CONCEPTS TO EMBRACE!

“My fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country”.

John F. Kennedy

“It is now the moment …to recall what our country has done for each of us, and to ask ourselves what we can do for our country in return.” 

Oliver Wendell Holmes

These are two of my favorite quotes.   I feel that the first part of the quote by Holmes is particularly relevant in todays economy.  “It is now the moment”.  Boy is it ever!

I would like to clarify what I think about these ideas.  I was having a discussion with a friend about how we each view these quotes and their meaning.  His response took me a little by surprise.  His thinking was that, the “Government of our Country……..is the Country” and therefore he was not very interested in seeing what he can do for the Government.  His take was really related to tax and the payment thereof.

I thought about this and decided that our Country is far more than simply the function of our Government.  We live in a place where the concept of “Of the People, By the People, For the People” continues to thrive.  If you think about it, what we are able to do within the rules of our government, regardless of what we agree upon or disagree upon, is what makes our “Country” so great.

We tend to forget that even in a down economy……we don’t just stop.  We don’t stop working, we don’t stop learning, we don’t stop innovating.  We push forward regardless of what rules are imposed.  Now I am not suggesting that we don’t advocate for the best rules possible to work within, I am only suggesting that we move forward regardless of the challenges.

When I talk about what we can do for our Country, I am not necessarily talking about how big a check we should write to the Government so that they can figure out how to spend it in the worst possible way.  I am talking about how we, as businesses or even as a community of citizens, can collectively better the place we all call home.  Our Country.

There are many ways that all of us can “do for our country”, “do for our states”, “do for our regions”.  Remember, what is done to improve an area even at the local level, is providing a positive effect to our Country as a whole.

The culture of our Country tends to find ways to reward those who work hard and contribute towards the betterment their communities and regions.

Take the time to discover how you can contribute to our great Country, the payback is our way of life.

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Education, Investment and the Middle Class

Last fall in the New York Times Magazine there was an article by Adam Davidson titled “Empire of the In-Between”.  This is a fantastic article about the geographic corridor between New York City and Washington D.C.  It also illustrates how this area is a great micro depiction of the state of economics in the United States.  If you can find a copy of this article it is well worth the read.

A couple of the many interesting passages in this article that caught my attention are the sections where the author wrote:

“That’s where raw material was turned into valued products by hard-working people who made decent wages even if they didn’t have a lot of education.  Generation after generation, and wave after wave of immigrants, found opportunity along the corridor.  Washington collected the taxes and made the rules.  Wall Street got a small commission for turning the nation’s savings into industrial investment.  But nobody would have ever confused either as America’s driving force.  This model was flipped inside out as Wall Street and Washington D.C. became central drivers, not secondary supporters, of the nation’s economy”. 

“The atrophying of the country’s ability to “make real things” has been much lamented, but the truth is that U.S. manufacturing has never been stronger.  While there are no universally accepted numbers, the United Nations Statistics Division calculates that the dollar volume of goods made in America is at an all-time high of $1.9 trillion, just about even with china.  The catch is that the number of American workers needed to create all that value has dropped steadily.” 

So what is being suggested in these two passages?  Is it being suggested that Wall Street and Capital Hill only look out for what is in their best interest?  Is it being suggested that there is simply a lack of demand for traditional blue-collar workers?

Well maybe a little of both.  Maybe.

First of all, I can absolutely attest to the fact the Wall Street, at least at the level of capital formation, really has no interest in building companies.  Wall Street has evolved into an industry that is in the business of making short-term capital returns.

Now, those that are making a living on Wall Street will argue that there are many large companies that are followed by thousands of people who “buy and hold” for potential long term capital appreciation.  This may be true, but a fundamental problem is that Wall Street no longer is in the “company building” business.  It simply takes too long to finance and nurture a company from an early stage through maturity.  Wall Street pretty much demands “immediate” results and buying into large mature companies with strong trading volumes is the best way to create such results.

How many times have we heard that you should not invest in small emerging growth companies because they are too volatile or they have not yet reached a critical mass sizable enough to warrant your attention?  I don’t know about you, but I am pretty sure that I do not want to be offered the option to only invest in companies where I am put in the position to “take out” all of the early investors.

I want to be able to hit a home run too!  Unfortunately the way our capital markets work today, the idea of getting in “early” for the average investor has pretty much become a fond historical memory.  Check out my September 17, 2012 article titled Random Thoughts: Income Inequality for more color on this topic.  The topics on investment discussed in that article are key elements to helping to rebuild of country’s middle class.

As for the lack of job opportunities for those who are not highly educated, the simple truth is that even at the factory level, there is a need for higher educated or trained workers.  With the advent of automation and globalization, the likelihood of an increase in demand for “unskilled” workers is not particularly good.

It is true; there is a slight “trend” in manufacturing job growth in the United States.  This is partially due to middle class growth in countries like China and India, making US manufacturing wages more globally competitive.  Some other opportunities are coming from new industry growth in areas such as natural resources.  But these few options are not going to rebuild the middle class in America.  Without educated workers, we will continue to lose out to other more competitive regions around the globe.

We must make it a priority to motivate our citizens to get as much education or training as they can.  This is something all of us can do.  You don’t need to wait for the government to create a new program.  There are many low cost or even free educational and training options available to Americans looking to expand their horizons.  This is where we will make the most strides in rebuilding our middle class. An educated workforce has great value. The additional expertise provided by an educated workforce is a real value added proposition that companies can make to their customers in return for higher prices, which in turn can offset the higher cost of labor of the educated workforce.  This is value worth paying for. 

Education is absolutely one of the key elements to the rebirth of the American middle class.  Our world has changed, period, end of story.  Technology innovations have made it possible to manufacture items with far less workers.  Now, that same innovative technology still has to be operated by humans, they just need to be better skilled and educated humans.

The following is an excerpt from an article written by Harvard Professor Clayton M. Christensen. This article appeared in the New York Times on November 3, 2012.  Take the time to read this article as well. 

“Ideally, the three innovations operate in a recurring circle. Empowering Innovations are essential for growth because they create new consumption. As long as empowering innovations create more jobs than efficiency innovations eliminate, and as long as the capital that Efficiency Innovations liberate is invested back into empowering innovations, we keep recessions at bay. The dials on these three innovations are sensitive. But when they are set correctly, the economy is a magnificent machine”.

Educating our citizens so that we can better compete for good paying jobs is a key element for economic growth.  However, this education only becomes effective if we are investing in the visionary entrepreneurs and businesses that become the catalyst for creating the job opportunities that our citizens are in need of.  The way to jump-start this crucial investment cycle is to return the ability of the average citizen to participate in the capital formation process.

Education + Investment = Strong Middle Class.

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OUR AMERICAN STORY

Our American Story

Tuesday night, like many of you, I watched the President’s State of the Union address.  I watched and listened closely, thought about what was said, formed my own opinions and then watched Senator Marco Rubio provide the Republican take on the President’s report.  After Senator Rubio was finished, I reluctantly watched to a few of the political “talking heads” providing their “non-partisan” views and then went to bed.

The next morning I caught a train to Washington, D.C. for some meetings relating to CEDI, the Citizens Economic Development Initiative.  On the ride down to the capitol, I basically eavesdropped on some of my fellow travelers and heard various comments about the President’s speech.  Some folks were quite irritated and upset with the presentation while others were excited about the prospects for positive outcomes relating to the various items that may have pertained to them.

I then dug into my stack of morning newspapers as well as the many updates that I had waiting for me on my iPad from all of the other news sources that I obsessively read on a daily basis.  What I read was essentially the same opinions and remarks that I was hearing from the passengers on the Acela Express to Washington.  I suppose that what was in print was possibly a bit more informed or at least better researched and presented, but in the end I was getting the same feelings from all sources.

If you were on the Republican side of the aisle, then you were taking a position that was pretty much the opposite of those that were on the Democratic side of the aisle.  It is pretty rare these days that we ever hear someone say, “Hey, you know that person has a pretty good idea, let’s look into that”.  We are so programmed to follow a party line that we often miss opportunities to come up with solutions for most of our issues.

Well, it is now Thursday evening and I have had a chance to listen or read a few more opinions about the State of the Union presentation and realized that most of the address was about things that Washington “would have, should have or could have done” or what it is going to do or would at least like to do.  Not to offend the President, but his “new” ideas really are not very new at all and it is pretty hard to get excited about any of these concepts when these two political parties don’t seem too interested in working towards collaborative solutions.

So, I have come to the conclusion that what moved me the most during the State of the Union were two simple lines of the address.  The following are excerpts from the address:

“That the responsibility of improving this union remains the task of us all”. 

“It remains the task of us all, as citizens of these United States, to be the authors of the next great chapter of our American story”. 

Yes, these are the two lines that I found to be most relevant.  Sorry, no political intrigue or grand position on any specific issues.  What I find most relevant is this:  we the people really do hold the cards in this country.  We collectively, and therefore individually, have the power to direct our country’s future.  It is called voting.

We all have the right to vote for the course of action for our country.  What we need to work on actually understands what we are voting for regardless of whether it is a governing issue or the election of an official to represent our views.  We all need to take the time to learn about the issues and/or the officials that determine the path that our country takes.

We are far too often voting by impulse, emotion and party line.  We need to understand that regardless of our political beliefs, the “other side” actually has a view.  They actually have information and concepts that just may be relevant or even helpful to moving an issue forward.

We live in a country of over 313 million people.  We are never going to all agree on all of the same issues and concepts.  Now in my view, there is real value in this.  In business I am very interested in what my employees or competitors views are.  This gives me the opportunity to see what I am doing in a different light and allows me to make adjustments to issues that I did not see.  I just needed to open my eyes to these other ideas and see how I could integrate those ideas into a concept that may serve a wider audience for my business.  Sounds pretty good to me!

The other point that I take from those two lines is that we can disagree or even dislike what goes on in government, but the sun still comes up the next morning.  We cannot wait for our elected officials to all of a sudden “get it right”.  We have to take our futures into our own hands.  We may have to move forward with rules and regulations that make things difficult, but we have to move forward nonetheless. We all can contribute towards the betterment of our country, state, region, city or community regardless of our socio-economic status.  Every effort counts.

If we find ways to work together, we truly can be the “authors of the next great chapter of our American story”

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CHOICES, ACTION or INACTION

 

Choices, Action or Inaction

In her book “Locavesting”, Amy Cortese writes about the value of investing in local economies and businesses.  Her book outlines in great detail the dramatic effects that we all could enjoy from such efforts.  I suggest that anyone that has any desire to contribute towards the improvement of our economy, purchase this book and read it from cover to cover.  I think that you may come to see the vision and value of investing in small businesses after you finish.

Small businesses and emerging growth companies are the driving force of the American economy.  These businesses generate eighty percent of our jobs and half of the American GDP. These companies also create the foundation for healthy, diverse regional and local economies, yet the capital markets for these small emerging companies are practically closed.

Here is an interesting fact.  In 2010, $14.8 billion was raised on the NASDAQ stock exchange.  That same year $2.9 Trillion in shares traded on the same exchange.  That means less than 1% of the money flying around that stock market went to funding businesses through public stock offerings; the rest was speculative trading.  Wow!

Another problem is that the market for small company IPO’s has decreased dramatically.  The median IPO size 20 years ago was approximately $10 million; by 2009, it was $140 million. This means that the IPO market is effectively closed to 80% of companies that need that important access to growth capital.  The traders on Wall Street are not investing in these small companies.  This means that it is up to you and me to make these crucial investments in our economy.  What better time to invest than now?  The economy is not exactly is a high growth mode and the golden rule is that you invest during the down turns and sell during the up swings.

I know, I know, times are tough and there is much uncertainty in the economy. Where on earth are we supposed to get the money to make these investments? Well, this is where Choice comes into play.  We have a choice to take action or to sit on the sidelines and be inactive.  One way that we can choose to take action is to simply alter or change our investment allocations.

Think about this; by the second quarter of 2011 there was $18.2 Trillion in U.S. retirement assets.  IRA’s alone, represented $4.9 Trillion of that pool of capital. If Americans shifted just 1 percent of their IRA investments to small American growth companies, more than $49 billion would be injected into the Main Street economy – without costing the government a dime! 

Another way to re-allocate is to choose to spend less on other items.  Here is a silly idea, but it illustrates the point.  Lottery ticket purchases are a large source of capital that can be re-allocated.

In the state of New York the per-capital income is $31,796 and the median household income is 56,591.  Not exactly the kind of income that is causing savings accounts to burst at the seams.  Yet in 2012 alone, New Yorker’s spent over $8.4 Billon on lottery games and this does not include money spent at casinos in the state.

Now of course, the lottery is a valuable tool and pays for some very important educational programs, so I am not suggesting that we do away with the lottery and invest all of that capital into small businesses.

However, it is a choice.  What if a percentage of those dollars were indeed re-directed toward investment?  How many new businesses can be created?  How many businesses could get access to important growth capital?  How many jobs could be created?  How many companies could be attracted to the state?  And remember, the above numbers represent only one state!

The point here is regardless of what direction economy is going, business will continue to operate and look for capital.  We as individuals can choose to participate or not.  I think that if you stop to consider the cumulative effect of ACTION, you will find that “we the people” have more power to change the course of our economy than we tend to realize.

“Act as if what you do makes a difference.  Because it does”

William James

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The CEDI Society “Engaging America”

Education – Advocacy – Service – Investment – Collaboration

These are the key operating elements of The CEDI Society or Citizens Economic Development Initiative.

When most people thing about economic development, the first thing that often comes to mind is, real estate, infrastructure and the recruitment of businesses.  Although, these are indeed elements of economic development, there is more to economic development than only those types of actions.

Economic Development generally refers to the sustained, concerted actions of policymakers and communities that promote a standard of living and or economic health.

The scope of economic development includes the process and policies by which a nation or region improves the economic, political, and social well-being of its people.

Essentially, a nation or regions economic development is directly related to its human development, which includes, among other things, health, education, and culture as well as job creation.

So how can individuals play a part in economic development?  Let’s take a look at four of the five CEDI elements as a way to illustrate how CEDI members can play an important role in our economic recovery.

Education

The Action:  CEDI helps citizens gain a greater understanding of the global, national and regional economic process and what their options are to participate in the resurgence of the economy.

The Result:  Educated and engaged populations help make regions more valuable and attractive for growing companies considering expansion or re-location.

Advocacy

The Action:  CEDI members can collectively provide an educated voice concerning relevant issues facing their region.

The Result:  Collaborative and educated citizens can provide valuable data and idea contributions that have the ability to advance concepts for solutions of relevant issues.

Service

The Action:  CEDI members collaborate and execute various public service efforts that contribute towards the betterment of a given region.

The Result:  Regions with strong citizen service contributions are able to advance resources that have been reduced in poor economic times.  These contributions can keep regions relevant and valuable.

Investment

The Action:  CEDI members across all socio-economic levels are provided with programs that allow them to collaboratively invest in emerging growth companies that are typically out of their investment reach.

The Result:  Capital is allocated towards job creating businesses and developments can contribute towards a regional cluster of additional future economic development.

“I am only one, but I am still one.  I cannot do everything, but I can I can still do something; and because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do something that I can do”.  Helen Keller.  

Even the smallest contributions can have a great impact on an economy.   

Take Action!

http://www.thecedisociety.com

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THE CEDI SOCIETY

I was speaking with a friend today and we were discussing various topics including what each of us had been up to lately.  I started to tell him about CEDI, the organization that I am now involved with and what we hope to accomplish.

He stopped me as soon as I said the word CEDI.  He said “Hold on a second. What the heck is CEDI?” Given how often I mention CEDI in my blog articles, I thought that I should explain.

The CEDI Society is a non-partisan organization that allows members to share ideas, create projects and discover resources that will help make our nation a better place to live, work and succeed.  CEDI believes that the citizens of our country have much to offer and can effectively contribute towards various elements of economic growth through a collaborative platform.  CEDI’s goal is to Engage Americans to once again take pride in their nation, state and region and encourage them to take action through CEDI sponsored initiatives.

CEDI stands for the “Citizens Economic Development Initiative”.

CEDI provides platforms that allow citizens across all socio-economic levels to participate and contribute towards expanding American economic, social and cultural growth opportunities.  CEDI members collaborate in Strategic Development Initiatives, Education Programs, Political Advocacy Platforms and Public Service Offerings that will help provide for a bright future for all Americans.

CEDI serves individuals and businesses with common pro-growth interests that wish to enhance or increase their participation in the resurgence of our nation’s diverse economy.  The organization will act as a dynamic voice & resource for individuals and businesses regarding important economic, social and cultural issues.

The CEDI mission is to provide an organized and proactive forum that allows individuals across the nation to collaborate with businesses, government and academia to help advance economic growth in the United States.

CEDI believes that many issues that provide economic benefit and opportunity in the United States have been neglected for far too long.  CEDI believes that in order for our country to return to being a nation of growth and opportunity for all of its citizens, it must expand and develop programs that contribute towards quality education, simple regulatory environments, a more level playing field for investment, business expansion, job growth and healthy, engaged communities.

CEDI and its members are committed to renewing these elements of the economy by:

  • Raising Awareness and Educating citizens about the true status of the American and global economies, including all of the current opportunities in the United States and paying special attention to educating citizens about the dangers and consequences of inaction.
  • Advocating for Federal and State Legislation that will help to ensure every American citizen has the opportunities and tools needed to succeed in our ever-evolving global economy.
  • Identifying and Executing Regional-Level Actions Plans that will allow citizens and businesses to collaborate and help turn their regions into diverse communities of economic growth with healthy living standards.

CEDI’s five core areas of focus are:

Education – Advocacy – Service – Investment – Collaboration

CEDI believes that the United States is truly a nation “Of the People, For the People and By the People” and that all citizens can contribute towards making our country a better place to live, work and grow businesses.  CEDI is where they can come together and collaborate as a united organization of action that can truly make a difference in our country’s future.

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INVESTORS, TRADERS, GUARANTEES & THE AVERAGE INVESTOR

Investors, Traders, Guarantees & The Average Investor.

This morning I was reading about how the CNBC news personality Andrew Ross Sorkin was having lunch with Warren Buffett.  Apparently they were speaking about various topics when the Berkshire Hathaway chief criticized the trading culture of Wall Street that he says offers incentives to generate fees and fast profits.  It was stated that Mr. Buffett was skeptical of the modern-day hedge fund industry and added that his preferred strategy was still to buy and hold.

It concerned him, for instance, that he was able to buy the equivalent of 10 percent of I.B.M. in six to eight months because of the market’s liquidity. “The idea that people look at their holdings in such a way and that kind of volume exists means that to a great extent, it’s a casino game,” said Mr. Buffett.

I suppose this article caught my attention because I am constantly preaching about how our society in general has evolved to a point where people seek risk free or guaranteed results from all aspects of life including investing,

An example that I often run across is the perceived “guarantee of investment.”  This concept really gets me going.  From a capital markets perspective, we have become a society of “traders” rather than “investors.”  Some of us may have actually forgotten how to invest altogether.  When some people look to invest in a company, often times their first question is: “How and when can I get out?”  I don’t know about you, but when I look at a corporate investment, my first question tends to be “What does the company do?”

This “trading” mentality has also driven an element of risk taking out of investment.  I was recently at a financial conference and the guest speaker was a gentleman from one of the financial exchanges.  During his presentation, he made the statement that “the average hold of a private placement in the last ten or fifteen years has gone from over five years to under one year.”  This was frightening to me.  How are you supposed to build a company when you investors are looking for an immediate and guaranteed return?  If all you are doing is managing your stock price, how are you going to manage your business?

By the way, these same investors or should I say, traders, will sue you the moment that your stock price drops.  This problem is the most frustrating to me.  What makes anyone think that they should be guaranteed any level of performance from a company?  Unless there is some kind of fraud or gross negligence, there should be no ability to sue for a lack of performance.  As an investor you do your homework, make a decision to invest and then buy into the company’s game plan, including its management team.  Sometimes the plan works and sometimes it fails.  If you don’t like the way the company is being managed, become an “activist investor” and build a case for change with your fellow shareholders.  What is even more absurd is that when you purchase an investment in a private placement or IPO, the subscription documents basically states that “YOU WILL LOSE YOUR MONEY.”  The disclosures are so in-depth that it is a miracle that anyone would actually put their money into any transaction at all.

This unfortunate need for a “guaranteed quick return” is what has driven the small cap marketplace into the ground.

Unfortunately, this is also the marketplace where you often find the growth stocks that can contribute greatly towards building wealth.  This marketplace, however, is damaged.  An IPO used to be a way to raise growth capital.  The average person was able to invest in companies that were at the earliest stages of their growth curve.  Today, an IPO is an exit strategy for growth companies that have matured into large corporations.  Did you know that almost all of the appreciation in the value of Microsoft’s stock came after its IPO?  This allowed many investors, big and small, to benefit from its growth.  The converse would be the IPO that Facebook completed.  One hundred percent (100%) of the appreciation of this stock happened before the company went public.  For the most part, the only people who made any money on Facebook were wealthy investors, venture capitalists and large institutional funds.  The average investor was left out of the process altogether.

This has to change!

A friend of mine, Dara Albright, over at the NowStreet Journal is a passionate advocate for the JOBS act that was passed in Congress.  Well, it was sort of passed.  They passed the law, but you actually can’t take advantage of the law that was passed until the SEC has put a set of rules together.  Don’t hold your breath too long, they have already missed certain deadlines!  Dara and I often speak about how the government basically assumes that the general public is not capable of making investment decisions on their own.  As a citizen of average means, for the most part, you are not able to invest in private placements unless you are deemed an accredited investor.  This means that you have either achieved a certain degree of wealth or that your income is above a certain level.  This also assumes that because of one of those factors, you are now a “sophisticated” investor.  Hummm?

So why is this problematic?  What is wrong with protecting folks that don’t earn as much as others or are not as “sophisticated” as some?  Well, maybe nothing, except- and this is where the topic of financial inequality comes into play- most people are not able to invest in companies until long after the “wealthy sophisticated” investors have made their profit.  Small investors are typically not able to invest at the early stages of a business where most of the growth, upside and wealth creation occurs.

Remember, when speaking about inequality, we are not always speaking about income inequality; we are often speaking about wealth inequality as well.  However, for the record, I am pretty sure that when the Declaration of Independence was penned with the statement “that all men are created equal,” this did not mean that all men would end up being financially equal.  This is another example of “guarantee.”  Where is it stated that we should all be guaranteed the same success?

That notwithstanding, I do think that the capital markets have become so consolidated that raising smaller amounts of money for growth companies has become far too difficult from an expense and regulatory point of view.  When Microsoft went public in the mid-80s and raised approximately $58 million, it took 116 underwriters to raise that amount of growth capital.  A couple of years ago, LinkedIn went public and raised about $350 million and only had to use five underwriters.  This is a real problem.  Essentially, capital has been concentrated into the hands of a few “big investors” and the average investor will never see these opportunities until after those few “big investors” have made their return.  We need wider distribution of investment.  Oh, I almost forgot, the government, for your own protection, would rather see you invest in “safe” publicly vetted companies…………….like Enron.

By the way, don’t you find it a little hypocritical that the average person can’t easily invest in small businesses, but every state except Utah allows some form of gambling?  I think nearly 40 states now have casinos, and you are more than welcome to visit any of these fine establishments and, without limitation, gamble away as much of your hard-earned money as you wish!

Don’t you think that there is something wrong with this picture?

If you really want to promote equality and wealth creation, you first have to provide the ability for all to take the same risks.  Every investor must also accept that investing is indeed a risk.  Just like at the casino, sometimes you win and sometimes you lose.  Well, investing is essentially the same.  Have you ever seen anyone sue a casino for the money they lost on a blackjack table?

I fully understand the value of keeping capital flowing.  The value of liquidity is not lost on me at all.  However, some of the greatest fortunes that have ever been made have come from people who took the time to learn about the businesses that they were investing in and then further contributed towards the growth of those companies.

I hope that we can find ways to get back to good old-fashioned investing!

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Our Role in Developing “Our” Economy

When I use “OUR” in quotation marks, I am suggesting that “OUR” means all of us.  Not simply the federal, state or local government.  Not only big corporations or wealthy investors.  But  “OUR” meaning each of us, individually and collectively.  What is our role in economic development?  Or better yet, what can our role be in economic development?

Let’s first define Economic Development:

Economic Development typically includes the programs and policies by which a nation, state, region or city improves the economic, political, and social well-being of its citizens.

Examples are:

  • Governments Policy that works to meet broad economic objectives such as high employment, and sustainable growth. Such efforts include monetary and fiscal policy, regulation of financial institutions, and tax policies.
  • Infrastructure and Service programs such as roads, bridges and highways, public parks, public art, housing, crime prevention, and K-12 education.
  • Job Creation and Retention through the use of investment, marketing, community development, labor development, real estate development and small business programs.
  • The promotion of Regional Clusters and concentrated metropolitan economies. Location is increasingly important and is a key competitive advantage in today’s global economy.

Essentially, a nation’s economic development is directly related to its human development.

THESE ARE ALL EXAMPLES OF EFFORTS THAT AMERICAN CITIZENS CAN EXPLORE AND CONTRIBUTE TOWARDS.

You don’t have to be a sophisticated wealthy investor or a highly educated individual to contribute towards our nations economy.  You don’t have to wait until your federal, state or local government puts a measure in front of you to participate.  There are many ways that we can all participate in the growth of our economy.

For starters, you can join one of the many organizations that are contributing to our social, cultural and economic health.  Do your homework and join the organization that best fits your beliefs.

Some areas that we can all contribute towards are:

EDUCATION.  To me this is the most critical long-term element of economic development and growth.  In my mind, it really doesn’t matter whether we are talking about building a community, region or a nation.  All development starts with education!  

Become a mentor or offer your services to a local job-training program.  Take a class or simply become up to date on the relevent issues of your region.  

ADVOCACY.  We certainly need to let our voices be heard.  When we can collectively voice our concerns or agreements, planners can use this information as a key tool in creating economic development solutions.   However, just to be clear, I do firmly believe that simply pitching a tent and chanting about how much you don’t like something is NOT the way to go.

Join a private regional planning club that collectively creates concepts that can be presented to development leaders.

 

SERVICE.  With service, “individual impact” efforts not only bring short-term benefits to a community or region but also help to create long-term economic impact on our country as a whole.  The more we can do to make our regions better places to live and work, the better our chances of stimulating economic growth.

Join organization that provides for the needy or contribute your time and efforts towards a neighborhood beautification program.

INVESTMENT.  This topic always gets everyone’s attention.  Most often when speaking with people about “investment”, they view this as a large capital commitment that they could never possibly participate in or contribute towards.

Look into an Investment Club or Fund that is making investments in your region.  Your investment may be combined with others to help create the impact that you are looking for.

I think these are fantastic ways for any and all of us to help contribute towards the economic growth of our individual regions and of course the nation as a whole.

John F. Kennedy stated; “my fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your county.

I think we all need to ask ourselves this every day.

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Quick Thought: What if?

Quick Thought:  What if?

Why does take a terrible disaster for our elected officials to work together?

The latest example is Hurricane Sandy.  This horrific disaster has Federal, State and Local governments working together to solve the desperate needs of millions affected citizens.

What does this tell us?

What this tells us is; when “backed up against a wall” or “cliff” if you would prefer, our typically partisan government leaders are able to come together and make decisions for the good of all Americans

What if they did this every day?

What if our elected officials took this non-partisan collaborative approach to fixing the monumental and disastrous financial problems facing our states and nation? Why are our country’s mounting financial problems not critical enough to work across the aisle to come up with sound solutions?

What if our elected officials took this approach to fixing the extremely difficult economic problems facing our nation? Why are the various economic problems in the United States not critical enough to work across the aisle to come up with sound solutions?

What if our elected officials took this approach to fixing the many cultural issues facing our nation? Why are our cultural issues not critical enough to work across the aisle to come up with sound solutions?

What if?

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Beyond Election Day

Beyond Election Day

This morning I was watching an interview on CNBC and the person being interviewed was giving his views about the election and who he would prefer to be President of the United States.  During his interview he stated that no matter who was elected, he would do his best to be supportive.

I thought about this and it reminded me of conversations that I often have with folks during election time.  It seems that no matter who is President, whether Republican or Democrat, somebody will have the opinion that the President is some kind of brainless moronic fool.  Well, even as often as I feel the same way, the reality is far from being accurate.

When you think about it, becoming President is pretty impressive. Out of approximately 310 million people living in the United States, only one is elected President.  Pretty amazing feat if you ask me.  My guess is if you have managed to become the President of the United States, you are most likely a pretty bright person.  So, no matter what you may think of who is elected, they were indeed elected and they were smart enough to convince the majority of us to follow their vision. 

Now, I am not suggesting that we blindly follow every concept that our President puts forward.  What I am suggesting is that we have some respect for the office and the person that we elect to that position.  Instead of sitting back and second-guessing whoever is in the office making daily decisions that most of us can barely understand, take some action.  What I am getting at here is two-fold.

Number one.  Vote!  I know silly right?  Well maybe not.  We live in a country where our voices can be heard.  If we are not pleased with our Presidents performance, we have the opportunity to vote him and someday her out of the office.  I know that this seems to be a simple idea, but the problem is a very large portion of those that are eligible to vote, don’t.  

Think about this.  In the 2008 election about 57.5% of those eligible voted and that was the highest voter turn out since 1968!  That leaves about 45.5% of those eligible to vote that simply did not let their voices be heard.  This is a huge problem.  Actually, every election since 1968 has had a voter turn out below 58%.  If you really want change, you need to start by showing up.

We need to get back to being a concerned and engaged population.  In 1840 when William Henry Harrison won over Martin Van Buren, the voter turn out was about 80.2%.  In 1876 when Rutherford B. Hayes won over Samuel J. Tilden, the voter turn out was about 81.8%.  Now that is citizen engagement!

Number two.  You don’t have to wait four years to become engaged in our nations issues.  There are elections of some type at least every two years and in some instances there are ballots presented annually.  If you are not pleased with the progress of an elected official or ballot measure, the ultimate way for your voice to be heard is to actually vote.  Again, I should remind you that you don’t have to wait for an election to become involved with the issues that are important to you.

There are many other ways that you can participate in the direction of our nation, your state and even your city or local community.  There are many organization’s that can provide you with; a unified voice, valuable information on various issues, advocacy programs and the ability to contribute and provide your views on what is important to you.

I am involved with The CEDI Society.  The CEDI Society is a national non-partisan membership organization where citizens, entrepreneurs and businesses are provided with the ability to collaborate in CEDI sponsored economic development initiatives, public service programs and political advocacy platforms that are designed to help create economic growth opportunities in the United States.  The CEDI Society is an organization that allows members to share ideas, create projects, discover resources and help make our nation a better place.  The CEDI Society focuses on Education, Advocacy, Service, Investment and Collaboration.

So, find an organization that can help you contribute or help your voice to be heard.  If you can’t find an organization that fits your needs, start one.  It may be easier than you think.  The bottom line is that our contributions and efforts need to continue beyond Election Day.

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