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2011: Will Our Adirondack Businesses & Communities Lead Or Fall Further Behind?

January 8, 2011 - Ernest Hohmeyer
Businesses and communities often need to have a vision and a passionate dream to keep both thriving. In that spirit, here are 4 New Years wishes that we take charge, lead, show the world our pioneering spirit and loosen the tightening noose around our well being and livelihood. . Wish #1: In the World of “Public Reviews” Have Courage My graduate business professor once called successful entrepreneurship as the ability to create the environment for “perpetual chaos” that challenges you to constantly examine the vision and goals of your business, the resulting products or services and how customers will benefit.

In a small community, we are sometimes wary of taking chances or even asking customers about new ideas fearful that we may be looked at as failures as we know many of our customers. In the world of local politics, bringing out new ideas or challenging conventional thinking brings the risk of having it be publicly ridiculed by “hometown” interest groups.

In the world of fascination with “reviews” ranging from on-line sources to political news commentaries, web polls, blogs, travel, product and service “ratings” it seems as if every move we take is being examined by someone. It is an environment not conducive to sticking your neck out or to try anything new. It is easier to play it safe so that you do not offend anyone or risk the commentary that can be read anywhere by anyone. This may be the first step away from challenging yourself and moving your business forward. The old adage of “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again” has been replaced with “If you try, you will be tried, tried again.”

Suffering from hair loss, I was contemplating alternative hair growth ideas. In surfing the net for ‘hair loss remedies” I first of all came up with “8,352 search results”. Dumbfounded, I did not realize that you could replace your hair in that many ways. Well, that is a discussion for another day .I am still in a fetal position in anticipated pain with some that I read. I realized in doing my research; I was not reading about the products at all, but their reviews. Even I became caught up with what folks were commenting to the point when I was finished an hour later, I new nothing about the products themselves. After all of this, I think I will keep my natural air-conditioner look.

And that’s both the great and frustrating thing today, you no longer need to be an expert to be heard and you no longer need to stand up or be known for your comments. In any business or walk of life that deals with the public, you are under risk of “review” and subjective commentary. It should be welcomed and you should take it seriously, but today among many attributes you need a thick skin and strong public relations skills as well as a conviction that new ideas or at least new ways of going about things are part of your position description. It is also hard to understand that you cannot make every customer happy and sometimes we try to capture everyone instead of a more focused message about what we are and implying in positive ways, what we are not.

Within these challenging economic times, it will require courage to advocate new ideas to your business partner or to your community. One of the ADE readers, vacationing in Florida, sent an article along about the Tampa Bay area, saying that this “could be the Tri-lakes”. There are several municipal jurisdictions mentioned including Tampa, St. Petersburg, Clearwater, Hillsborough and others. In this St. Petersburg Times article by their business columnist Robert Trigaux, he laments the same lack of courage and out-of-the box thinking:

“That the business (and government) communities of the Tampa Bay area…figure out how to act like a cohesive region. Yeah, we talk a good game… But our progress remains sluggish. The defensive walls remain too high. The ongoing inability of this tri-city, multi-county metropolitan area to work together on some big issues remains the most debilitating hurdle to "Tampa Bay" ever taking the next leap as a serious region for business and more cohesive community… Getting one city together is tough enough. Herding three to rally for bigger causes is an epic quest. The goal is to have our region exceed the sum of its still Balkanized parts. United we stand and move forward. Divided we just fall behind.”

Sound familiar? Will we move forward or remain divided and fall behind? Will we be able to find real solutions to reducing local taxes and at the same time creating a cohesive and aggressive job creating strategy that is appropriately resourced with both money and talent? If we keep being dissected, fragmented and polarized by overlapping village, town and county jurisdictions how will be we achieve being recognized as a “serious region for business” and be able to compete with other regions that have better tax structures, more infrastructure and larger labor pools?

Will we have the courage to consider new ideas and forgiveness if they fail? There have been efforts on cooperation related to municipal venues, comprehensive planning and the airport. Were they successful? Did they go far enough? Or did it discourage our local leaders from further cooperative thinking? Is substituting one form of government in the village with another the answer? Will any of this significantly reduce our taxes or help us take the “next leap as a serious region for business and more cohesive community”?

Other communities across America are facing the same issues. Can we be a leader in innovative thinking? If we can pull this off within our 19th C jumble of government boundaries and then add “sustainable” and “green thinking” to what we are doing, our communities would be on every “review” imaginable with incredible potential for publicity.

Wish #2: Engage in Private-Public Partnerships on Reform – Now! In many business and larger municipalities, financial forecasts 3 years ahead are standard operating procedure. Granted, no one can guess all the things that may impact our private or public businesses but you can track trends. For example, with federal and state budget tightening, it is obvious that aid will continue to decrease in many areas and with land values in recession, taxable income may not increase. Expenses with union labor contracts, health insurance and others can be fairly well gauged.

Thus, a projected 2012 budget and even 2013 can at least be conceptually drafted. No doubt there will be issues with these trends. We have so many resources available in our business and non-profit sectors not to even mention expertise available from our residents and 2nd home community; can we not create an engaged private-public partnership to develop new ideas? Could this private/public partnership be an independent bridge to real change?

Wish # 3: Can We Work Together to Create a True Park? The stars are aligned to consider a real, holistic Adirondack Park. The business community, especially tourism, needs to have the quality of life of a Park to be successful. This is even more important today with increasing visitor interest in supporting areas that are seeking to be “green” and sustainable”. The environmental community needs thriving communities to at least provide basic services. After all if no one visited the Park and wealthy interests did not live here, would there be as much support to preserve the Park? Can we stop dissecting the Park among government bureaucracies and create a true Park management that has equal weight to sustainability – of both trees and people? Is the real issue with balance and a cohesive approach that looks at the Park as holistic region?

Wish # 4: We Celebrate Our Business Accomplishments Based on the anonymous nature of public discourse and instant access, it has become too easy to be negative, emotional and to write or speak before we think. There is much to be thankful for and to give a pat to our business community, whose qualities of 10% inspiration and 90% perspiration are the qualities and talents we should encourage in our public dialogue, real innovators who may need to get involved if we want to see real changes.

 
 

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