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As Long as We Remember...

February 28, 2012

What or why does it matter?

Farrell Keough

Innovation is the lifeblood of business. If a company is not flexible enough to keep up with the times, it will wither and die on the vine. Kodak is a prime example of a company which allowed changes in technology to push it out of the market.


Of course, such a company may be appointed to a Jobs Council – but I digress.


A recent theoretical proposal for business flexibility has been entitled disruptive technology. When we hear such a term, we often think of radical changes in technology which throw long-established businesses upon their heads. Not so. This concept is as simple as using existing products in new ways and exploiting a market not currently receiving the necessary attention they desire.


For instance, say a large company provides accounting services for business. It has a corner on the market and charge a hefty price. But, it offers Cadillac service yet many smaller businesses only need a Kia to fulfill its needs. If a start-up company comes along and can pick up this smaller market, it is part of the disruptive technology process. The new company has not invented some radical new technology; it has simply used the existing system in an efficient way to provide a necessary service to a market that the large business overlooked. But, again, I digress.


With the upcoming elections, most of us are concerned about the economy. Will the current process of pumping money into the economy by building roads or picking innovative energy companies actually work? Some may argue that we are finally seeing an upturn in economic indicators and this kind of stimulus has shown results.


Others will argue that we have seen this kind of government interference before and it has failed. They will also note that we have seen a decrease in taxes coupled with fewer onerous regulations and business has thrived, making our nation the powerhouse we have seen in the past.


While I tend lean toward the latter, (less government interference) that is not the point of this commentary. Whichever side you prefer, one aspect remains – we must have existing infrastructure in place for any movement forward in our economic development.


As note previously, what truly drives our nation is not the decisions of those in Washington, or even in our state capitals. We are a nation composed of “little republics” – those communities which create the backbone and strength of our nation as a whole.


We so often focus on big business and corporate interests – both of which are legitimate concerns. But, truth be told, these companies have real benefit to our communities and nation as a whole. A company will not be the least bit interested in locating within our area if we cannot assure them we have a viable workforce, reliable energy, existing business which will meet the needs of its staff, and the other various infrastructure needed.


So, why does this matter?


We have many opportunities for these large corporations to create projects in our area – some will show a direct benefit to the local populace, others will provide necessary tax capital even if the product does not directly affect our area.


We need to be wary of companies wanting to take advantage of our area, but we also need to realize that the backbone of our nation and communities is needed infrastructure.


So often we have small groups of people who oppose a project based upon an emotional reaction. We will hear scare tactics about pollutants, false information about costs, or any other types of methods simply to oppose a project. Our nation did not become the powerhouse and Grand Experiment we are by people taking a “Not in My Backyard” (NIMBY) stance. We become the leader of the world by accepting well-vetted, well-thought though projects which benefit both our local communities and the larger nation.


Again, why does this matter?


We cannot become a resilient and vibrant community or region without having the necessary infrastructure in place. There will always be a few loud voices that have no concept of this truth and vehemently oppose even the most benign of proposals. A few loud voices can get a large amount of attention, leading one to believe the majority agrees.


It is time we looked to our future and that of our children and stopped allowing these few people to prevent good careers and a necessary tax base from locating in our communities. If we desire to work locally, build businesses which span generations, create a future for our children, we need to accept the fact that we need necessary infrastructure in place! Our economy will return and we need to be prepared.


In short, next time you hear about or read about opposition to this or that big business proposal, stop and think, would this have been embraced by my parents’ generation? The generation that brought us the amazing bounty we enjoy, and often take for granted.


Farrell Keough, Chairman Engaged Citizen


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