Monthly Archives: April 2010

How many languages in the world – and on the Internet?

According to Ethnolgue.com, there are currently 6,909 living languages in the world, 993 of which are in the Americas.  No wonder it can be so hard to communicate.

And then there is this.  According to Internet World Stats’ Top Ten World Users by Language, English is used by 499.2 million Internet users, followed by Chinese at 407.7 million users.  Spanish is a distant 3rd at 139.8.

How much would you pay to bring a new job to your community?

If you are Mississippi County, Arkansas, the answer is $6,667.  From an economic developer’s perspective, that’s not a bad deal if one considers that the property tax alone that a worker would pay on his or her residence would equal that amount in less than 10 years.  I’ve seen cases of over $100,000 per job being given to companies to locate to an area.  Economic development incentives generate lots of discussion, but have become standard practice it seems.

Meanwhile, back to the question.  How much would your community pay?  The answer, of course, depends on the type of job and many other factors.  But why wait until there is a prospect to have the discussion?

What a community needs if it wants change

Otis White, a well-known community consultant who operates out of Atlanta, says that for a community to change it must have a champion.  Based on my own experience I could not agree more.  When I see communities making real progress in creating a better community there is almost always a champion.  In a recent blog post White points out that the champion may not necessarily be one person, but instead may be a group of people.  More often than not it is from the business community where that champion comes from.

Note that I included “if it wants change” in the title of this post.  The greatest barrier to change is that people are satisfied enough with the way things are that they either see no need to change or they believe that the benefits of change do not outweigh the costs.  Communities are dynamic things, and are constantly changing, even though it may be gradual change.  For there to be fundamental change in a relatively short time there must be chaos.  Change then usually comes from outside the community instead of within the community.

Internet sales tax issue grows

The Internet sales tax issue continues heating up, which is not surprising given that state budgets have been hit hard by the economic downtown.  The latest battle ground is North Carolina where Amazon.com has filed a lawsuit against the North Carolina Department of Revenue seeking to prevent the state from getting the names of everyone who has made a purchase from Amazon.com since 1973.  This may just be the case that eventually determines whether sales taxes must be paid on Internet sales.  The stakes are huge for the states and Internet retailers, as well as a major interpretation of federal law.

The case is In re: Amazon.com LLC vs Kenneth R. Lay, Case No. 10-00664, U.S. District Court, Western District of Washington.

What to do about rural economic development

Larry Lee, the director of the Alabama Center for Rural Economic Development opines that what most call rural economic development “has failed us for decades.”  There have been initiatives, listening sessions, community forums and commissions.  Elections every four years don’t help matters much.  He cites the Rural Medical Scholars program in Alabama as one successful program.  He also says that it’s about education and the economy.  Here are his suggestions:

Give rural school principals opportunities to improve their skills;
Engage the communities in the process of education;
“Grow our own” rural educators;
Increase help to small entrepreneurs; and
Get legislators to understand that what is small in a metro area is big in a rural area.

Click here to read the entire article at The Daily Yonder.

Mississippi legislators’ “tweets” now aggregated and available

The Misssissippi Center for Public Policy just announced a novel service as follows:

MStweets.org is a new service that allows the public to see the Twitter postings (or “tweets”) of Mississippi legislators. It also allows non-legislators to share their tweets on Mississippi government and politics by using the #MSTWEETS hash tag.

MStweets.org is:

  • Easy to use
  • Non-Partisan
  • No cost to you

“B” is for Plan B

Admiral William Frederick Halsey is credited with saying, “There are no great men. Just great challenges which ordinary men, out of necessity, are forced by circumstance to meet.”

Leadership is often as much about opportunities for leadership as it about leaders.  Often great leaders emerge in a crisis.  What a person does when Plan A – the strategic plan – goes awry is a real test of leadership.  In other words, a leader is someone who manages Plan B.  And let use not confuse Plan B with the contingency plan.  Plan B in the context I refer to is when there is no alternative plan.

NOTE:  The above is from the draft of “The ABC’s of Economic Development for Small Town Mayors,”  by Phil Hardwick.

Restaurant Review: Calhoun’s on the River, Knoxville, TN

When a conference agenda calls for dinner a local restaurant it can be assumed that  the experience will probably be good.  The conference hosts desire that their attendees sample local flavor from both a taste and atmosphere standpoint.  My recent visit to Knoxville, Tennessee for a conference included dinner at Calhoun’s, located downtown on the Tennessee River waterfront.  Calhoun’s did not disappoint.

Being a Southerner and a road warrior I get exposed often to barbecue.  It verily permeates the air in towns where smokers emanate their flavors from beside convenience stores to log-built barbecue joints to converted downtown buildings.  And of course in the South the barbeque is almost always pork.  Out West they prefer beef.  In my humble opinion barbecue is judged on two main factors:  tenderness and the sauce.  And on those categories Calhoun’s scored high.  The sauce is among the best I have ever tasted, and the tenderness is the best I have ever experienced.  A person with no teeth could enjoy this stuff.

Being as I was with a group we had our meal upstairs in a private dining room.  We had a buffet setup so I cannot really tell you a whole lot about the menu items.  Calhoun’s claims to have the best ribs in a America.  They do have an award from the National Rib Cookoff to support that claim.  Our meal included barbeque pork, grilled barbeque chicken, mashed potatoes, creamed spinach, salad and bun.  From the dessert table I chose my personal favorite dessert, which is key lime pie.  It was all delicious and worthy of the Calhoun’s reputation.

Even if the food had been average I would still recommend dinner at Calhoun’s simply because of its atmosphere.  Located dockside on the river it provides a spectacular view.  It is accessible by boat and even has its own mooring.  I can only imagine the scene on University of Tennessee game days in the fall when the river is covered with houseboats.  They call it “sailgating.”   That’s because Neyland Stadium is also practically waterfront and only a few football fields distant downriver.

Oh, and the service was exceptional.

Conclusion:  highly recommend.

photo from http://www.calhouns.com/CalhOnTnRiver.shtml.

“A” is for asset-based economic development.

There are basically two approaches in the process of creating an economic development strategy for a community.  The first approach is to determine what the community needs in order to be successful.  It looks at things that the community does not have now, but if it had them would stand a good chance at economic success.  For example, one rural community that I worked with last year determined that most citizens had to drive to another county for basic health care.  It concluded that it needed a health clinic.  Having a health clinic would keep money in the local area, and may even bring in more money.  It was something that the community did not have now.  Therefore, the strategy was to bring in a health clinic.

The other approach does just the opposite.  It looks at the resources that the community has now that it can capitalize on.  The key phrase here is “that it can capitalize on.”  I have found that two of the more common things that communities overlook as assets are natural resources and history.  The natural resource may be something that can be developed and marketed, while the history may be an event in the past that today’s outsiders may be interested in coming to see where it happened.  Pelahatchie, Mississippi capitalized on a local lake and the town’s location on an Interstate highway to create a Yogi Bear Jellystone Campground-Resort.