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Sunday, January 31, 2010

January 30, 2010 Blizzard

Video of the blizzard of January 30, 2010 that occurred in Hickory, North Carolina. We had over 8" of snow that started on January 29th at about 5:30pm and did not stop until this afternoon around 2pm. The roads are compacted with ice and it looks like this stuff will be here for a while.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Free Enterprise versus the boys of Goldman Sachs

Voluntarily or Through a Subpoena, Issa and McHenry Call on Towns to Bring Geithner Before Oversight Committee - I would like to thank Congressman McHenry for calling for Congressional hearings involving the Secretary of the Treasury Tim Geithner. I think we are starting to gain traction on this issue. Geithner, Henry Paulson, Larry Summers, and Robert Rubin all ran Goldman-Sachs and have held positions at the higher echelons of our government and the Federal reserve. It is time for the clowns of today to be brought to the realization that most of us live with. The appearance of impropriety is impropriety.

It is time to end this. These people think that we are their servants. They think they are better than us and we are here for their disposal. They are criminals. Why does someone rob a convenient store and get seven years and these people have stolen trillions, played games with their tax bills, facilitated insider trading, arrogantly displayed blatant conflicts of interest, and diluted the value of our currency. Sociopaths never think they will ever be held accountable. It is time to pay the piper!!!

As you can see, I attended the Town Hall meeting on Free Enterprise this past Tuesday. I truly do believe that this was one of the most important events that we have seen in this area's history. This event ranked right up there with Congressman McHenry's Town Hall from this past August. Like that meeting, this wasn't really about local issues. It was about how national policy is having a direct effect on Hickory's Economy.

Danny Hearn, the President of the Chamber of Commerce, has hit it out of the ballpark several times this year. No one can state that the man has been resting on his laurels. He has brought forth a lot of innovation over the past year and people can see the passion he exudes when they listen to the inflection of his voice as he addresses the issues of today. I know that this era can be quite stressful and overwhelming, but people can see he is facing these issues in the trenches head on. He is right there with us. He keeps saying, "Where's the Urgency?"

This meeting wasn't about a bunch of people jumping on the bandwagon, like we saw at McHenry's Town Hall in August. That was a spectacle to behold and it definitely served a purpose, but I fear that many of the people that were there that August night have gone back to the six pack and the recliner. That night there were 1,500 people in P.E. Monroe auditorium and question after question was asked pertaining mostly to healthcare. That event lasted over 3 hours. I believe that most of those people from that night feel that the battle has been won, but this is not some simple matter. I believe that it is true that people do get the government they truly deserve.

The meeting on Tuesday was great, because it was mostly the business people and stakeholders of the Hickory area. These are the people who have the most to lose. The subjects broached here were not dumbed down or sanitized to the least common denominator. This was an event where adults addressed one another as adults. This was about getting down to the brass tax.

Danny Hearn opened this forum by talking about the virtue of Free Enterprise, but in the end I wish that someone would address what we are truly talking about here. We are talking about Capitalism. We are talking about allowing market forces to dictate commerce. That has been given a bad rap, because of the corruption that has been allowed to permeate its way throughout our capitalistic foundation. That is the reason why so many have bought into the nanny state, because they feel that they have been cheated.

Danny talks about American's trusting entrepreneurs more than CEOs. That might be because the average person can relate to the small businessman. Americans understand that a successful small businessman works hard just like they do, many times right beside them, and they realize that our country was built upon such egalitarian principles. It is the essence of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Ask the average employee, all things equal, who would you rather work for and they would choose small business over a huge corporation most every time.

Danny says that you cannot multiply wealth by dividing it. Yes, we have long been ruled by divisions and this is where we have gotten off track. This goes back to the days of Teddy Roosevelt and the Robber Barons. The vitriolic class warfare that he exuded was unnecessary. All we needed was equal protection under the law, but instead we got more laws and the beginning of the precedent of having law stacked upon law without real and equal enforcement of the laws - like in the book Animal Farm when it talks about "All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others."

Now we see how divisions rule our lives. We see men pitted against women, white vs every minority, natural-born citizens vs immigrants, divisions by sexual preference. One can go on and on. It has become a part of our everyday lives. At one time, we were called the melting pot, but can that be said any longer? We need to get back to being Americans.

Americans do want freedom, but freedom has just become a word. People have been all to willing to sacrifice liberty in the name of security. I like when Danny talks about the sense of possibilities. It's like the old saying that if you work hard, then you can obtain your dreams. We cannot obtain our dreams, if the government is always going to stand in the way and tell us how to direct our lives. It seems like now that if you work hard, then the great American succubus is going to come along to see what it can get out of you. That is what has happened to the dynamism of our economy. This succubus has its tentacles in every aspect of our society. It must be removed to restore the energy and ability to grow to our nation and its people.

I think that David Chavern and Congressman McHenry had a focused and clear message. Mr. Chavern talks about the role of the Chamber in explaining why free enterprise is important - business is the answer and not the problem. Businesses need some assistance from the government, because so many elements of our society are out of control. In the current environment, people look at business and capitalism as evil. The political environment is not conducive towards getting the economy back on track. We don't have too little regulation, we have too much and it isn't effective. We need regulatory reform. We need effective regulations.

Mr. Chavern talks about the need to get back to basics. People keep looking to the government to solve their problems and they are hostile towards business. They believe business is tied into the government and pitted against the average individual. He says that we need people to understand that Free Enterprise is you. We need 20 million jobs over the next decade and it isn't going to come from the government.

Mr. McHenry talks about small business being the lifeblood of our economy. People make us strong and give us the capacity and the way forward. We (government) need to stop making the problem worse. We need to put a cease and desist order on new regulations. This is creating an uncertainty in the economy that keeps businesses from making investments. Government has been soaking up capital that businesses can use. We need to have trade policies that back up the American workforce. We don't need to have trade just for the sake of a trade agreement. We need a level playing field that will help us to have a stronger economy. We have to have people involved and engaged. How do we make this possible?

I think the bottom line is that we need to get back to the best of what this country used to be. Some people don't want to turn the clock back, because they were hurt by the old system. We have to admit there was racial and gender discrimination in the past, but would our nation be better off to throw our whole system out or to bring the best of the system to everyone?

We cannot do this by spreading the wealth. We cannot divide the pie. We need to grow the pie. We need to be more productive. We have to remove the American Succubus from our lives. That Succubus has been fostered by a rogue element within our government that does not live of, by, and for the American People. These people are pushers who want to get you addicted to government largess, while siphoning off monies for their personal enrichment. This element lives of, by, and for the themselves in the name of the bureaucracy.

These individuals look to empower themselves by empowering government as a corporate entity, for in doing so they become a syndicate that answers to no one. They are no better than the mafia. They are supposed to be accountable to the people, but as long as they work with one another within the bureaucratic system, they can basically protect one another and do whatever they want. They have built a structured subsystem as part of an empire, with cronyism as a base, that has permeated throughout our governmental infrastructure at every level.

My question about Goldman Sachs is a prime example. We have to get to the bottom of this situation to ensure that it does not happen again. The whole derivative structure is fraudulent. We do not owe these people this money. They have this ever growing scheme of digital money that is supposed to represent insurance on assets, but what we see is that the assets that the derivatives are supposed to insure are worth less, if not worthless. So the people (investors in corporations) who invested in these assets have assets that are worth less. They still have the assets, but the markets have come back towards equilibrium from the lofty bubble values that they were at. So the government is protecting, and paying off, the ill gotten interests of these too big to fail organizations at the expense of the future wealth of the American people.

We see corporations like Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan, who have representatives that have infiltrated our government to represent their (company's) personal interests at all levels, at the heart of this matter. From the three past administrations, we have had Larry Summers, Robert Rubin, and Henry Paulson who have been at the highest positions of Goldman Sachs. Our eyes show us that there are definitive conflicts of interest and insider trading taking place.

Empirical evidence shows that these companies made money in creating the credit bubble and now they are making money as the bubble deflates and the economy crashes. They (these officials) own stock in their companies (such as Goldman Sachs), which are supposed to be in a blind trust, but they are making decisions that blatantly represent their company's interests.

They are doing this through fear. They tell us that we don't need to study the information, they will take care of that; if we don't act fast, then the country will become a financial debacle. The bottom line is that the country is already financially failing, but these people are going to make sure they take care of themselves, before our currency collapses and they are basing decisions about their personal welfare on information that only they are privy to. It's a rigged game folks.

We have to make these people accountable. The guilty have to be punished. These are offenses that have destroyed people. People have lost their houses. People have lost their livelihoods, all for the sake of these people's greed. These people need to be incarcerated for the crimes they have committed. Paulson and Geithner had the gall to provide themselves waivers which allowed them to facilitate functions (payouts of government money) involving real, statutory conflicts of interest.

These people are not better than us. They are not above us. They are subject to the same laws as the rest of us. If there is not equal justice, then we are subject to anarchy.

We want our money back. We want every single red-cent of our money back. We are in real trouble if this is allowed to stand. Can you not see that we have to demand this? We cannot rebuild an economy amongst thieves. People you better realize that your future is at stake. This is identity theft at the highest level. Did you give these people permission to do this? If someone personally robbed you or a family member, what would you do? Do you understand that this is no different and we, the American people, are going to be slaves to this fraudulent scheme, if we don't do something to bring the people involved in these schemes to justice. You better wrap your mind around it, because THIS IS REAL!!!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Town Hall meeting about Free Enterprise sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce - January 26, 2010

This meeting was held at the SALT Block auditorium on January 26, 2010. Approximately 350 people showed up to the Rally that lasted from 8:15am until 10:00am. Below are recording that I placed on Youtube that you can listen to by pressing the links. This was a very interesting meeting, in which many pertinent current topic were discussed.

This meeting was held at the SALT Block auditorium on January 26, 2010. Approximately 350 people showed up to the Rally that lasted from 8:15am until 10:00am. Below are recording that I placed on Youtube that you can listen to by pressing the links. This was a very interesting meeting, in which many pertinent current topic were discussed.

“Planning for Extraordinary Change”

Our economic stability has been challenged!

The Hickory Metro area had the 2nd largest unemployment increase in the country in 2009. We are the highest unemployed Metro area in North Carolina. 35,000 job losses, since 2000 in Hickory Metro, 18,000 in Catawba County alone.

Metro area manufacturing employment was 56% in 2000, now it’s 29% with projections to lose another 10% in the next 10 years.

$450 million dollar decrease in retail sales from 08’ – 09’

Educational attainment levels of our citizenry in the Hickory Metro area are some of the lowest in the country

Do we have a plan for economic stability again? Are you ready for change and what it might bring? Is there a collaborative effort in Catawba County that can make this happen?

The moment you hand power over to people… You get an explosion of curiosity, innovation and effort. You discover benefits that you couldn’t have imagined in advance…We must look deep, focus on things that move and change… And never ask the usual questions. We must transform this economy and society…

And develop suggested changes that will help the county prepare for a different kind of economic era. If we do not accept or embrace this new economy. We will continue to rearrange the deck chairs. And wonder why enough jobs are not being created

“A willingness to depart from the familiar has distinct survival value.”
Peter Drucker.

Then what is our Economic Stability Plan for Catawba County?
1. Jobs at all levels
2. “Greater Hickory Area” Branding and Marketing
3. Education and Workforce Preparedness

Our local economy will only get better based on our ability to attract, cultivate and retain “knowledge workers”

Are we preparing our students for 21st Century job skills? Is business sending a loud and clear message to our young people that dropping out of school is not an option in Catawba County if you want to find a quality job?

Are we creating a community mind set that life-long learning is a course of study in which we are always enrolled. Higher educational opportunities here in Catawba County are greater than most Metro areas our size in the country. How can we help Appalachian State University, Lenoir Rhyne University, CVCC and the NC Center for Engineering Technologies fill up their classrooms, by adding more non-degree, degree and graduate degree programs.

How do we connect and partner with the most envied and successful research campus in North America, the Centennial Campus at NC State University. What can we learn from putting world-class researchers and corporate and institutional partners together in close proximity? so we can prepare for our own Millennial Campus of ASU?

What connections/referrals can our new Manufacturing Solutions Center develop with the Centennial Campus in Raleigh? for new business growth and expansion of existing companies

How do we recruit, market and brand our area and its quality of life as a destination point for new residents, tourists, convention business, sporting events, furniture shopping, new businesses? How do we grow our population base?

How do we market and brand Highway 321 as North Carolina’s Data Center Corridor? Did you know that Catawba County received 42% of all the economic development investment announced in the state of North Carolina in 2009?

Do we have the investment dollars committed for new infrastructure to keep that momentum going? Small business will create more jobs than any other business sector in America. What are we doing to recruit and retain these entrepreneurs in Catawba County?

Are we ready for action?

It will require harder truth telling than our leaders are used to… And possible experimentation right up to the very edge of collapse. It will involve moments, even of useful panic! But it also means understanding that our policies, dreams and ideas
can be combined to release new and unexpected power.

It’s not unthinkable that we too can grasp, from what seems a very dangerous and unstable world around us, a more prosperous, stable and better future. With the understanding that to get things we’ve never had we’ve got to do things we’ve never done

“The best way to predict the future is to create it.” Drucker.

Danny Hearn opens the Town hall on Free Enterprise

David Chavern of the United States Chamber of Commerce (Part 1)

David Chavern of the United States Chamber of Commerce (Part 2)

Scott Millar of the Catawba County Economic Development Corporation (Part 1)

Scott Millar of the Catawba County Economic Development Corporation (Part 2)

Congressman Patrick McHenry presentation to the town hall(Part 1)

Congressman Patrick McHenry's presentation to the town hall (Part 2)

My (Thom Shell) question about conflicts of interest with Goldman Sachs
and JP Morgan-Chase

Steve Ivester and Jay Adams ask questions - Ivester is concerned about the fact that the Chamber of commerce aided the cause of Scott Brown in Massachusetts with commercials they ran on the weekend before the election. Adams posed a question about whether the Republicans had changed since 2005.

Question about the fact that we still need to see reform of healthcare - At the end of the day, this legislation that no one likes has not passed, but we still need to see healthcare reform of costs and coverage.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

My Goldman-Sachs question at the Town Hall meeting this morning

I asked the following question at this morning's Town Hall about Free Enterprise held at the SALT Block here in Hickory:
One of the biggest issues that we face as a nation is the problem we see with investments and the cronyism with a company such as Goldman-Sachs and I don't see anything happening on the national level. The Republicans got us into this situation with Goldman-Sachs. Mr. Obama comes into office and it's business as usual with companies such as Goldman-Sachs and JP Morgan and they have their tentacles in everything. How do we get their tentacles out of everything, because I don't think until we get these two companies out of what they are doing that we are going to be able to restore the economy to what it was. I asked Congressman McHenry what his thoughts were on that process?
I will display Congressman McHenry's answer in an article that I am doing about this Town Hall. I don't think people understand how Goldman-Sachs (as the frontman) and JP Morgan (who was the primary force behind the creation of the Federal Reserve) have hijacked our Government. I would like for you to understand the context and reasoning behind asking this question, which are displayed in the links below.

Egregious Goldman-Sachs
Goldman Sachs-AIG: It's Likely Worse Than You Think - - James Keller - January 13, 2010
Goldman Fueled AIG Gambles - Wall Street Journal - December 12, 2009 - Serena NG & Carrick Mollenkamp
Goldman Sachs had bigger role in AIG than realized - BloggingStocks - Tom Johansmeyer - December 14, 2009

Egregious JP Morgan
(JP Morgan and Goldman-Sachs) - Two Giants Emerge From Wall Street Ruins - New York Times - Graham Bowley - July 16, 2009
Why Goldman Sachs Is JPMorgan’s Biggest Asset - Bloomberg - David Reilly - December 4, 2009
JPMorgan Said to Trim AIG Role on Possible Conflicts - Bloomberg - By Zachary R. Mider and Hugh Son - December 4, 2009

Lets see where this all started
AIG seeks $75 billion in loans to stay afloat - Los Angeles Times - September 16, 2008
The Real AIG Scandal - It's not the bonuses. It's that AIG's counterparties are getting paid back in full. - - Eliot Spitzer - March 17, 2009

Hound: I can go on and on, but I think you get the drift. I talked about Goldman Sachs' Treasury - The Biggest Conflict of Interest Ever on October 9, 2008 when this whole mess started.

I think that the Republicans are misreading the tea-leaves if the think that they can come into office and continue business as usual with the people who have these conflicts of interest running our financial markets. We have seen straight-up insider trading. We have seen blatant conflicts of interest. We have seen these companies getting money on the way up and on the way down.

We need full scale congressional hearings. We need to know who knew what and when, There will be no immunity. They will answer the questions or be held in contempt of Congress. We want every red cent of money that was made from ill-gotten gains. People know that our future is at risk. This cannot be allowed to stand.

That is where the anger comes from. If this is not acted upon, then we all know what the ramifications are. The Republicans let us down during the beginning of this century, so they lost control. The ball was handed over to the Democrats and look what they have done. If the Republicans are given back control and it remains business as usual, then what alternative will the American people have?

Who is Cyveillance and why should you care?
Cyveillance + Goldman-Sachs

Saturday, January 23, 2010

The State of Hickory - January 2010

One year ago this week, I wrote about the State of Hickory in 2009. I feel that the Hound has had an impact on our local leaderships' thought process over the past year. I believe that they would be reluctant to admit that, for in doing so they would lend to the Hound a sense of legitimacy that they are uncomfortable in dealing with. We are part of our cultures new media and this mission is ever evolving. They don't know how to deal with this new media and frankly I am only trying to fulfill a role that somehow disappeared from our local culture long ago.

Personally, recognition does not matter to anyone associated with the Hound. Why would all of the time, efforts, and personal risks be put at stake over petty concerns such as ego. Ego usually comes from materialistic and simple desires. Look at Harry Hipps and myself. We enjoy associating ourselves with the underdogs and the humble, because from down here the greatest rewards will be found, we will stand at the forefront of cultural change and justice.

In dealing with that certain level of humility, you should not think that we aren't confident in our mission, we are. We believe that Catawba County, the Economic Development Corporation, and the Chamber of Commerce have taken steps towards addressing our area's future. Sadly, we don't think the City of Hickory is on the same page as everyone else. Most everyone recognizes that our young people have been leaving this area in droves and the median age of our community is advancing rapidly, but the City of Hickory has insisted that retirees remain the focal point, even when it has been shown that the majority of people understand the long range implications of such an endeavor. It is clear that our demographics are moving way out of kilter.

The most important accomplishment that the Hound has brought to bare is focusing on the fact that the lack of jobs and job quality is the most important issue our community faces. I think that the mindset has changed to where we are all finally on the same page when it comes to the jobs issue. Unfortunately, since we were late to the party, it is going to be a harder struggle to get back to level ground and, as Danny Hearn and Scott Millar have stated, we must stabilize the economy before we can begin growing again. The key is going to be how we go about taking action on the jobs issue.

The people of Hickory have demonstrated their ambivalence about city leadership and I am not saying this to belittle our city leadership. Approximately 2,300 people (out of an electorate of over 27,000 people = 8.5%) voted in the last election. No one ran against Mayor Wright or Alder Sally Fox, Alder Jill Patton was overwhelmingly re-elected, and the only change was that Hank Guess soundly defeated Z. Anne Hoyle. I don't know why so few people voted in Hickory. My thought process leads me to believe that either people don't care or they think that Hickory City Council is irrelevant in the face of the power of Washington and Raleigh. Either mindset is a disastrous statement about Hickory's future.

We still have the same economic problems as one year ago and sadly the exact same economic outlook for the immediate future. But, we can't blame Washington or Raleigh. Look at the city bragging about all of the stimulus money we received from Washington and it has been stated that statistically the State of North Carolina invested over 40% of it's Economic Development Dollars in Catawba County in 2009. Can we really say that it is us against the world when we can clearly see that money is flowing to this area from the State and Federal Government?

What should Hickory's priorities be moving forward? If our leaders continue to be intent on blaming others for our woes, then it is time for Hickory's leaders to step up to the plate and do something about changing the perception of how Hickory is viewed and treated by those "others."

Hickory needs a strong legislative strategy. The City and other leaders in the area need to step up to the plate and begin to aggressively lobby for a new Economic Development Region to be created by the State Legislature; combining some of Advantage West and the Charlotte Partnership regions and placing Hickory as the hub of said region. Hickory can either continue to blame others for our economic lot in life, or Hickory can stand up and take control of our own economic future and destiny. This would also give our do nothing legislators (Allran/Hilton) something to focus on and work toward. If they can't, or are unwilling to deliver, we have all the more reason to replace them both.

I think our main focus must be on economics (Jobs and Capital obtainment, creation, and infusion), everything else is secondary. Moreover, by focusing on economics, everything else should fall in place.

Hickory's current social structure problems:

1 - ineffective local government.
2 - lack of open, vigorous debate on public policies.
3 - local media's unwillingness to stimulate open, public debate on issues that truly matter.
4 - local citizens' apathy toward their community.
Hickory's (possible) solutions:
1 - This is an election year. We have to have accountability from elected officials. We have to hear where they stand on the issues and what strategies they are looking forward to introducing and implementing during the upcoming term.

2 - Hickory Young Professional's Group is completely underutilized. These are our best and brightest young people. They must be groomed for participation and future leadership positions. As this group goes, so will the future of this community. These are the tender plants of Spring that have the potential of producing huge rewards in the near future or will they wither and find the path of least resistance by moving out of here before we can reap that harvest.

3 - I really would like to see a point-counterpoint discussion of issues done in the Hickory Daily Record and on Hal Row's First Talk show. We need a lively and vigorous discussion of the issues and these are truly the only media forums devoted to this area. Give everyone the topics and/or questions ahead of time and let them really think about it and then let's truly go into some depth on pertinent issues. Frankly, I am sick of hearing the same ole talking points bandied about over and over and over again by the same ole usual suspects. You want to sell some papers? You want to sell some ad time? Free and Effective Content. Let's Go.

4 - The idea of an Economic and Science Fair is sound. Local businesses and government can sponsor the event. We just need to get the ball going and get the word out so that folks can get started. I could envision holding the first such event in the early Spring of 2011. Why couldn't Alexander County, Burke County, Catawba County, Lincoln County, and the City of Hickory contribute $10,000 each = $50,000. Pepsi, CommScope, Corning Cable, EDC, etc $10,000 each = Grand total $100,000+. The other municipalities in the metro could also invest. Set-up a 501(c)3 non-profit to oversee the "Fair"; as an offshoot possibly, we could see a private "micro-lending" organization facilitate the implementation of ideas, concepts, innovation and inventions that would come out of such an event.

5 - We have to continue the "good fight" against the status quo. It is a conflict of human instincts to want better, while at the same time wanting to feel a sense of comfort and security. We have to understand that any level of change will bring uncertainty and therefore anxiety. We can no longer allow officials to tell us this is going to be our year. We have to make it our year. There is a reason why we have been behind the 8-ball. Sometimes it is imperative that you rock the boat and these are those times. Rocking the boat will separate the wheat from the chaff.
The Mayor has been asking for specifics, well in my opinion you can't get any more specific than what I have pointed to above. We can continue to sit around talking and make excuses or we can take some action. These aren't ambiguous items. These are doable.

I am not going to belittle Brownfields, Operation No vacancy, or Graffiti, because these issues are relevant to our community, but they will not change the dynamics of the local economy. We need to have a bold agenda of action that will attack the negative economic momentum we are suffering from on all fronts. We have to change the mindset of the people around here. We have to get people to care about their plight and help them to see that they have a role to play in solving their own problems. There is no magic bullet.

Personally, I get tired of being a broken record, but why is that? Because nothing gets changed or resolved. We have people in positions of power that are tone deaf. The same small cadre runs around from group to meeting to function and they don't see the big picture. Changing people, and getting a larger perspective, is more important than changing venues. They don't see what the average person in this community is going through. This community will only be as strong as its middle class and that middle class is rapidly dwindling.

For far too long, we have seen leaders in the community that have served their own special interests instead of representing everyone in the community. The same sections of town continue to get attention, while the same orphaned areas in the community continue to become more and more dilapidated. The owners of these dilapidated buildings are not suffering anywhere near as much as the people who live in the neighborhoods surrounding them. It is the owners of these buildings who have dropped the ball and it is they who should fix their own building or please do the responsible thing and tear it down. I am curious to know how many of these disrepaired buildings are associated with absentee owners who no longer live in Hickory and thus aren't constantly reminded of the blight?

Poor people have codes enforced on them expeditiously, everyone remains up in arms about the old Buffalo's site that has seen the building demolished, yet the old D&D Trucking building continues to rot on Hwy 127, in the heart of downtown, with nary a peep to be heard. It is these kinds of arbitrary judgments and governance that leave many of us wondering about justice. We have been told that most of these buildings are not fit for modern manufacturing and it is clear that the real estate market will not be coming back any time soon. Plus, we are not going to see the kind of population demand and capacity that would demand that much mixed use or retail in these areas.

That means that these buildings could very easily sit around for decades and at that time they will probably be torn down anyway. Operation Tear It Down would reduce the number of old buildings, would eliminate the worst of the lot, and increase the value of the most viable buildings. It would also be the best alternative in cleaning up some of Hickory's most blighted areas. People are going to have to realize that these are just buildings. Marketplaces are determined by people, not buildings. If these buildings aren't viable, then they just aren't viable.

If something is not done Hickory will become irrelevant, if it isn't already. Look where the growth is in this area. It is in the eastern part of the county. Why is that? Because it is being pulled by gravitation towards Charlotte's economy, which while in recession is a lot more dynamic than Hickory's and that isn't necessarily because of size. Hickory is unfortunately built around keeping things cheap and cheap has a tendency to feed off of itself. We can't sell $250,000 condos, have nice gourmet cuisine, specialized bakeries, operate top-notch clubs, or do anything to attract industries of "the finer things in life" until we fix the economic structure of this community. We just don't have enough demand to create a viable market. People either cannot or will not pay for quality. Culturally, most people in this city don't understand what quality is and they are willing to bargain over it. As much as cheap begets cheap, quality begets quality.

I am told by mentors that we are in a generational fight. They tell me that the younger generations are simply going to have to wait their turn to bring forth ideas focused on growth. Folks, the younger generations are folding their hands and walking away from the table already. The die is being cast. If Hickory does not bring forth bold measures, it will soon resemble a scene from the movie "Cocoon."

Things aren't going to change around here through a political process. It's about the mindset. Look at how Charlotte and Duke Power are focused on new energy. They're retaining their financial capacity and facilitating micro-lending to help entrepreneurs. They have expanded their culinary scene substantially over the years. Restaurant and Hospitality is a real industry that is thriving throughout the Charlotte area. Charlotte has a new biomass center and they have recently opened a Superfund cleanup site. UNC-Charlotte has laid biotech plans that are interconnected with the biotech center in Kannapolis. Concord's retail center and race track are attached to Charlotte at the hip.

Charlotte has sown seeds that will continue to blossom in the upcoming years and Hickory has too. We're going to have more eldercare facilities, doctors, medical industry, cheap housing, fast food, cheap groceries, cheap retail, and cheap labor. The sad thing is that when Charlotte talks about being a hub of economic growth, it stops right at Catawba County. If you don't believe me, ask people that have seen Charlotte's transportation plans looking to future growth.

The thought process that we have been led toward, and subjected to, is that we don't need anybody else and we can be our own little island. I'm sorry, but I don't believe that is a good philosophy. If you take a good look at this modern world, you will see that we are living in an age of connections. The World is a clustered network of constantly moving parts and if you don't have a solid plan that is nimble and able to adapt quickly to changes, then you are going to get bounced to the bottom. Not acting is an action.

We talk about being conservative. We talk about being self-reliant. We are going to be dependent on the government, because the government plays a major role in the medical industry and the major source of income for the elderly is Social Security. How is all of this going to work when the government starts cutting back on healthcare and slows down the growth of payments of Social Security? Does that sound like a promising future?

Hickory's scenario could play out with various enclaves of poor folks and a very wide distribution of income classes. If we continue down this path and this all plays out, we will see the vast majority of our citizens fall into the following three categories. There will be an asset rich, but cash poor class of people who may have inherited property, but cannot find a job with substantial income. They will be able to pay their bills, but they won't have much disposable income. The next group of people will be the people who are indigenous to the area, who are asset poor and just trying to make ends meet. They will be the people who fill positions in the fast food and retail industry. And the last group will be the immigrants who have come to the area. They are willing to work for minimum wage or just over minimum wage and they will do the physical labor jobs for the elderly at cheap rates.

The reality of business is that if the money's there and the market's there, you can afford to make a few mistakes. The more dynamic the market; the greater the chances of success. If the money is there, people are willing to pay for the product, and you have the patience, then eventually you will succeed. If you are in a marketplace where people aren't willing and/or able to pay the "Top Line" price, then you aren't going to be able to stay in business. In Hickory, we are getting into a situation where most people don't have the disposable income necessary to support local businesses. At the least, local area businesses have seen their margin of error cut to practically zero. On the path we are on, we are going to see more and more businesses closing their doors.

We have some leaders who think we are in suspended animation and nothing is happening economically. Granted the economy is terrible in the private sector, as far as income and capital go. But, we have to be laying solid plans to try and turn things around. There is still activity happening and we need to muscle our way in on the action. Even if we are in a stagnant economy, we have to make plans for when things do get better or they never will get better. Mindsets are being formed as relationships are occurring today. Pieces are being put in place. These plans may not get funded and may not bloom until later, but we still have to make those plans as though they are going to happen.

It's like farming. As soon as fall harvest is over and winter begins, then you have to start making plans for Spring planting. It might be a long winter. It might be a rainy Spring. You might have frost come along and kill your blossoms. There are no guarantees in good times or in bad. The only guarantee is that if you don't sow the seeds, then you won't reap the harvest.

We think that things are going to turn around and then we are going to jump on the top of the heap. It doesn't work like that. "New Energy" is already happening and we are still talking. These are just buzzwords to a lot of people around here. Heck, Scott Millar has become a buzzword that I am sure that even Scott is tired of hearing. We don't need buzzwords. We need action. If you've heard about it from the mainstream media, then that is an opportunity that is already gone.

The City recently formed a task force to study how to help small business and the only initiative that looks to be moving forward from that group is the creation of a commission to study how to help small business. I am sure that we will see a ton of money thrown in this direction. If I want to watch something chase its tail, I'll get a dog.

Scott Millar and Danny Hearn have taken action, but these gentlemen have more than a plate full. I have personally seen it. It is my opinion, that they don't need any more tasks heaped upon them. If I am a city official or area representative, I am not going to ask how I can help them, I am going to demand that they let me help them. Cold calls, cold calls, cold calls...

We have these bookend data centers, but we are dropping the ball on the high speed fiber-optic lines that should be coming along with the advent of those data centers. That fiber-optic pipeline can be a game changer. That is an asset that we need moving forward. I really don't think our local leaders understand how necessary those lines are. That surely can't be blamed on myself and other technologists in this area. Everyone in the know, knows how necessary those lines are.

I am sorry that this is not a rosy picture. I am just trying to be straightforward about the economic context of today. I really do believe that if we take some chances that we can turn this thing around. We don't need Scott Millar or Danny Hearn to do more. We need more people around here operating with their tenacious mentality. We need to do some things and quit paralyzing ourselves by worrying about mistakes. Mistakes allow for intellectual growth. Everyone makes mistakes, the most successful people learn from them and turn that lesson into an advantage. It is time for action and if the powers that be want to shut me up, then action is the best way to do it.

In my career of labor, I have actually seen people who spend more energy trying to get out of working than if they would just do their job. Let's all just do a job. We need to all contribute. Too many people around here have bought into hope. They hope that things will get better. People who hope are looking for others to be their salvation. They are looking for others to do the hard work that they can piggy back on. We need to find faith. Faith means that you work hard, pay attention, change what needs to be changed, stay as composed as possible, and believe in your mission; and if you do that, then things will turn out well in the end. Faith allows you to empower yourself.

I would like to thank Harry Hipps and Joe Brannock for lending me advice and contributing to this article. I could not have done it without them.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Future Economy Council discusses the Greater Hickory Metro's Branding Initiative

This was the 11th monthly meeting of the Future Economy Council and it was held on Wednesday, January 20, 2010. Click the link at the beginning of each segment to go to audio download site.

Intro - Terry Bledsoe opened the meeting by welcoming everyone, then Danny Hearn addressed everyone. Danny talked about the Town Hall event that will be taking place next Tuesday at the SALT block. The U.S. Chamber is spending money to educate people about free enterprise. The Chamber is talking about the need to create 20 million jobs in the next decade (7 million to make up for the recession + 13 million for growth). Scott Millar will be giving a forecast of what he sees happening in 2010. Danny will be making a presentation about the economic stability package, and Patrick McHenry will be there.

Danny next addressed everyone about the Master Capacity Builder series before turning the floor back over to Terry. Terry talked about various projects members of the group are working on. Houston Harris is working on the Creative Molecular Economy, Bill Parrish is working on the Future Forward Workforce, Thom Shell (myself) working on the Global Rural Network, John Brzorad on Master Capacity Builder training, Dewey Harris with Mobile Governance, and Jay Adams with National Commercial Real Estate Network.

Houston, Bill, Dewey and myself gave a topical overview of the beginning stages of each one of these efforts. Simply stated, the common threads are that we are defining concepts, sharing ideas, and assessing assets.

Rick went over the reasoning of these projects. What is being developed is to get one person behind each of these emerging ideas representing 10 to 15 States. They will come together around a set of ideas. By having these nodes, we can interchange ideas through various regions, thereby empowering each region.

Part 2 - Terry talked about an experience he had recently in which he had made a connection with a group in California. The participants were IT directors from Billion dollar companies. The discussions revolved around Pattern Based Strategy; which looks at Weak Signals and Trends, moving forward with it and adjusting paths as you go through. Catawba County has been doing this, without knowing it, for years.

Rick stated that connections with other places are at the heart of helping bring back ideas to the local community and be a part of a large idea, this is an important part of leadership.

Terry introduced Houston Harris for a discussion about a Branding Campaign. Danny Hearn stated that we've got to make the stability plan simple so that the community will understand it. The itinerary is 1) Jobs 2) Branding/Marketing and 3) Workforce Development. Danny believes that Houston has a wonderful concept. He also stated that we have assets like Pat Appleson who has a studio that rivals any Radio-Television studio he has ever seen that can do filming and so on for the website.

Part 3 - Houston gave a metaphor for the area comparing it to someone who is lonely and needs a companion. We need jobs. We need a reason for people to come here and work. We don't have enough people living in the area. People are moving away from here and leaving us behind. He compares what we need to do to someone that is visiting a dating website. The people in this room have decided to stay here. What do we do to expand our network?

This Branding is about defining our personality (profile). If we put our profile online, what are we trying to attract? This is much like what is done on a site like Decisions have to be made. What image are we looking to project? We should be honest. What are our political slants? What is our ethnic origin? We need to think, not only what is going to attract someone in the region. There are many people out there and we want to get them into the relationship so we can find out what we like and what we don't like and adjust our message accordingly. To be able to adjust our message accordingly, we need a system that allows us to have quick and speedy responses. Some people might only be attracted to the area for one reason (low taxes or ready/trainable workforce). We don't know what is going to create an attraction. We have to put the message out there. We will have people in charge of each of the signals to say what we stand for.

So what is the Greater Hickory Metro? What is the personality? What are we trying to say to make that connection. Houston displayed the graphic below. Each swirl can develop its own swirl and nodes. The connecting nodes allow us to interconnect. What do we do with the crossroads to allow that to happen (find the common ground). The more overlaps, the more energy.

We need to stop thinking regionally. We want the effect to be regional, but we can't be thinking just regional. We need to think outside of the region with the benefit being that the results are inside the region. We are empowering the region through National (and International) connections.

Below is a paper that demonstrates the theoretical implementation and structure of the Branding Entity and the body of people they will answer to. This body needs representatives of the major players in the area. That will allow these groups to connect in the best, most efficient, ways possible. This allows everyone to create a tactical map as well.

Below is page 2 of Houston's presentation. The silos represent live, work, and play industries. These representatives will be people who have the time, energy, and sphere of influence to represent these interests. This will mostly be a review team. We need action. This needs to be a working body. They will pass the goals off to a development team to develop the tactics. Think about people you know that can be effective in developing these pieces.
Part4 - Danny asked about there possibly being more components than live, work, and play. Houston stated that there are subcomponents. What he doesn't want to do is create so many buckets that the visitor will be overwhelmed. We need to make it simple for them, so that they can see it and get it without thinking, because the minute a visitor thinks we have lost them.

I asked about the definitions and paradigms of each one of these. I work in the restaurant/ hospitality industry; so what I consider work, someone else would consider play. Maybe if we can list some words topically to define live, work, and play, people would understand it better and it wouldn't be an arbitrary process where one person considers live to be one of the other two or a combination. Houston stated that we need to think about it from not our own position, but from the position of the person we are trying to attract. If we are trying to attract someone else, what do we try to say that will help attract that person. If an individual doesn't like what we are projecting, then we move on to the next target. What are we trying to attract? who are we looking for?

We are going to have a limited budget, so where do we put our energy. The work silo should probably get the most budgeted emphasis, because it will help the other processes. It creates jobs, which creates demand, which creates the need for people to move here, which creates the need to build more restaurants and attractions (play). Jobs will be the drive.

Houston described a portal website that will be one of the major cornerstones of this initiative. People will see it and be directed to Live, Work, and Play. It will help get you to information that is already available. It will not replace information (he doesn't want to take ownership or replace information). He hopes that this will inspire entities that are linked to it, to better organize their information. Everyone will have a logo (button) that will be a unifying thread. This gives you a membership to a larger group, while still respecting the individual brand. This creates a force and energy. You don't have to explain as much. It keeps people from having to think too much. This is about one-on-one dialogue.

This site will not convert sales or guarantee a relationship. It just starts the conversation. This gives you the opportunity to decide the level of bandwidth appropriate to your conversation (interaction).
Photos copyright: ©2010 Pat Appleson Studios, Inc. All Rights Reserved, Used By Permission

Part 5 - This will help entities to front-end load the relationship. The flow is Suspect > Prospects > Full Relationship. This is a contact funnel. John Bates brought up points about the networking graphic Houston introduced. The strings won't have the activity islands where they are intersecting yet, as you put the council together, you need to have people that are synthesizers who can see where the strings intersect that are potential islands. Houston responded that that is why this is bigger than one person. Mr. Bates stated that there is a tendency that when a person represents a string that they focus on their own interests. A third party will say, "you two are talking about the same thing."

Houston stated that that is a component of transparency, which allows connections. That doesn't mean they are always valid. These are all puzzle pieces. These are three dimensional functions where all of the pieces are connected like a star chart. This is a cluster.

Taylor Dellinger said he had two thoughts. One, do we know what people (or industry) outside of the area think about us? Houston answered that he doesn't think we do know that. Taylor stated that to have an effective marketing campaign, we need to do some research to see what people from other communities think about us. What do they like and what do they not like. A perception survey. Houston stated that from a marketing campaign that you can paralyze yourself by worrying too much about what they think about us, because your real energy should be focused on what you want them to think about us. At the end of the day it is about our profile (persona). It is our job to get that out. It may conflict with what they think, but it doesn't matter as much that they link together.

John Bates stated that if they conflict, then we will have (to dedicate) some energy to overcome that preconception. His preconception before he moved here was furniture and Nascar. Houston said, while the knee-jerk might be to think about how to change that, maybe we should focus on how to enhance them. The energy to tear down the house might be wasted. I stated that this is about positive self-esteem and we can't talk about what we don't want to be, because that puts us into a negative context and we spend all of energy focusing on what we don't want to be and we never get around to what we want to be. That is what we are trying to project to these other people. We are trying to attract somebody so that we can become more complex.

Ken Elliott stated that we need to look at Nascar and furniture like facets. We need to bring the other facets (of the community) up. Once people look at us more intensely, then the other facets come forward.

Terry stated that we have been quick to limit ourselves to labels. He talked about his teleconference from the other day. When he stated he was from Hickory, these people (who were from a very technical background) were like "who, what, where." When he mentioned Commscope, they knew exactly what he was talking about. When he mentioned Catawba County they said they had heard of it before. When he mentioned Apple, they were like, "Oh Yeah." Terry stated that he wasn't sure we could pick a label. Houston stated that we shouldn't. Houston talked about the last City Council meeting and that they were talking about creating another group (Hickory Small Business Task Force) to report to the EDC, that is doing the same thing as the FEC, he couldn't recall the name. He was asking himself why do we need to keep creating all of these groups?

I mentioned that when I look at my web log from my blog, I start thinking about why is this person looking at my blog?

Part 6 - We need a contact to find out why this entity is looking at the site. Does it have to be the business or government entity, that because of natural curiosity tries to find out why this person is looking at our site? Or can we have a connection to go to to ask why this entity is looking at our site? Sort of like a Private investigator.

Houston stated that there will be a component like that. The Chamber is an Authorized visitor center, more people visit us from online that by any other method, if you get here and you fill out this form, then it comes right into the Chamber's network as a visitor's center. This becomes a filter or controller to direct the question to the right person. This gives the Chamber a reason to help with that. That can help with Customer Relations Management or Visitor Relationship to where everyone will have access to it. This will help create connections through Business Intelligence and queries to show who may have visited certain pages. The tools are there. We just don't want the technology to drive it. We want to drive the technology.

Taylor asked about the funding for this sort of project and hours and time. This has been attempted before and we still don't have it. The city and county managers stated that they would grant seed money for this. Businesses will also be need to help fund it. Houston stated that the structure needs to be planned, before we go forward. He is worried that the plan will come together, but no action will be taken on it.

I asked if businesses were going to have a button on the site. Houston stated that he believes that it will be more like an online directory where the business can purchase a listing, but he doesn't want that to be the only funding source. I stated that you don't want buttons cluttering up the site. Houston stated that this is not for the purpose of being a Yellow Pages. He envisions it more like being a Rotary Soccer Event donation. The business isn't doing it with the intent to generate business. It is a donation (method) to facilitate this function -- doing something good. The entry fee will be so low that it will help pay the hosting cost. The business goes in with the idea that this will not generate business. It is about showing that we are all on the same team. It is about the bigger picture.

Part 7 - Danny talked about some money coming from the Tourism Authority, because of a hotel-motel one-cent tax increase, which states that a certain percentage has to go marketing. It was stated that the decision makers believe that their only concern is putting heads in beds. I asked if they (the decision makers) don't understand that people aren't going to make a choice to move here based on a website. They are going to have to actually come here to make that decision -- that puts heads in beds.

Pat Appleson stated that someone has to tell them that the website exists before they can do anything. Have we addressed that? Houston stated not in this. That is on the fourth page. This site is about search engines and cross-linking. Pat talked about the State of Michigan's marketing plan. That is similar to what we need to do. Pat also wanted to address our new brand, "Greater Hickory Area," are we still going to call it that? Steve Ivester stated that we are calling it Greater Hickory, but it is clearly just Catawba County. No conversation here has gone beyond Catawba County. We have converted people in the Unifour to focusing on what Greater Hickory is the better brand, but we are clearly just focusing on Hickory. What about the people in Caldwell and Burke? What is the plan here?

Pat stated that he doesn't care about them. He then talked about why he moved here from Miami. He stated that we need to get out of the state and ask why they would want to move here. He talked about the lack of coordination of local governmental websites. He then talked about the problems he had with licensing his business. He was impressed with this material, because he believes that this proposal will address the issues that affect small business.

Houston stated that yes this will address Pat's issue, but we (the FEC) can't address it here. It will take the Council that runs the Branding entity to do that. Pat stated that the EDC doesn't come to him and he understands that. Houston stated that as part of the plan we can't make a determination here. Should it be radio spots, he doesn't know enough to say yes or no. The Branding entity will look at the budget and determine how they get the most traction to get the most people looking at us.

Terry closed out the session.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Newsletter about the City Council meeting of January 19, 2010

This newsletter is about the Hickory City Council meeting that I attended this past week. City council meetings are held on the first and third Tuesdays of each Month in the Council Chambers of the Julian Whitener building.

At the bottom right of this page under main information links is a Hickory's Local Government link. If you click on that link, it takes you to our city’s website, at the bottom of the page you will see the future dates for meetings scheduled for this year.

At the top of the page, if you click on the “Documents” link, you will find historic Agenda and Minutes links. Agendas show what is on the docket for the meeting of that date. The Minutes is an actual summary of the proceedings of the meeting of that date.

Here is a summary of the agenda of the 1/19/2010 meeting. There were a couple of important items that were discussed at this meeting and the details are listed further below

Invocation by Rev. Robert Ford, Chaplain at Frye Regional Medical Center

Consent Agenda:

A. 2010 Census Proclamation Committing to Partnering With the U.S. Census Bureau to Help Ensure a Full and Accurate Count in 2010

B. Approval of Citizens’ Advisory Committee Recommendations for Assistance Through the City of Hickory’s Housing Programs -

Geraldine Wansley of 47 44th Avenue Place, NE is being recommended for approval to subordinate City’s second mortgage to BB&T due to refinancing the first mortgage provided the mortgage loan is no more than what is owed on the property. She is refinancing for a lower interest rate and payment. Pressly Development Company is being recommended for approval for assistance not to exceed $20,000.00 to assist with building materials for new construction of Grayson Elderly Housing located around 16th Street, NE and 29th Ave, NE. Assistance would be in the form of a 3% interest loan for a 20 year period. Funds are budgeted for the above through the City’s former Rental Rehabilitation Program income received in FY 2009 and/or program income received through the City’s Community Development Block Grant Program.

Vernal S. Duncan of 1781 15th Street Place, NE is being recommended for approval for assistance through the City’s 2009 Urgent Repair Program for emergency related repairs not to exceed $5,000.00. Funds are budgeted through the City’s Community Development Department funding received in FY 2009-10. The Citizens’ Advisory Committee recommends approval for all of the above.

C. Budget Ordinance Amendment No. 14
1. To appropriate $315 of Local Government Revenue and budget in the Police Department Overtime line item. This revenue is the December 2009 payment from Catawba County Mental Health for a portion of an Officers time spent when accompanying involuntary commitment patients.

2. To appropriate $62 of General Fund Miscellaneous Revenue and budget in the Fire Department departmental supply line item. The Fire Department received funds from the sale of scrap metal to Mountain Recycling.

3. To budget a $15,000 Library donation from the Friends of the Hickory Library in the Library Capital Improvements line item. This donation is for the construction of a small conference room on the second floor of Patrick Beaver Memorial Library.

4. To budget a $459 insurance claim check from Farm Bureau Insurance Company of North Carolina in the Water and Sewer Pipes, Hydrants and Meters line item. This payment is for damage sustained to a fire hydrant on 11-28-09.

5. To appropriate a $17,745 transfer of General Capital Reserve funds to the Police
Department M/A Com Radio System Capital Project Equipment line item. This transfer is necessary to pay for two additional handheld radios and two additional mobile radios for the city’s radio system upgrade.

New Business - Departmental Reports:
1. Quarterly Financial Report - Warren Wood delivered this presentation. Warren highlighted a couple of projects. $17.5 financing for the Northeast Wastewater Treatment Project funds were secured was financing at 2.48%. He thanked Chuck Hanson for that. Bonds might not be necessary to facilitate the project. The Cripple Creek Project ($3 million) was secured from stimulus money. $1.9 million is financed at 0% over 10 years and $1.19 million comes from the Clean Water Trust Fund. Warren next went over the funding of $2.5 million for Traffic Signaling, he stated that hard work by Chuck Hanson saved a $.5 million dollars on this project.

Through the first six months of the year, the city is behind 2.5% in revenues compared to the 5-year trend, while the city has also lowered expenses by 2%. He attributed this to the hiring freeze. Revenues are $4 million over expenditures. Last year it was $3.6 million.

Looking at the water-sewer fund, he stated that the projections are right on target as far as revenues. Expenditures are lower than the projected average, because of the funding in the Northeast Wastewater Treatment Project, mentioned above, that ended up not being needed. They are breaking even with the water-sewer fund.

Cash and Investments of $43.2 million are thrown off because CD's are now paying .01%. Usually investments are spread across investments 1/3-1/3-1/3, right now the city has 47% of its investments invested in US Agency securities.

Warren next went over sales tax revenues. They are off by 11% in both the state penny and the local penny from what they were two years ago. The Hotel/Motel tax is also off from the peak of 2007-2008. He believes that the situation is tapering off and is not getting worse - bouncing along the bottom. Building Permit activity included a $30 million permit from Catawba Valley Medical Center. That property is not taxable, so it will not help increase projected future revenues. Without that permit, the city only issued $23 million in building permits, which is about half of the peak of$42 million from 2007-2008. New single family building permits are 12 down from 12 last year.

Warren next went over the unemployment numbers. He stated that we have seen improvement. He says we are not alone and other areas are worse off.

The Mayor stated that he had felt we had turned the corner in 07-08 and everything pointed to that. He says he is flabbergasted about what happened.

The Hound would like to thank Warren for introducing this map of the USA's unemployment since 2007 (Click this link), that I sent to my blog subscribers on November 19, 2009. I was introduced to this graph by watching an interview of Catherine Austin Fitts. She was Assistant Secretary of Housing and Federal Housing Commissioner at the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development in the first Bush Administration. Her website is one of, if not the, best real world economic websites I have come across. The website is called Solari (click on the link). The Irony is that she is from a little town called Hickory Ridge, Tennessee, which is east of Memphis.

Warren talked about the lower unemployment rates in North Dakota. He believed it was because of lower populations and farming areas. He talked about Slope County, North Dakota, which has a population of 675 in the county. I can show you it is because they have found oil. The Bakken Formation flows through North Dakota, Montana, and Saskatchewan, Canada. Shale Oil production is creating major sources of jobs and revenue in that region. Slope County is one of the counties in this region.

The lesson to be learned is if Hickory wants to help facilitate jobs, then they could rise off of their derriere and get involved in energy. Yes, everyone is in an economic death spiral, which is caused by government crowding out the capital markets, emasculating our currency, spending future generations into oblivion, and regulating everything to death. Even in these uncertain times, we need to be making plans for the future or there will be no future for this area.

The areas of the country that are more viable are areas involved in energy, such as the upper Rocky Mountain plateau, Texas, and southern Louisiana. We won't find oil here tomorrow, but we can find alternatives. Look how successful the Biomass Center is at the Landfill in Southwest Catawba County. We must build on that momentum.

About the Mayor's comments - I honestly believe that the Mayor has come a long way in the past couple of years on this issue. I know that he does care. I think the problem is that our leaders are insulated from many of these issues, because of this inherent need of the bureaucracy to justify and compartmentalize plans, actions, and functions. The bureaucracy wants to market everything and put a happy face on everything, even when it is just bad policy. The average person on the street has understood what has happened and is happening, that is where the frustration comes from. We are like, "What are these people smoking?"

We lost much of our manufacturing capacity and we really have not had any advocates to press this issue. All politics starts on the local level and our local representatives must hold higher-ups accountable. The jobs that were lost in 2001 were replaced by low paying service sector and temp service manufacturing jobs. These jobs were as disposable as the products the workers manufactured and sold.

We put ourselves at the forefront of a cyclical structure that did not build in any resiliency. We were at the mercy of the bubble (fake) economy. When the United States structure failed, we were vulnerable because of the temporary fix and band-aid economy that had been created. Hint-Hint, the retirement village concept has been advocated by local authorities under similar reasoning.

2. Update of the Greater Hickory Metropolitan Planning Organization (GHMPO) Transportation Projects - Chuck Hanson made this presentation. This presentation was mainly about road projects. Chuck went over the projects that have occurred during the last 24 years.

Chuck mentioned that the DOT has revamped and reprogrammed how they are tracking, financing, and planning projects. He talked about how separate plans in our area have evolved into the Hickory-Newton-Conover plan. Hickory is in 3 different DOT divisions. The DOT has created a more regional area.

Next, Chuck went over rankings of projects in our area. The next few years will be thinner for us. The US321 and bridge replacement project has the highest priority. The 321 corridor holds the top 3 priorities from HWY70 up into Caldwell County. Most of these projects are unfunded.
Chuck went over various other current projects that are currently underway.

Jill Patton asked about the progress of the L-R extension? Chuck stated that the DOT got caught out by the wet November and December. The project is now scheduled to be completed in late March or early April. Alder's Patton and Fox asked about the windows for planting? Chuck stated that if they are given permission to go onto the job site, planting can occur up into the middle of May. If this does not occur, then it will happen in the Fall.

3. Present to Council the Newest “Hickory Highlights” -

Recognition of Persons Requesting To Be Heard - Steve Ivester addressed the council about the Interbasin Water Transfer issue. He was very involved in the process. He stated that mediation is very much the way that conflicts such as these are resolved. He just hopes that our pirates are just as aggressive and blood thirsty as their pirates.

He is concerned that 10 years from now that Concorde and Kannapolis go to the Yadkin and not the Catawba. Under the IBT, they came in asking for 25 to 30 million gallons per day, but they were reduced to 10 million gallons per day out of the Catawba, which was already in place and the methods to deliver this were already in place. By their studies the cheapest way to get the water was from the Yadkin.

What Ivester is worried about is that the infrastructure is in place to take it out of the Catwba and no infrastructure exists to take it out of the Yadkin. He believes that as part of negotiations, it would have been good to have a bond, to create the infrastructure and access to obtain water from the Yadkin. When the faucets run dry, they will be coming back to the Catawba.

The Coalition (Catawba Water) put the infrastructure in place that will make sure that this never happens again. He also believes that it was a victory, because they asked for 30 million gallons per day and only got 10 million gallons per day.

Ivester is concerned about Lake James, which he says is part of the Hickory Metro. The threat is that when there is a drought they are going to be drained down to put water into Kannapolis and Concord unless the Yadkin River link is in place. He would like to see the 10 million gallons per day from out of the Yadkin increased to 20 million gallons per day. The Yadkin River basin and participants weren't parties, so they could not be negotiate without another IBT.

Ivester made comments from the letter below from George and Suzy Johnson, who were also participants in the IBT issue. They live on Lake James.

The Mayor stated that he had the great respect for the Johnsons.

January 19, 2010 - Hickory Hound - Wordle Snapshot Picture Collage

I'd like to give a shout out to my cousin Elizabeth Shell Bayshore in honor of her birthday. Happy Birthday Elizabeth, you have now been formally Googleized. Click the picture to enlarge. The word cloud is supposed to be a snapshot of what the Hound is currently all about.

Wordle -

Sunday, January 17, 2010

January 17, 1961 - President Eisenhower's Military Industrial Complex Speech

The Hound: Is not heeding these words of one of our country's greatest leaders, forty-nine years ago today, not where we got off track. Listen and read these words and understand how far ahead of his time this great man was. We can break down these words and see exactly where he is coming from, from looking at today's world. Who would have believed how prophetical his statements were at that time.

Public Papers of the Presidents, Dwight D. Eisenhower, 1960, p. 1035- 1040

My fellow Americans:

Three days from now, after half a century in the service of our country, I shall lay down the responsibilities of office as, in traditional and solemn ceremony, the authority of the Presidency is vested in my successor.

This evening I come to you with a message of leave-taking and farewell, and to share a few final thoughts with you, my countrymen.

Like every other citizen, I wish the new President, and all who will labor with him, Godspeed. I pray that the coming years will be blessed with peace and prosperity for all.

Our people expect their President and the Congress to find essential agreement on issues of great moment, the wise resolution of which will better shape the future of the Nation.

My own relations with the Congress, which began on a remote and tenuous basis when, long ago, a member of the Senate appointed me to West Point, have since ranged to the intimate during the war and immediate post-war period, and, finally, to the mutually interdependent during these past eight years.

In this final relationship, the Congress and the Administration have, on most vital issues, cooperated well, to serve the national good rather than mere partisanship, and so have assured that the business of the Nation should go forward. So, my official relationship with the Congress ends in a feeling, on my part, of gratitude that we have been able to do so much together.

We now stand ten years past the midpoint of a century that has witnessed four major wars among great nations. Three of these involved our own country. Despite these holocausts America is today the strongest, the most influential and most productive nation in the world. Understandably proud of this pre-eminence, we yet realize that America's leadership and prestige depend, not merely upon our unmatched material progress, riches and military strength, but on how we use our power in the interests of world peace and human betterment.

Throughout America's adventure in free government, our basic purposes have been to keep the peace; to foster progress in human achievement, and to enhance liberty, dignity and integrity among people and among nations. To strive for less would be unworthy of a free and religious people. Any failure traceable to arrogance, or our lack of comprehension or readiness to sacrifice would inflict upon us grievous hurt both at home and abroad.

Progress toward these noble goals is persistently threatened by the conflict now engulfing the world. It commands our whole attention, absorbs our very beings. We face a hostile ideology -- global in scope, atheistic in character, ruthless in purpose, and insidious in method. Unhappily the danger is poses promises to be of indefinite duration. To meet it successfully, there is called for, not so much the emotional and transitory sacrifices of crisis, but rather those which enable us to carry forward steadily, surely, and without complaint the burdens of a prolonged and complex struggle -- with liberty the stake. Only thus shall we remain, despite every provocation, on our charted course toward permanent peace and human betterment.

Crises there will continue to be. In meeting them, whether foreign or domestic, great or small, there is a recurring temptation to feel that some spectacular and costly action could become the miraculous solution to all current difficulties. A huge increase in newer elements of our defense; development of unrealistic programs to cure every ill in agriculture; a dramatic expansion in basic and applied research -- these and many other possibilities, each possibly promising in itself, may be suggested as the only way to the road we wish to travel.

But each proposal must be weighed in the light of a broader consideration: the need to maintain balance in and among national programs -- balance between the private and the public economy, balance between cost and hoped for advantage -- balance between the clearly necessary and the comfortably desirable; balance between our essential requirements as a nation and the duties imposed by the nation upon the individual; balance between actions of the moment and the national welfare of the future. Good judgment seeks balance and progress; lack of it eventually finds imbalance and frustration.

The record of many decades stands as proof that our people and their government have, in the main, understood these truths and have responded to them well, in the face of stress and threat. But threats, new in kind or degree, constantly arise. I mention two only.

A vital element in keeping the peace is our military establishment. Our arms must be mighty, ready for instant action, so that no potential aggressor may be tempted to risk his own destruction.

Our military organization today bears little relation to that known by any of my predecessors in peacetime, or indeed by the fighting men of World War II or Korea.

Until the latest of our world conflicts, the United States had no armaments industry. American makers of plowshares could, with time and as required, make swords as well. But now we can no longer risk emergency improvisation of national defense; we have been compelled to create a permanent armaments industry of vast proportions. Added to this, three and a half million men and women are directly engaged in the defense establishment. We annually spend on military security more than the net income of all United States corporations.

This conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience. The total influence -- economic, political, even spiritual -- is felt in every city, every State house, every office of the Federal government. We recognize the imperative need for this development. Yet we must not fail to comprehend its grave implications. Our toil, resources and livelihood are all involved; so is the very structure of our society.

In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the militaryindustrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.

We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together.

Akin to, and largely responsible for the sweeping changes in our industrial-military posture, has been the technological revolution during recent decades.

In this revolution, research has become central; it also becomes more formalized, complex, and costly. A steadily increasing share is conducted for, by, or at the direction of, the Federal government.

Today, the solitary inventor, tinkering in his shop, has been overshadowed by task forces of scientists in laboratories and testing fields. In the same fashion, the free university, historically the fountainhead of free ideas and scientific discovery, has experienced a revolution in the conduct of research. Partly because of the huge costs involved, a government contract becomes virtually a substitute for intellectual curiosity. For every old blackboard there are now hundreds of new electronic computers.

The prospect of domination of the nation's scholars by Federal employment, project allocations, and the power of money is ever present

* and is gravely to be regarded.

Yet, in holding scientific research and discovery in respect, as we should, we must also be alert to the equal and opposite danger that public policy could itself become the captive of a scientific-technological elite.

It is the task of statesmanship to mold, to balance, and to integrate these and other forces, new and old, within the principles of our democratic system -- ever aiming toward the supreme goals of our free society.

Another factor in maintaining balance involves the element of time. As we peer into society's future, we -- you and I, and our government -- must avoid the impulse to live only for today, plundering, for our own ease and convenience, the precious resources of tomorrow. We cannot mortgage the material assets of our grandchildren without risking the loss also of their political and spiritual heritage. We want democracy to survive for all generations to come, not to become the insolvent phantom of tomorrow.

Down the long lane of the history yet to be written America knows that this world of ours, ever growing smaller, must avoid becoming a community of dreadful fear and hate, and be instead, a proud confederation of mutual trust and respect.

Such a confederation must be one of equals. The weakest must come to the conference table with the same confidence as do we, protected as we are by our moral, economic, and military strength. That table, though scarred by many past frustrations, cannot be abandoned for the certain agony of the battlefield.

Disarmament, with mutual honor and confidence, is a continuing imperative. Together we must learn how to compose differences, not with arms, but with intellect and decent purpose. Because this need is so sharp and apparent I confess that I lay down my official responsibilities in this field with a definite sense of disappointment. As one who has witnessed the horror and the lingering sadness of war -- as one who knows that another war could utterly destroy this civilization which has been so slowly and painfully built over thousands of years -- I wish I could say tonight that a lasting peace is in sight.

Happily, I can say that war has been avoided. Steady progress toward our ultimate goal has been made. But, so much remains to be done. As a private citizen, I shall never cease to do what little I can to help the world advance along that road.

So -- in this my last good night to you as your President -- I thank you for the many opportunities you have given me for public service in war and peace. I trust that in that service you find some things worthy; as for the rest of it, I know you will find ways to improve performance in the future.

You and I -- my fellow citizens -- need to be strong in our faith that all nations, under God, will reach the goal of peace with justice. May we be ever unswerving in devotion to principle, confident but humble with power, diligent in pursuit of the Nation's great goals.

To all the peoples of the world, I once more give expression to America's prayerful and continuing aspiration:

We pray that peoples of all faiths, all races, all nations, may have their great human needs satisfied; that those now denied opportunity shall come to enjoy it to the full; that all who yearn for freedom may experience its spiritual blessings; that those who have freedom will understand, also, its heavy responsibilities; that all who are insensitive to the needs of others will learn charity; that the scourges of poverty, disease and ignorance will be made to disappear from the earth, and that, in the goodness of time, all peoples will come to live together in a peace guaranteed by the binding force of mutual respect and love.