Janesville is a growing city, but it’s still a small town. I don’t know if that’s due to the multi-generations who’ve lived in our community, or there’s just something in the water. But many of my neighbors who’ve recently called Janesville “home” mention there’s something different—in a very good way.

There isn’t a day that passes when I don’t run into a friend, a friend of my parents or a friend of a friend. We’re a city of 65,000-plus residents, but it feels much smaller. Social organizations long since retired in other communities are still strong in Janesville. Morning Rotary, Noon Rotary, Noon Lions and others still have an impact in our city. Other towns can’t say the same thing as their citizens have gone on to other events or activities.

Take a look at the local restaurant landscape. We’re certainly a loyal bunch. While Milton Avenue is filled with the latest chain restaurants, we’re loyal to the pizza place tucked in the center of restaurant row: Mac’s Pizza Shack. We aren’t necessarily loyal to the building but to owner Ericka Bickle. Formerly called Happy Joe’s, Mac’s Pizza Shack IS Janesville, and its support of nonprofits and school events are mind-boggling. You can get a spaghetti dinner or sub just about anywhere in town, but my meal wouldn’t be complete without a conversation with Edmund Halabi while at Italian House. I always look forward to those few moments, and it’s something that you may not find in another community our size.

I am not suggesting Janesville is different just because of the local brick and mortar and a few local business owners. One new neighbor mentioned he recently started banking at a local establishment and now has a go-to teller. In his previous community, there was no time for a teller or time to stand in line. It was just a transaction. Now it’s an experience, and something he attributes to the fabric of Janesville.

I started out by stating Janesville is a growing city. That is a great thing, but it can also be a bit concerning. We certainly welcome new business and neighbors. Yet, with each announcement of a new corporate headquarter landing in Janesville or a turn of the shovel with another expansion, I certainly hope our city leaders take the “soul” of Janesville into consideration.

Many of you reading this have called Janesville a lifetime home. I certainly love it here and have no desire leave this great community. My hope is that my children will have the same desire to call Janesville home and continue the traditions that have made this community a great one. We’ll need to change in order to do this. We’ll need different amenities, services and business infrastructure. Yet, we can’t forget who we are as a community. We need to protect our soul. If we don’t, we’ll end up just like Anytown, U.S.A., and that isn’t good for anyone.

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Steve Knox lives in Janesville. He also writes a blog, Gen-X in J-Ville, about community issues for GazetteXtra.com.

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