiking down a path, lest we get to find them ourselves. As a former journalist, I respect the process and the job entirely. As a community leader, I also see the importance of looking around the path, at the flowers and trees and other things that make the trip worth it.
Portsmouth is like that, just like any city across America. We have rocks that get flipped over to uncover something ugly, but we also have one hell of a view. I’ve been immensely proud of my hometown since I was a kid, when my family and downtown friends would call me Portsmouth’s Little Future Mayor. I’ve always been a champion of my community, because I see it for its beauty in the foothills of Appalachia, on the confluence of two rivers, in a valley that is breathtaking.
I love my community for its people. We once lost the industries that acted as the spine of our community. We suffered floods. We suffered addiction. We have been hit left and right by the same jabs that inflict cities and communities all over the country. The difference with us, however, is that we get back up and fight, even when odds are unfavorable; we are resilient underdogs that refuse to lose.
In 2018 alone, according to reported statistics, Portsmouth had 28 properties in the downtown renovated, totaling a massive $12,122,000. My group alone, Main Street Portsmouth, had over $80,000 worth of volunteer hours donated across dozens of programs and more than 45 events.
We have the development of a seven-story hotel in the works, by a successful local businessman who has already heavily invested in our community in other ways.
We are home to one of southern Ohio’s most successful hospital networks that continuously pumps money back into our community
We developed two new parks this year alone, mostly through grant dollars, thanks to the hard labor of one City Councilman, Sean Dunne.
We are currently redeveloping and breathing new life into Portsmouth’s largest park, thanks to Connex.
We are developing the first stages of an active transportation plan that will connect our town with multi-use bike paths. Construction begins next year.
We have hosted the world dirt track racing championship and national speedboat racing.
We have an impressive Chamber of Commerce composed of around 450 members that constantly attracts new businesses to our area.
We have an active county, with invested commissioners, economic developers, and Port Authority.
We are leading the way in addiction treatment and care.
We have a university that has beaten all odds, growing admission this year and leading the way in many fields.
We have broken two world records in one year, and hosted a winter festival that attracted the attention of Lifetime, thanks to Friends of Portsmouth.
I have overused the word we in this article, but teamwork is truly what makes our town special. It is the people working hand-in-hand to do good.
So, when the bad news breaks, and a black eye shines, it is important to realize it is not on us. We are not the bad and the bad does not define our community. We are fighting and developing and raising up our home. The things uncovered when rocks are flipped do not define us; the acts of the bad only define themselves. We are a small community where you are free to dream, build, and live, thanks to the good people who outweigh the bad.
Joesph Pratt is Executive Director of Mainstreet Portsmouth