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Friday, September 11, 2009

The Younger Generation is the Key!!!

With the Real Estate Depression that has been happening in the United States, we have seen many issues that have arisen. And Hickory is at the forefront of the issues that we face as a nation. I just hope that I am getting through to people.

I had lunch today at 1859 Cafe. It sits directly on 2nd Avenue SW and perpendicular to 5th street SW. As I have told you, my Aunt owns that restaurant. There were five of us who sat in the Parlor against the wall, in front of the mirror. I enjoyed a nice lunch with a few people who really care about Hickory. Two of the people were Young Professionals, who are up and comers, who read this blog and through e-mail correspondence expressed to me their concerns about the direction this city is headed in. The two others individuals who joined us are already involved in the political dynamics of our city's current political landscape.

Right now I'm not going to name names, because it is irrelevant to the message I am conveying. I wouldn't say that any of us march in lockstep on ideals, but we all agree that our city is on the wrong path. We all agreed on one conclusion that has been discussed in this very blog. Hickory can no longer afford to abandon or take for granted the Younger Demographic. We must do everything we can to stem the mass exodus of the 20 and 30-somethings who have decided that there is no reason to call Hickory their home.

No one can legitimately state that I want younger people in here, because I am young. I am 43 years old and I'm not getting any younger. Why not go along with those who want to encourage more and more retirees to locate here?

Because empirical evidence shows that our area's demographics are way out of kilter and my own anecdotal experiences constantly reinforce that opinion. Below are Population Pyramids of the United States that show the age distributions in 1990 and 2000, as well as the projection for 2025:

What you will notice is the bulge that is filtering its way through the years. The population is projected to become more evenly distributed by 2025. The population of our area will naturally become older no matter what we do, but we can't afford to exacerbate the numbers and make that bulge even larger, because it will have profound negative effects on our real estate prices.

South Florida Real Estate: Boom & Bust - Dowell Myers has taken a look at the aging baby boomers and warns of this trend creating a generational housing bubble. He looks at the point at which people at certain ages shift from becoming net buyers to net sellers of homes, and you can see in this chart (SLIDE 7) that happens right about at age 60 or so. Myers is saying that the future buying and selling actions of this big group of people, the baby boom cohort, has major implications for housing markets.
This is an issue of simple supply and demand. As that bulge ages, those people have similar needs when it comes to housing, healthcare, and lifestyle. At the point, when that bulge reaches 75+ years old, a number of those people are going to want to sell their house or townhome and move to an Assisted Living Center or Senior Community. As this happens, real estate market values will be completely dependent on the buyer's market. The fewer younger people there are to buy these houses; the harder it's going to be to sell a house and subsequently the lower the selling price will be. That also means our tax rates are going to rise.

If we focus on retirees, then we are going to have to focus more of the community's resources and energy to cater to the elder demographic. Can we afford to do that at the expense of the mobile populace, especially when we see the path that the Federal Government wants to take us down on healthcare? Healthcare dollars look like they are going to be placed in check in some manner. That means that there isn't going to be a plethora of money in taking care of the aged. Heck, I have seen first hand that services for the aged are already lacking.

I'm just asking that we try to restore some balance into the equation. Why would 20 and 30-somethings stick around just to be ignored and/or relegated to being subservient to the elderly.The vast majority of the elderly are on fixed incomes, do you really want to base an economy on people living on fixed incomes. Do you want to live in a Big Lots and J&S Cafeteria World?

The younger generation are the workers and thus the money generators. While the older generation is winding it down, the younger generation is cranking it up. Malaise, lethargy, and "Run Down" are adjectives that I have heard when it comes to describing this area over the last eight years. Folks, that is where the pessimism has settled in.

As I sat having lunch today, I was faced with the graffiti that has been plastered all over the abandoned building two blocks over. I was struck by the vacant building where Details used to reside. I witnessed that there was hardly any traffic going down 1st or 2nd Avenue. These were not the memories I had of that area, even just a few short years ago. I remember when that area thrived. My mind could not settle the paradox of those sites versus the backdrop of the tasteful and artistically designed decoration of 1859 Cafe. Something is amiss and it's not 1859. Have we given up? Are we going to let parts of town turn to rubble? Are we supposed to let whole sections of our community die without even a whimper?

We need to do more to attract the energy that comes with the younger demographic. I certainly haven't been inspired by the status quo that has infected this community. I have witnessed first hand the energy that these young people are willing to bring to the table. This younger generation gives me hope that we can turn things around. When these young guys step forward, let's encourage them and work with them. Let's help these guys get some of their projects off the ground, so that we can revitalize our economy and restore optimism into the equation of the future.


Anonymous said...


There are problems with this.

Your hanging out and resourcing at your aunt's place.

You stated that you have 2 insiders and 2 unemployed people at a table.

Your additions should have been a seperate post.

Don't use MSM tactics!


Cecil James said...

Last Monday I met a retired guy over in Chapel Hill. He had a PhD in Business and had set up a new business that I thought was fascinating. He now builds and maintains remote controlled airplanes for customers. I went to his shop (in his house) where he showed me a couple of dozen 1/4 scale replicas of WWII aircraft... that's right one quarter scale! Amazing stuff when you consider some of the planes can cost up to $35,000 and more! Oh yea, the fellow was about 40 and had retired from a heavy metal band where it appears he had done very well. It struck me that he could just as easily live in Hickory as Chapel Hill, in fact, the population density there is a problem for his activities. He would bring to our community a very educated, creative, affluent contribution. He explained that at his point in life a "quality" place to live is his highest priority.

James Thomas Shell said...

Thank You Cecil. Some people will look at the surface of my argument and believe I am saying I don't want any older people living here and if they read what I am saying, they will realize that that is not what I am saying.

I'm not against older people living in this community. I have said it time and time again. And I want this area to grow (period).

What I am saying, and the statistics bear this out, is that we have abandoned the younger demographic. My question is what are we going to do to rectify that issue?

Because it is like a Church that gets older. I went to a church where that happened (Good Shepard Lutheran in Hickory) and it became defunct, because as the older members dwindled, the church population imploded to the point that the Lutheran Synod closed the place.

Hickory is imploding. The signs are all around us. I think we need to address that issue. We need to get younger people involved in our local government. We need younger people to feel like they have a role to play. We need younger people to become stakeholders and put down roots here.

That doesn't mean that I want to get rid of the boomers or Seniors. What it means is that I want to retain Hickory's young people and attract other young people to this community. I think that is the way that we turn around the funk we are in.

We weren't sitting at lunch yesterday attacking the older generations or talking bad about them. We were constructively talking about ways to attract younger people into our community.

Thank You for your input, which allows me to explain something that can easily get lost or misinterpreted. I do appreciate your opinions. They are always insightful.

Anonymous said...

To bring young entrepreneurs to the area there are a number of things that must be in place:
1) A high tech infrastructure that includes high tech workers, extensive broadband and fiber network and robust higher education opportunities
2) A well defined arts community, not just small niches such as pottery
3) Quality of life factors
4) A strong identity as supporter of risk taking entrepreneurs
5) Progressive thinking leadership

Anonymous said...

There is no simple solution for bringing this area out of its stupor. There are just too many built in problems. Education is the biggest problem. The Hickory-Morganton area should have gotten a state university thirty years ago. But area leadership that was once progressive though conservative, has been regressive and conservative since the early 80's. Local government leaders that geared development near their own land are part of that loser system. Lenoir-Rhyne University, which is more of an impediment than a service agent to the community is part of that system. The whole mill owner-worker feudal system is an enormous obstacle that lingers in ways that are difficult to understand. Much of the population is satisfied with a provincial existence (and there's nothing wrong with that). The three mid-sized areas in NC that have been the most successful are Asheville, Chapel Hill-Carrboro, and Wilmington. All these areas have been gifted with forward-thinking leadership but have been aided as well by educational institutions, tourism, and, in the case of Wilmington, the film industry. Hickory began its big slide when it lost the seasonal Furniture Market in the early 80's. It's going to take a paradigm shift in the thinking not just of leaders but also of the general population to stop the slide.

James Thomas Shell said...


Whether you agree with it or disagree with it, the input by anonymous above is exactly what we need to hear. Those are the kinds of bold comments we need to get people to think outside of the box. And, in my opinion, that is what we are going to need to move this area forward.

Thank you for participating.

Anonymous said...

Many cities have reinvented themselves after the ecomonic collapse of an industry or the loss of a majr military base.James a little research on these would be interesting.

harryhipps said...

Many comments here point to the problems and a route to solutions. But the main problem in Hickory is the good ole boy network that has refused to acknowledge the problems we have here and chose to protect their interests and status above the welfare of the City. While no one can now deny that there is a problem some still blame Raleigh and Washington DC for the trouble and spend more time trying to avoid blame and protect entrenched interests than they do trying to move us forward. This is why I'm running for council and publc pressure and input is vital to changing the dynamic here. I often hear from business people how close minded Hickory leaders are. This has to end.

James Thomas Shell said...


Have you read any of the "Hickory Versus" series I have done. The last part of it was called "Hickory - Time to Put the Puzzle Together." I have now linked it at the top right under the Problems and Solutions Forum. I hope that you and others will check it out. I put a lot of time into doing exactly what you mention here.

Thank You!!!