THIS weekend, a bevy of volunteers gathered to help Sharon take a step forward into the future.

The GIS mapping project might seem just like information gathering – a chance to simply document the houses that we have in our community.

Mapping allows municipalities to create maps by collecting data through Survey123, a mobile app used to create digital indexes and maps. Once the information is collected, the data can be displayed and analyzed to help with historic home inventory, land banking stock and make it easier for the city to apply for future grant money to help with the city’s revitalization efforts.

That’s the official purpose.

Truth is, it is also sort of a treasure hunt.

It is sometimes hard to realize just how many beautiful places there are in Sharon – and how much potential lies in once-loved, but now in disrepair, homes and buildings.

There is history in every brick, and a story in every clapboard or front porch.

And, finally, people are starting to notice.

Mapping also allows us to look as a community at places where there is potential for available land and potential sites for development.

And that is good for all of us.

One of the best pieces of news about the GIS mapping project is that Sharon residents are not the only ones who have been part of it. Volunteers have offered their services from throughout the Shenango and Mahoning valleys. So, the effort to get the 6,500 houses in Sharon on the record is going really well.

But there is another reason to perk up when you hear that news.

At long last, this community and others around it are getting the message – we are so much stronger when we work together. All of our futures really are connected by the same thread.

So, we all should care what is going on in Farrell, Greenville or Grove City, and we should send a message to our leaders that there should be no more boundaries, territorial behavior or fiefdoms.

In other words, no more us vs. them. We are literally all in this together.

So, it is good that some of our neighbors are getting the chance to see what treasures there are here in Mercer County in general and in Sharon in specific. And it is about time we paid attention to what is “great” about the area around us, too.

There is an old phrase – there is safety in numbers.

Well, modify it a bit.

There is power in numbers, too.

If this region breaks down the walls, the old grudges and the parochial political cliques, we would have a very powerful marketing position – and a whole lot more influence when it comes to getting investors, companies, government and organizations to notice what we have to offer.

Thankfully, there are more than a few leaders who are starting to get that. And we are seeing gains because of it.

Joint efforts, creating connections and getting to know one another are the first steps. Breaking political strongholds and diffusing power grabs are how we take it even further.

Today it is mapping Sharon.

Tomorrow it might be a project in Ohio or down the street in Hermitage.

“All for one, one for all” should be this region’s motto.

And we should take note of those who think there is no reason to pay attention to the needs or the future of this community and its partners.

If they cross any of us, we should respond with a chorus of strength.

That is why urban areas carry the clout, and why communities like ours get passed over – until election time that is.

This valley and its sister communities were built by people who took a chance on finding a future for their families.

Keeping it strong will require the same vision, the same hard work and a realization that you get the respect that you demand.

Perhaps it is time to create the sort of alliances and plans that will make that happen.

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