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Our opinion


The 18 counties of Northwest Missouri share geography and notable challenges.

They should work together.

Hardly a new thought, this idea takes on new urgency as our leading institutions and civic leaders conclude that their efforts to this point have brought only limited success — and certainly not success for every corner of the region.

The important work at hand includes boosting the economy and employment opportunities, particularly in well-paying science and technical fields; advancing the education and skills of the workforce; and improving residents’ health status, which notably lags behind other parts of the country.

We previously have cited the work of Heartland Foundation’s Healthy Communities initiative, the evolving role of the Community Foundation of Northwest Missouri, and last fall the debut of the Regional Vitality Network.

Now, we welcome the partnership of the Communities of Excellence 2026 organization.

As reported recently, Communities of Excellence has selected our area for a pilot program to test its model: that a rural region is capable of working together to attain targeted improvements in the critical areas of economic vitality, education and health.

This pursuit of “community performance excellence” will draw on the principles of the Baldrige quality program but most importantly on the purposeful collaboration of individuals and organizations throughout the 18 counties.

A key early focus will be gathering baseline information about our most-pressing concerns. The goals we set and the criteria we use to measure progress will be established by us. The funds needed to carry this process forward largely will be raised by us.

Communities of Excellence is offering training, mentoring, sharing of best practices and a host of other supportive services to help this project succeed.

“The rural areas have to find a way to band together that’s more efficient,” said Max Summers, Regional Vitality’s chairman. Many share that sentiment.

Northwest Missouri is indeed fortunate to have this chance to gain from the expertise of an organization whose goals overlap with ours. Communities of Excellence hopes we can become a national model for regional collaboration. We hope so, too.

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