Category Archives: Economic Development

Excuses for Economic Misbehavior

A friend of mine was asking the other day why we can’t have a working economy that cares for people.  Good question – why can’t we?

Somehow we have come to believe that the economy is unrestrainable.  It exists as a whirling cloud of dollars and cents over and around us, and we, as a society, cannot control nor shape it.

While we continue to build better buildings that protect us from whatever Mother Nature throws at us, and create better health care practices to protect us from disease, we think we have no tools to protect us from the forces of economics.  But we do.  We are smart enough and caring enough to shape an economy that does protect our values while also growing wealth and providing goods and services.

There are no excuses for our economic misbehavior.  Instead, we need to take the time to train and lead the economic bull instead of letting it run roughshod over our society.

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Idol-Think

I have a love/ hate relationship with American Idol.  I love watching raw talent and listening to good vocals.  What makes it hard for me to watch, however, is the fact that for every person who makes it to Hollywood Week, there are thousands of performers across the country who are just as talented, but still unknown, sharing their gift in church choirs, coffee houses, or bar bands, but unappreciated and undercompensated. 

The premise of American Idol is that the best will rise to the top, and a superstar, the ‘best of the best’ will emerge.  Of course, we all know that’s not the case, especially when we see our favorites knocked out in earlier rounds.  There really is no best of the best, because choosing a winner is a matter of taste based on a small pool of applicants.  American Idol is basically a vocal popularity contest.  We all know how those popularity contests worked back in high school.

If we hated the popularity contests back in high school, why do we let popularity inform so many of our buying decisions?  Not only do we buy our music from the latest super-marketed superstar, but we make a lot of our buying decisions based on the biggest “name”.  Is it because we’re too lazy to research the options?  Is it because we don’t trust our own likes and instincts?  Is it because we want to feel like we belong?  I think in many cases it’s a little bit of all of the above.  

That doesn’t mean that the popular choice doesn’t have value, because it often does.  But when we make our decisions soley on what “everyone else is doing”, not only do we miss out on great alternatives that may not be embraced by the crowd, but we grant even more power to the perceived popular supplier, potentially resulting in fewer choices down the road.

Something to think about when you make that next purchase.

Before You Get Excited About the Latest Chain Store, Consider Its Local Impact

I just heard about another couple of chains coming to my hometown.  When I hear people getting excited about this news, I cringe, because I have come to realize the potentially negative impact of chain stores and restaurants on the local economy.

With Chains, Less Money Stays Local
For every $100 spent in locally owned, independent stores, $68 returns to the community through taxes, payroll and other expenditures.  If $100 is spent in a national chain, only $43 stays local.*  Why?  Because national chains usually get their supplies from suppliers chosen at the national level, not locally.  Also, national chains’ profit returns to the corporate office, and, if public, stock-holders all over the world.

It’s Highly Likely They Received Tax Abatements
Most large companies looking to locate in a new place persuade the local governments to give them tax abatements.  That means they aren’t paying property taxes, even though the businesses owned by your neighbors get no such benefit.  So, not only are they not paying into taxes for whatever length of time has been agreed upon, they have an unfair advantage over the locally-owned business who do.

Small Business Creates More Jobs
Over the last 15 years, small businesses have generated 64 percent of net new jobs.**  Local small business owners are more motivated to keep their workforce employed, since they are their friends, neighbors and customers.   Companies that make decisions at the corporate level, don’t have the peer pressure to keep their workers in tough times.  Instead, the peer pressure is often to create a profit at all costs.  When we spend our dollars at the chains instead of locally owned stores and restaurants, we make it harder for the locals to stay in business.

You might get more than you bargained for when you switch your allegiance to Chain Store  ice cream, and away from the local ice cream shop.  Think carefully before you do so.

* souce: 3/50 Project: http://www.the350project.net/home.html

** source: US Small Business Administration: http://www.sba.gov/advocacy/7495/8420

Free to Live

Sometimes we get so wrapped in our to-dos, in perfecting our trade, that we forget what it’s all about.  It’s about living.  Business, technology, human resources, education, all of it is about making it through life with peace, love, grace, dignity, and comfort.

I don’t care how many times I was taught in business school that the primary goal of business is to make a profit, business is not about the bottom line.  Business is about providing a certain quality of life for its employees, stakeholders, customers and suppliers, while maintaining itself through profitability.  Money at its root is trade – we trade the skills and products we have to get other skills or products that improve our lives.  The trade should always be a win-win.

Business should be our slave, our tool to help us live more comfortably, to allow us to spend our time on our strengths and let others help us out with our weaknesses.

Business serves its purpose when it allows us to be free to live.