When a community unites to work toward a shared goal, anything is possible. People in Anchorage are showing how true that statement can be.
Our collective effort is called Live. Work. Play., which has its genesis in the Anchorage Economic Development Corp. (AEDC) Board of Directors' vision to make Anchorage the No. 1 city in America to live, work and play by 2025.
My family and I came to Anchorage from Brisbane, Australia, in 2012, thanks to a transfer from my husband's employer. Shortly after moving here, I found myself browsing through a magazine called "Live.Work.Play.," and noted a letter by Bill Popp, AEDC president and CEO, that explained this vision. It resonated with me so much that I knew I wanted to run this initiative. I got lucky and had the opportunity to do just that until it was time to follow my husband back to Brisbane. We will be leaving at the end of this year, and it is with a heavy heart that I will be saying goodbye.
Live.Work.Play. is a unique, holistic economic development strategy to successfully compete for workforce talent on the national stage. Today's young professionals want to live in places offering a high quality of life and businesses are following them. It is clear, therefore, that in order to grow investment and retain talent, a city must focus on its quality-of-life offerings.
During my time directing this initiative, I was able to bring together more than 200 individuals, 160 organizations from private, public and community sectors and more than 45 unique projects across seven areas of focus. I was able to help usher in an AEDC-led, community-driven Instagram account, @Iloveanchorage, which continues to showcase how people live, work and play in Anchorage through their own lens. Leading Live.Work.Play. has connected me to hundreds of people, made me more aware of my community, helped me get immersed in what Anchorage has to offer and, more importantly, led me to make a difference in my own small way. Live.Work.Play. became my life, and vice versa.
Anchorage's commitment to becoming a stronger community is unparalleled. Over the last three years, I've seen numerous efforts making progress and moving the needle on important issues such as equal rights, affordable quality housing, creating a local arts council, better education outcomes, community safety, employee well-being and building world-class trails. Thanks to Live.Work.Play. partners, sponsors and supporters, we've begun the creation of an engaged community that is making a resilient and welcoming place for ourselves and others.
The way the people of Anchorage have embraced my family is unequaled. My husband and I found great workplace environments and my children had a wonderful learning experience at school. I'd like to thank ConocoPhillips, AEDC, Pacific Northern Academy and Service High School for everything they have given us. While I have only positive personal experiences to write about, it would be unfair of me not to mention some aspects of Anchorage that could be improved before we can call ourselves the best.
While living in a comfortable home, I couldn't help but note how many families and individuals struggle to find quality affordable housing. While I can afford good health care services, I know many who can't. While I'm secured by non-discrimination laws that protect me, my LGBT friends live in fear of those rights being taken away, having only just received them recently. While I feel safe in my neighborhood, I know many friends who don't. While I'm fortunate to have a loving and fulfilled family life, I know a number of community members who are victims of domestic violence.
If I were to generalize Anchorage, I'd call it an amazingly international city where people take pride in their city and care deeply about their community. There's no reason why Anchorage can't become a model community that is open, accessible and welcoming with great education, affordable housing, health care, vibrant arts and culture and recreation for everyone. I know we will be No. 1 as long as we remember that we are only as strong as the most vulnerable of us. Anchorage has always treated me fairly and embraced me without any conditions attached. I urge this community to do the same for everyone who calls it home.
Here's to wishing you all the best for claiming the No. 1 position by 2025, if not earlier.
Goodbye, until we meet again.
Archana Mishra is the Live. Work. Play. director for the Anchorage Economic Development Corp. She is a published author, board member of Alaska World Affairs Council, advisory council member of Trailside Discovery Center and an active volunteer for Pacific Northern Academy.
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