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Saturday, November 27, 2010

Hey Animals - flush the freakin' toilet and wash your hands

I would like to talk about something that I have observed for a long, long time. As most of you know, I work in the restaurant business. What I do now could not be construed as being a chef, even though I do have a culinary arts degree. I am just a regular cook. I do not think of myself as an elitist or better than anyone else. I am just trying to earn a living in some very difficult economic times, but I truly do believe that I aspire to always better myself and improve myself and try to achieve what I can through the gifts that God has given me. I don't see that out of most people.

One of the issues that has bothered me over the last couple of years, is my biggest pet peeve I have seen at my current occupation dealing with Joe Public. You know, for most of my career I have worked at some really nice places where the patrons are generally from higher income levels. That does not make these people better than anyone else and what I'm going to talk about will be said by many to be a generalization, but this is something that I truly need to get off my chest and this forum is the perfect place to do it.

When I was a child, before I could even remember, certain things were instilled in me and ingrained in me as proper behavior and discipline -- manners. From a young age, most of us, as one of our first training habits, are taught to wash our hands. Usually during this time the parent will flush the toilet for the child, but shortly after being taught to properly wash our hands, we are taught the process of flushing the toilet after we utilize the bathroom.

All through my life, I have witnessed people who use public bathrooms who neither flush the toilet (urinal) or wash their hands after utilizing the facilities. This is truly disgusting. I have gotten to the point where I try to not touch anything when I'm in a public restroom during normal operating hours of business. Do parents honestly not teach their children proper sanitation when it comes to this issue?

Tonight, I went to the men's bathroom during the night. I honestly wish that we had an employee bathroom of our own, but most smaller restaurants do not offer a private restroom facility for their employees. When I went into the bathroom, I noticed a boy who must've been around age 5. He was using urinal. His father was in the first toilet stall and he was doing what men do standing up. Well I went over into the second stall to do what I had to do and as I was relieving myself, I heard the boy finish.

I guess the father finished also and then he proceeded to state, "Come on son, let's get back to our chicken." The son stated to the father, "Wait a second daddy, we need to wash our hands!" The father next stated, "You can wash your hands, but I'm going back to the table, come on your sister is waitin'" The little boy washed his hands and the father continued out of the bathroom.

That makes me sick and blows my mind. Apparently, the boy is going to have to teach his father a thing or two. Who ever taught the boy to wash his hands after relieving himself, thank you and thank God. Just think of all of the kids who would learn the terrible example from their slap happy pappy.

I have witnessed this so many times over the last couple of years. I bet half of the people in this area don't wash their hands when they use the bathroom. There is no excuse to not wash your hands and utilize proper sanitation habits. I don't care if you're drunk. I don't care if you're in a hurry. I don't care if you're just nasty. Proper sanitation is a responsibility. It is a way to keep the public healthy.

Anymore, I do everything I can to no longer touch the bathroom door with my hands. And I don't want to smell your urine or stand in it. Please aim to hit and flush afterward for Christ sake! I don't want to smell your mess. If you can't hit it standing up, then maybe you should squat like a woman. People talk about carbon footprint. How about cleaning up after yourself and reducing your germ footprint!!!

The Following is advice from the Mayo Clinic.
Hand washing: Do's and don'ts
Hand washing is an easy way to prevent infection. Understand when to wash your hands, how to properly use hand sanitizer and how to get your children into the habit.
By Mayo Clinic staff

Frequent hand washing is one of the best ways to avoid getting sick and spreading illness. Hand washing requires only soap and water or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer — a cleanser that doesn't require water. Find out when and how to wash your hands properly.
When to wash your hands

As you touch people, surfaces and objects throughout the day, you accumulate germs on your hands. In turn, you can infect yourself with these germs by touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Although it's impossible to keep your hands germ-free, washing your hands frequently can help limit the transfer of bacteria, viruses and other microbes.

Always wash your hands before:
* Preparing food
* Eating
* Treating wounds or giving medicine
* Touching a sick or injured person
* Inserting or removing contact lenses

Always wash your hands after:
* Preparing food, especially raw meat or poultry
* Using the toilet
* Changing a diaper
* Touching an animal or animal toys, leashes or waste
* Blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing into your hands
* Treating wounds
* Touching a sick or injured person
* Handling garbage or something that could be contaminated, such as a cleaning cloth or soiled shoes

Of course, it's also important to wash your hands whenever they look dirty.

How to wash your hands - It's generally best to wash your hands with soap and water. Follow these simple steps:
* Wet your hands with running water.
* Apply liquid, bar or powder soap.
* Lather well.
* Rub your hands vigorously for at least 20 seconds. Remember to scrub all surfaces, including the backs of your hands, wrists, between your fingers and under your fingernails. (I'm not even asking for this)
* Rinse well.
* Dry your hands with a clean or disposable towel or air dryer.
* If possible, use your towel to turn off the faucet.

Keep in mind that antibacterial soap is no more effective at killing germs than is regular soap. Using antibacterial soap may even lead to the development of bacteria that are resistant to the product's antimicrobial agents — making it harder to kill these germs in the future.

Just think, when you don't wash your hands, you are spreading traces of your urine everywhere. Personally it is an affront to me to know that you are putting this on your food or a door, table, chair, dishes, etc., that others must share. Is that acceptable?

With so many issues in our society dealing with highly resistant bacteria, such as MRSA, you need to realize that you could become a victim of something as easily as you could victimize someone else. You could end up out of work at the very least or in the hospital with a multi-thousand dollar hospital bill if you become infected with something bad from not doing something so simple. You don't have time to wash your hands? You don't have time not to!!!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving 2010

Thank - to express gratitude, appreciation, or acknowledgment to

Give - to present voluntarily and without expecting compensation

Thanksgiving - to present voluntarily and without expecting compensation an expression of gratitude, appreciation, or acknowledgment.

It isn't about expectations of the future or gratefulness for the good experiences of the past. It should be an acknowledgment of gratitude for one's being (existence). It is the beginning of the holidays that show gratitude for making it through the experience of life for another year. This is a good time to reflect on the positives and negatives of one's life and acknowledge exactly who you are, what you are about, and what you want to present to others going forward. This is a day for renewal.

Peace Out,
Happy Thanksgiving,
The Hickory Hound

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

November Rant - The Audacity of Ignorance

Audacity - boldness or daring, esp. with confident or arrogant disregard for personal safety, conventional thought, or other restrictions.

Ignorance - the state or fact of being ignorant; lack of knowledge, learning, information, etc.

The Audacity of Hope - Our current President ran his successful 2008 campaign based upon a theme developed from the second book he authored entitled "The Audacity of Hope." The subtitle was "Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream." This message was inspired from a few factors, such as a sermon from Jeremiah Wright based upon a lecture by Dr. Frederick G. Sampson based on the G.F. Watts painting "Hope." When you boil it down, Obama's summation through Wright's message seems to be that even though this lady portrayed in the painting had so little and faced so much adversity that she continued to make music and praise God. Despite the massive impediments she faced, her faith and loyalty carried her forward on her mission to faithfully show her love to the almighty. That is an inspirational message of hope against all odds that we should all respect and appreciate.

That message of hope is one that I think of when I listen to the inspirational words of the late Jim Valvano (A Great Day - Laugh, Think, and Cry) receiving the Arthur Ashe award at the ESPY's and the announcement of the creation of the V Foundation back in 1993. He was ravaged by cancer. He had to have help to get up to and down from the podium. Yet, he had a mission and the moment energized him to a level that most of us can't achieve when we are totally healthy.

He was such a passionate and motivated man and he did a lot for the State of North Carolina. Sure he made mistakes during his tenure at NC State, but it was unjust the way that he was torn down and removed from his position by the petty, small minded forces who served their own personal interests. One thing is for certain, there will never be another Jim Valvano. He was unique.

The Audacity of Ignorance - Now we can get to the point. We hear people constantly bemoaning the fact that the good news isn't getting out there and progress isn't being shown by the media. Most of this is just bluster. I agree whole-heartedly that I don't want to be subjected to murder and mayhem, the dimwit momentum news, or trivial pop culture. Most of the so-called good news these people lust for more of is pop culture feel good material.

Our local scene has been inundated by wall-to-wall stories involving several murders and manslaughter type deaths that were way over reported, in my opinion, and show a tawdry side to our local culture that people with class and dignity find embarrassing. I understand the need to report the stories, but to carry some of these issues forward through needless conjecture and arbitrary ramblings does not present any factual account of the situation and does a disservice to the victims and the well-being of our community.

The real issue that we face in our community is how we are going to create and enhance jobs (or careers) and increase the incomes and well-being of our community. I don't think our local government can create jobs, but they can create an environment, which enhances the ability of the private sector to create jobs. Are we doing enough of that in Hickory and the surrounding metro area?

Frankly, I am sick of the idea that "Big Daddy" government has to control every aspect of our life. The Democrats promote the idea of the Government just cutting a check for every desire, but in the end they just cut the check to the people who control them. The Republicans (and our local officials) represent the party of "NO!" But, in the end they cut checks to their puppet masters in charge of the special interests that they represent also. Both parties represent "BIG" government. They want to involve themselves in every facet of your life and tell you what you can and cannot do and what you can and cannot have. They don't look for solutions. They look to promote personal interests and issues and control outcomes.

A Government of freedom and liberty is supposed to be governed of, by, and for the interests of the people and it is supposed to enhance our lives binding us in a positive way. It is not supposed to choose winners and losers. We have many issues on the local front where we need for local business and government to get on the same page, but we really don't see any positive relationship, and thus progress, taking place that enhances the interests of both sides of that equation. We see a lot of give and take and backscratching. There are deals that could be made in this community where the outcome of the goal (equation) could be greater than the sum of its parts, if people would work in each others interests instead of in myopic, shortsighted endeavors of one-upsmanship.

Let's set out a local Moonshot mission of one goal and do whatever it takes to accomplish that one goal. Pledge to check the egos at the door and call out anyone who pledges and then reneges. If we accomplished this one goal, then we would have something to market and actually have something that would sell itself. And this would re-energize the community. In my opinion, Conover is following this philosophy with the Conover Station.

I refuse to be a yes man to the company line. I am not here to trash the call centers. I am glad some people got jobs and I have heard some great reports about Fiserv, but call centers are not the answer to our prayers and the Telephone Customer Service Industry will not replace the tens of thousands of jobs we have lost. The facts are that we rank last in the State as far as per capita household income (by several thousand dollars) and all of the statistical analysis of highly respected analysts rank us in the bottom 10% of the nation (... Forbes, the Milken Institute, and the Gallup-Healthway survey as examples).

All of these messengers aren't picking on us. And to send out this "All is well" message in the face of a "Shock and Awe" Economic collapse reeks of the characteristics of Baghdad Bob. All is not alright and there are people in our community who deserve kudos for the efforts they are putting forth to turn things around. That is the positive message, but there are also a lot of people that aren't doing diddly squat and they think we are in a normal business cycle and eventually things will turn around on their own. They want short answers, simple solutions, and easy fixes. I think the people who pay attention understand that there are no silver bullets available.

Do you know the difference between ignorance and stupidity? Ignorance is when you do something because you don't know any better. Stupidity is when you know better, but you do it anyway. We have a lot of both in this community. Sometimes I think I am stupid for believing that anything will ever change around here. The worst part is that it seems that the leadership of our community want people to remain ignorant about the ways of the world. It is like the slave owners that didn't want their slaves to be able to read. And that is stupid, because in the end this type of attitude cannot establish the firm foundation needed to build and sustain a vibrant community. And in the end the Richy Rich control freaks are going to suffer from the poor Quality of Life issues just like the rest of us. That is the ones who don't decide to escape the debacle.

The Audacity of Ignorance reflects upon the intellectually lazy in our community (and other communities) who are proud of their disinterest and ambivalence toward the environment that surrounds them. You hear it all the time; "That doesn't effect me"... "I don't care about that." They think that they are entitled to everything turning out alright without personally investing in the equation and thus the outcome. The worst part is when these people, who do not invest intellectual capital into their own being or their environment, fearfully create roadblocks for those who do.

We cannot rebuild our community based upon survival techniques. We have to think about the future and not put all of our chips into the survival pile. We need to start thinking about whether we should be forcing future generations to accept reduced expectations. By not investing in our future, we are imposing our will upon a future society and culture that will be doomed toward failure. What kind of arrogance does that display and what right do we have to do that?

I enjoy Proverb 16
To humans belong the plans of the heart, but from the LORD comes the proper answer of the tongue. All a person’s ways seem pure to them, but motives are weighed by the LORD...

How much better to get wisdom than gold, to get insight rather than silver! The highway of the upright avoids evil; those who guard their ways preserve their lives. Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall. Better to be lowly in spirit along with the oppressed than to share plunder with the proud.
The predicament of an Ignorant Populace is addressed in the video below:

From Warren Pollock's blog
Aldous Huxley, social critic and author of Brave New World, talks to Mike Wallace about threats to freedom in the United States, overpopulation, bureaucracy, propaganda, drugs, advertising, and television.

The pattern pushing us deeper into a totalitarian regime. The strongest operative force is organization towards oligarchical-corporate-bureaucracy run by a handful of those who are entitled. The have-nots are embedded in both propaganda and false-ideology that operates below choice and reason. All the propaganda now being in the hands of a few agencies such as the democrats-republicans in power. The oligarchical minority are entitled to a high standard of living on the back of a dumbed-down majority of slaves.

A Great Day - Laugh, Think, and Cry

Thank you, Thank you very much. Thank you. That's the lowest I've ever seen Dick Vitale since the owner of the Detroit Pistons called him in and told him he should go into broadcasting.

The I can't tell you what an honor it is, to even be mentioned in the same breath with Arthur Ashe. This is something I certainly will treasure forever. But, as it was said on the tape, and I also don't have one of those things going with the cue cards, so I'm going to speak longer than anybody else has spoken tonight. That's the way it goes. Time is very precious to me. I don't know how much I have left and I have some things that I would like to say. Hopefully, at the end, I will have said something that will be important to other people too.

But, I can't help it. Now I'm fighting cancer, everybody knows that. People ask me all the time about how you go through your life and how's your day, and nothing is changed for me. As Dick said, I'm a very emotional and passionate man. I can't help it. That's being the son of Rocco and Angelina Valvano. It comes with the territory. We hug, we kiss, we love. When people say to me how do you get through life or each day, it's the same thing. To me, there are three things we all should do every day. We should do this every day of our lives. Number one is laugh. You should laugh every day. Number two is think. You should spend some time in thought. Number three is, you should have your emotions moved to tears, could be happiness or joy. But think about it. If you laugh, you think, and you cry, that's a full day. That's a heck of a day. You do that seven days a week, you're going to have something special.

I rode on the plane up today with Mike Krzyzewski, my good friend and wonderful coach. People don't realize he's ten times a better person than he is a coach, and we know he's a great coach. He's meant a lot to me in these last five or six months with my battle. But when I look at Mike, I think, we competed against each other as players. I coached against him for fifteen years, and I always have to think about what's important in life to me are these three things. Where you started, where you are and where you're going to be. Those are the three things that I try to do every day. When I think about getting up and giving a speech, I can't help it. I have to remember the first speech I ever gave.

I was coaching at Rutgers University, that was my first job, oh that's wonderful (reaction to applause), and I was the freshman coach. That's when freshmen played on freshman teams, and I was so fired up about my first job. I see Lou Holtz here. Coach Holtz, who doesn't like the very first job you had? The very first time you stood in the locker room to give a pep talk. That's a special place, the locker room, for a coach to give a talk. So my idol as a coach was Vince Lombardi, and I read this book called "Commitment To Excellence" by Vince Lombardi. And in the book, Lombardi talked about the fist time he spoke before his Green Bay Packers team in the locker room, and they were perennial losers. I'm reading this and Lombardi said he was thinking should it be a long talk, or a short talk? But he wanted it to be emotional, so it would be brief. So here's what I did. Normally you get in the locker room, I don't know, twenty-five minutes, a half hour before the team takes the field, you do your little x and o's, and then you give the great Knute Rockne talk. We all do. Speech number eight-four. You pull them right out, you get ready. You get your squad ready. Well, this is the first one I ever gave and I read this thing. Lombardi, what he said was he didn't go in, he waited. His team wondering, where is he? Where is this great coach? He's not there. Ten minutes he's still not there. Three minutes before they could take the field Lombardi comes in, bangs the door open, and I think you all remember what great presence he had, great presence. He walked in and he walked back and forth, like this, just walked, staring at the players. He said, "All eyes on me." I'm reading this in this book. I'm getting this picture of Lombardi before his first game and he said "Gentlemen, we will be successful this year, if you can focus on three things, and three things only. Your family, your religion and the Green Bay Packers." They knocked the walls down and the rest was history. I said, that's beautiful. I'm going to do that. Your family, your religion and Rutgers basketball. That's it. I had it. Listen, I'm twenty-one years old. The kids I'm coaching are nineteen, and I'm going to be the greatest coach in the world, the next Lombardi. I'm practicing outside of the locker room and the managers tell me you got to go in. Not yet, not yet, family, religion, Rutgers Basketball. All eyes on me. I got it, I got it. Then finally he said, three minutes, I said fine. True story. I go to knock the doors open just like Lombardi. Boom! They don't open. I almost broke my arm. Now I was down, the players were looking. Help the coach out, help him out. Now I did like Lombardi, I walked back and forth, and I was going like that with my arm getting the feeling back in it. Finally I said, "Gentlemen, all eyes on me." These kids wanted to play, they're nineteen. "Let's go," I said. "Gentlemen, we'll be successful this year if you can focus on three things, and three things only. Your family, your religion and the Green Bay Packers," I told them. I did that. I remember that. I remember where I came from.

It's so important to know where you are. I know where I am right now. How do you go from where you are to where you want to be? I think you have to have an enthusiasm for life. You have to have a dream, a goal. You have to be willing to work for it.

I talked about my family, my family's so important. People think I have courage. The courage in my family are my wife Pam, my three daughters, here, Nicole, Jamie, LeeAnn, my mom, who's right here too. That screen is flashing up there thirty seconds like I care about that screen right now, huh? I got tumors all over my body. I'm worried about some guy in the back going thirty seconds? You got a lot, hey va fa napoli, buddy. You got a lot.

I just got one last thing, I urge all of you, all of you, to enjoy your life, the precious moments you have. To spend each day with some laughter and some thought, to get you're emotions going. To be enthusiastic every day and as Ralph Waldo Emerson said, "Nothing great could be accomplished without enthusiasm," to keep your dreams alive in spite of problems whatever you have. The ability to be able to work hard for your dreams to come true, to become a reality.

Now I look at where I am now and I know what I want to do. What I would like to be able to do is spend whatever time I have left and to give, and maybe, some hope to others. Arthur Ashe Foundation is a wonderful thing, and AIDS, the amount of money pouring in for AIDS is not enough, but is significant. But if I told you it's ten times the amount that goes in for cancer research. I also told you that five hundred thousand people will die this year of cancer. I also tell you that one in every four will be afflicted with this disease, and yet somehow, we seem to have put it in a little bit of the background. I want to bring it back on the front table. We need your help. I need your help. We need money for research. It may not save my life. It may save my children's lives. It may save someone you love. And ESPN has been so kind to support me in this endeavor and allow me to announce tonight, that with ESPN's support, which means what? Their money and their dollars and they're helping me-we are starting the Jimmy V Foundation for Cancer Research. And it's motto is "Don't give up, don't ever give up." That's what I'm going to try to do every minute that I have left. I will thank God for the day and the moment I have. If you see me, smile and give me a hug. That's important to me too. But try if you can to support, whether it's AIDS or the cancer foundation, so that someone else might survive, might prosper and might actually be cured of this dreaded disease. I can't thank ESPN enough for allowing this to happen. I'm going to work as hard as I can for cancer research and hopefully, maybe, we'll have some cures and some breakthroughs. I'd like to think, I'm going to fight my brains out to be back here again next year for the Arthur Ashe recipient. I want to give it next year!

I know, I gotta go, I gotta go, and I got one last thing and I said it before, and I want to say it again. Cancer can take away all my physical abilities. It cannot touch my mind, it cannot touch my heart and it cannot touch my soul. And those three things are going to carry on forever.

I thank you and God bless you all.

Saturday, November 20, 2010


Wake up!!! - $11,000 fine, arrest possible for some who refuse airport scans and pat downs - By John Lantigua - Palm Beach Post - 8:59 a.m. EST, November 20, 2010

If you don't want to pass through an airport scanner that allows security agents to see an image of your naked body or to undergo the alternative, a thorough manual search, you may have to find another way to travel this holiday season.

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is warning that any would-be commercial airline passenger who enters an airport checkpoint and then refuses to undergo the method of inspection designated by TSA will not be allowed to fly and also will not be permitted to simply leave the airport.

That person will have to remain on the premises to be questioned by the TSA and possibly by local law enforcement. Anyone refusing faces fines up to $11,000 and possible arrest.

The Hound: The TSA is part of the Federal Government so the Constitution directly comes into play. This is a violation of the 4th and 10th Amendments. The full-body scanners and feel-ups violate the Fourth Amendment to the constitution, which protects against "unreasonable searches and seizures."

Our government has NO authority to conduct these searches. The Constitution does not mention searches to be conducted by government. And the Tenth Amendment therefore leaves this area to the states or the people, in this case, the airline itself. I blame this on the Airline industry for allowing this issue to be taken this far. If the Airline industry is going to allow their customers to be treated like this, then they deserve to go under.

The customers need to tell the business owners that they no longer want their product. If they do this, then I will guarantee you that all of this will stop. Do you think that the government or airline industry want to see this commerce be decimated? I am sure some of the wacko authoritarians in our country love this, but people with common sense do not. Problem is that the people with common sense have stood back and trusted the anarchists to do the right thing, when common sense should have you knowing better.

If these types of hyper-security measures become the norm, then our great nation is lost and has been defeated by the supposed enemies of freedom that we are supposed to be protected from. The anarchists are winning. They are in control of this country right now. They are running Wall Street. They hold high positions in the government. They are consolidating control and too many people are clueless about what is going on around them.

No naked body scanners! No pat downs, when people have done nothing wrong! No touching peoples private parts! No harassing the Elderly or Children who just want to freely travel!

Benjamin Franklin stated Those who would give up Essential Liberty to purchase a little Temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety. We have seen constant intrusion into our privacy and it is time to say enough!!!

Friday, November 19, 2010

20 minutes about Silver investing that you will never forget

Below is a solution! Ending the Fiat Currency Empire. It is time to fight back against the financial terrorists!

Wake up people! Do you want to live in a dark world where power is concentrated into an empire and people are governed of, by, and for mega-corporations or do you want to live in a world of freedom and liberty where the goals are peace and love?

We are in a truly historic time and we are on the precipice of disaster. We will never succeed in getting everyone to awaken, but it is our responsibility to be bold and brave and spread the word. We need more people to wake up! You will not be spared from tyranny. Why do you think you are special? What makes you think that these dark forces won't take everything you've got. If you think you're safe, then you're lying to yourself.

Will you be that person that gets called out in the airport to be frisked? Will this become the accepted norm? Will they start doing this at traffic stops? Will they start naked body scanning you when you enter the mall? Do you think the technology isn't going to get more complex, more portable, and more accessible? Is this type of intrusive behavior acceptable to you? Does it make you feel comfortable? Does it make you feel safer?

Do you think it is alright for the banks to commit fraud in home loan transactions? Or foreclosures? Do you think it is alright for them to freely and blatantly manipulate the currency or markets? Do you think it is alright for them to gamble with your home?

If you think that what I am saying is "Way out there," then maybe you need to start paying closer attention to what is going on around you! Because you are way in there!

Gerald Celente telling it like it is!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Newsletter about the City Council meeting of November 16, 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 right of this page under Main Information links is an Hickory's City Website link. If you click on that link, it takes you to our city’s website, at the left of the page you will see the Agenda's and Minutes link you need to click. This will give you a choice of PDF files to upcoming and previous meetings.

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 11/16/2010 meeting. There were a couple of important items that were discussed at this meeting and the details are listed further below:

Please remember that pressing Ctrl and + will magnify the text and page and pressing Ctrl and - will make the text and page smaller. This will help the readability for those with smaller screens and/or eye difficulties.

Invocation by Rev. Susan Smith

Consent Agenda:

A. Proclamation Declaring November 20, 2010 as “John and Sally Ross Day” in the City of Hickory

B. Approve Vacant Building Revitalization Grant “Operation No Vacancy” to Mary Jane Hutto Setzer and Karen Ann Hutto Hooper for Previously Approved Grant for Property Located at 2905 N. Center Street in the Amount of $25,000.00 - The Vacant Building Revitalization Grant Program was established by City Council in September, 2008 whereby the program provides matching funds up to $25,000.00 for projects seeking to renovate and rehabilitate vacant buildings and the demolition of substandard buildings. The original contract related to this property was made with Grace Point Holdings, LLC, who had a contract to purchase the property, but failed to close on said property. The property owners, Mary Jane Hutto Setzer and Karen Ann Hutto Hooper made the improvements specified in the original contact. This revised contract would allow the City to pay the owners for the renovations made to the building. The facility is being renovated for use as a Verizon Wireless retail store. The renovation involves approximately $60,075.00 in eligible project improvements with a total project estimate of $151,220.00 to include both exterior and interior improvements. The Redevelopment Committee reviewed the application and voted to recommend approval of $25,000.

C. Approval of Property Tax Refund as Recommended by Catawba County Tax Office to Poppelmann Plastics USA, Inc. in the Amount of $267.41 - Poppelmann Plastics was located at 785 Hwy 70, SW from April 1, 2006 through March 7, 2007. They moved to 2180 Heart Drive in Claremont and were listed incorrectly as being located in Hickory instead of Claremont. The records have been corrected and have been verified by the Tax Collector’s office.

D. Transfer of Cemetery Lot in Oakwood Cemetery (Section 33, Bock A, Lot 11, Graves 001 & 002) From John W. Teague and wife, Lana L. Teague to Sandra Taylor (Document Prepared by Christian & Associates)

E. Request From Children’s Protection Council for Use of Union Square to Hold a Candlelight Vigil to Honor Zahra Baker on November 16, 2010 from 6:00 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.

F. Approval of Fifth Annual “Food for Fines” Amnesty Week at the City Libraries From November 29 – December 4, 2010 - Staff requests that overdue fines be waived for library customers who donate canned food items at either of the City’s libraries during the week of November 29 - December 4, 2010. One (1) can of donated food will cancel $1.00 in overdue fines and the donated items will be given to the Cooperative Christian Ministry. The Catawba County Library system will also hold Amnesty Week at the same time and we are working together to publicize this event. Last years’ event helped the Cooperative Christian Ministry fill their shelves during a critical time of the year and with this years’ joint effort, staff feels it will result in a large collection of much-needed food. Staff recommends approval.

G. Approve Resolution Honoring Military Veterans and the Memory of Gunnery Sergeant Christopher W. Eckard During the Annual Greater Hickory Metropolitan Community Veterans Day Ceremony Held at The Hickory Elks Lodge on November 11, 2010

H. Budget Ordinance Amendments
1. To budget $144 of Local Government Revenue in the Police Department overtime line item. This revenue is payment from Catawba County Mental Health for a portion of an Officers time spent when accompanying involuntary commitment patients.
2. To appropriate $6,826 of Capital Reserve Fund Balance to the Street Division Right of Way Acquisition line item. This appropriation is to pay Caldwell County for the City's portion of additional Right of Way that was secured for the Grace Chapel Road US 321 Connector.
3. To appropriate $6,916 of General Fund Balance Appropriated and transfer to the Grace Chapel Road US 321 Connector project Engineering line item. This appropriation is to pay a part of the City’s portion of the Louis Berger Engineering Agreement Amendment.
4. To transfer $7,538 from the Police Department Uniforms line item to the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) Multi-Year Grant Uniforms line item. The BJA Grant was awarded in the amount of $7,538 with a 50% required local match. An allocation for uniforms is budgeted in the Police Departments current fiscal year operating budget; therefore those funds will be transferred to the Multi-Year Grant project and used for the local match.
5. To transfer $1,132 from the Police Department Departmental Supplies line item to the Gang of One Multi-Year Grant Departmental Supplies line item. The Grant funding does not cover the cost of cups, pencils and silicone wrist bands for the project therefore a $1,132 transfer from the Police Department Departmental Supplies line item to pay for the items is necessary.
6. To transfer a total of $18,125 from the Police Department Specialized Equipment line item ($15,000) and Non-Asset Inventory line item ($3,125) to the Governor’s Highway Safety Program Multi-Year Grant project Specialized Equipment and Non-Asset Inventory line items. The Grant was awarded in the amount of $24,375 with a required local match of $18,125. An allocation for uniforms is budgeted in the Police Departments current fiscal year operating budget; therefore those funds will be transferred to the Multi-Year Grant project and used for the local match.

Informational Items:
A. Report of Mayor Wright’s Travel to Winston-Salem, NC for the 2010 NCLM Annual Conference From October 25 – 26, 2010; registration - $285.00; hotel - $146.74; mileage - $70.00; parking - $9.00

New Business - Departmental Reports:
1. Second Reading - Approve Vacant Building Revitalization Grant “Operation No Vacancy” to Mary Jane Hutto Setzer and Karen Ann Hutto Hooper for Previously Approved Grant for Property Located at 2905 N. Center Street in the Amount of $25,000.

2. Quarterly Financial Report -
Warren Wood, the City's assistant manager in charge of finance, delivered the presentation. Last year the City had a $2 million budget gap to close. Much of this was related to a huge drop in sales tax revenue that the city experienced during the year. The way the city corrected the situation was to eliminate 20 positions, a small layoff, some departments were reorganized, and some services were brought in house. Employees have not had a raise since 2008. There has been a hiring freeze in place over the last two years with only the city manager being able to authorize positions being filled. The city also instituted a an early retirement incentives package offered to coworkers about a year ago.

The City also increased the solid waste fee by $2, but most of the corrections were made involving personnel. This gave the city a structurally balanced budget. The State of North Carolina requires the city to have a balanced budget.

This year, the city is looking at problems with the general fund. So far with 33% of the year complete, the city is seeing 25.5% of its revenues received, and the five-year average shows that 26.2% should have been received. The city feels that the numbers are in the ballpark. Over the next few months the city will start to receive property tax revenue, which will help to bring this number in line.

On the expenditure side, the five-year average shows that we should be at 32.7%, but we're running above that and 34.2%. The reason that is is because money has been moved out of the general fund to complete the Clement Boulevard project.

The bottom line on the general fund is that the city has spent $2.2 million more than has been collected. The five-year average shows that the city should have spent $1.9 million more than it collected. Property tax revenues coming in and the factoring of the Clement Boulevard project would bring these numbers in line.

Ald. Meisner asked Mr. Wood how often we get the tax revenue from the county pertaining to the property tax amounts. Mr. Wood stated that we get the money every month, but mainly December, January, and February. Those are the big months.

The water and sewer fund is the second-biggest fund and it makes up over 25% of the budget. It is fairing a lot better than the general budget. What has hurt, in the past, is when the city has gone into drought restrictions. From a financial perspective, we have a water plant to sell water, and drought restrictions hurts the ability sell water and affects finances. With 33% of the year complete, the five-year average says that we should have received 28.8% of revenues. The city has received 28.4% of revenues. On the expenditure side the five-year average shows that the city should be at about 30% expended, but we are above that at 37%, because of the money invested in the Northeast waste water treatment plant project. Over $1 million has been moved out of the water and sewer fund to the Northeast waste water treatment fund. If this is factored out, the numbers are in line.

The city has struggled with building permit activity over the last three years. When these numbers are doing well, the property tax numbers do well. The last three years have been a struggle. The numbers need to be about 2 to 2 1/2 times what we're seeing. We are on course to do about $55 million in permits this year. That equates to about a 1% growth in the tax base. The tax base has been struggling because of this. In 2006 and 2007, the city saw about $105 million in permits, which is decent, the city needs to see about $150 million in permitted value, in order for things to look good.

As far as property tax collection rates, the city is down to 96.5% on the collection rate. This number has declined since 2002, which was the peak on the collection rate. This is an indication of people struggling to pay their property tax bill. For every 10th of a percent that we see the collection rate drop the city loses $23,000 in revenue. Compared to the 2002 number that is over $300,000 lost to the annual budget. We won't know what the new numbers are going to be until the end of this fiscal year. The trend is down and that is troublesome. The permitting dropping in addition to the reduction in collection rates is a double whammy. Warren stated that a good indication that things are turning around is when we see two or three years of an increase in the property tax collection rate.

Warren next went into the workforce related to the Hickory Metro area. Back in 2000 the civilian work force in the area was 182,000. Today we are at 144,000. That is a loss of over 38,000 jobs. That's been our major struggle over the last few years. When Caldwell County, Burke County, and Alexander County struggle Hickory hurts, because Hickory is the economic hub of the area. The slight bit of good news is that we have added close to 2,000 jobs, but it would take nine years to get back half of what we lost since the year 2000 at that rate. That is something that we focus on is jobs and we will continue to do that. Warren stated that he doesn't like to look at the unemployment rate as much. The unemployment rate in the metro area is 11.7%. It peaked at 15.8% in February. The unemployment rate doesn't mean that much because that is just the number of people that are looking for jobs. This does not include discouraged workers who are not included in those rates. The unemployment rate has not dropped 4% with the addition of 2,000 jobs. The real unemployment rate is probably greater than 15% in the metro area.
When Warren started working for the city in the early 90s, the budgeting development period began in February. This has now become a year-long process. They already know what the major concerns are for next year. The number one issue for next year is that the State of North Carolina faces a $3.5 billion budget shortfall. Last year they used $3.5 billion worth of one-time money to plug the gap and then they went home. Now they have to close that gap and then start working on it. What worries Warren, is that the State collects $13 million in taxes on behalf of Hickory. About eight years ago, over the course of two years, the State of North Carolina took $3 million that the city never got back.

This budget gap is bigger than the one that they had eight years ago. What worries the City is that the State will do this again. They do not know that that it is the intention of the State, but that is what they did the last time they had a shortfall. The league of municipalities is focused on this. If the State of North Carolina were to do this, then most municipalities would be faced with raising taxes to cover the shortfall or dipping into the fund balance.

The other concern is that the State is not going be able to fix the $3.5 billion problem in one year. One of the problems is that the City of Hickory will likely be done with its budget before the State is and they will not know what the State's intentions are until after the State is through with the process. The city is going to have to put some kind of a plan together to potentially offset the money that the State may take from the city.

Ald. Lail said that he wanted to add that the State taking that money was improper in his opinion. It is not by the State's graciousness that they collect $13 million for the city of Hickory. We are entitled to that money. They held it on their own accord. Mr. Wood stated that the legislation that set up those taxes was specifically for local governments. That was our money that was not remitted. That was a good point. Mayor Wright added that that did not stop them. City Manager Berry added that it is more difficult this time, because before the Governor had the authority to confiscate the funds. The league worked hard to change statutes and they were successful. The governor can no longer just come in and take the funds. The general assembly has to vote, so there is more of a barrier there. Still with a $3.5 billion deficit we are concerned about that. Mr. Wood added, not that they would take $13 million, but $13 million is one third of the general fund budget.

Revaluation and property tax revenue, we've talked about this. The county is going through the revaluation process. They're sending out the notices of what the revaluation rates are. The first bit of information that we got is that there is no increase or decrease, that we are flat -- in one respect that is good. The city's number in terms of revenue neutral is that the city's tax rate will remain at $.50 per thousand dollars.

The concern is that there will be appeals. Let's say I have an industrial building that is valued at $1 million that has been vacant for three years and the owner comes in and says it is not worth half that much, the county may split the difference or something. The county is expecting a lot of that sort of thing through the revaluation and appeal process. The county is figuring that they will grant appeals equivalent to 1.6% of the value of the property. That tells Warren that the city needs to figure 2% (loss of revenue) )due to our having more of an industrial base. This would be the equivalent of $350,000 of revenue lost. Added that... no growth to the base, the decline in the collection rate, loss of aircraft at the airport that we are gonna lose which is about $150,000 in property tax revenue that has left over the last year... those numbers are starting to add up. The property tax values is something we are going to have to right the ship on.

Investment earnings. Our longer-term investments are starting to mature and the rates aren't as good as they were three or four years ago. We are going to see a decline in our investment earnings just due to the fact that our long-term investments are catching up to us. That's another $150,000 that we're going to have to find somewhere. The SAFR grant was a grant to add an additional ladder company, next year the cities share of that will increase by $150,000, because the grant money will drop off by a $150,000. That was not a surprise. We knew that was going to happen.

Moody’s is showing North Carolina is a risk for a double dip recession. The city has not figured in any double dip recession projections into their numbers for next year. Protecting the cash reserves; the undesignated fund balance decreased by $600,000 last year. We don't want to do that two years in a row. Will we want to make a point of protecting our cash reserves.

The bottom line for 2011-2012 is that we're looking for another significant budget gap. Ald. Lail asked Mr. Wood if you would be so bold as to make a projection of what that budget gap would be? Do you think it's more than $1 million? Is it more substantial than last year? Mr. Wood stated it all depends on how much we want to set aside when looking at what the State might do to us. It would be approaching what we had to cut last year which was $2 million. And that is just in the general fund. Mayor Wright asked if that included pay raises? What is a one percent pay raise? Mr. Wood stated that a 1% increase would be an impact on the general fund of $250,000. There may be some ideas in some ways to extend that kind of money. He also didn't include health insurance money which is going up. When all is added up it's probably close to $2 million.

Warren stated that he wanted to end by differentiating between budget problems versus financial problems which we have not have, because the city has done the heavy lifting to ensure that financial problems would not happen. Over the last 10 years the local and national issues have been impacted the city's budget. The city has not had problems with its cash flow or fund balance. Some cities have depleted their fund balance to an amount where the local Government commission is now stepping in and writing letters to these municipalities about their fund balance. We have not gotten any of those letters. Some cities have gotten so bad in the past that the local Government commission will come in and take over the city. Ald. Patton stated that she had heard that there were 58 municipalities in the State of North Carolina who have not submitted their audits. Mr. Wood added that that will get the commission's attention as well.

We have not had those problems because we have made the tough decisions on the budget side to avoid the financial problems on the other side, which is much more difficult to correct. We don't know how long the current situation that we're in will go on. The physical constraint that we have been exercising over the last few years is still called for and hopefully things will turn the corner sooner or later.

Ald. Lail added that it's really no surprise. Everyone knows the shape of the economy, so it is not surprising and the cities are going to feel it to. As far as the city, we tend to lag behind and we are sort getting hit. Mr. Wood added that we are a little slower to fall into the problem and we will be a little slower to come out of it. Ald. Guess stated that the good news was the first slide. It is admirable that we have employees with the city of Hickory that put together a plan to make sacrifices and the employees of the city of Hickory have sacrificed and realize that as a team; is a key to where we're at today. Mayor Wright stated that the thing that is most amazing to him is that this mentality of his ten years budgeting that "we've got to spend it" is something that he has never seen in any department here. The thought is if I'm ahead on my budget, let's put that money in the bank. Mr. Wood added we try and run the city's budget like we run our household. We try to use the good times to prepare for the bad times as much as possible.

The Hound truly appreciated this presentation and I got more out of this summary than about any presentation I have ever seen given by an official of our city. It is straightforward and to the point. If you read this analysis, then you will understand what this city is facing and there is no reading between the lines, because we want to sell these numbers like a used car salesman. The numbers are what they are.

That being said, these are not times to crawl back into a shell and not figure out how to operate in the realities of this world. Moving forward in a progressive manner is a good thing. In attending the Innovation 2010 event last week, the mentality that struck me was that even the companies that were considered to be innovative in our area had a mindset of survival. There innovation was about survival and not about growth and thriving.

I do not think that what I state should be taken as a harsh criticism, because that is not the intent. Most of us have been beaten down by the realities of this Economic Depression and most of the Managers and Decision Makers sole focus has been directed towards putting out small fires. That is what happens during a panic and in a real fire you eventually become exhausted and eventually consumed by solely focusing and putting out those small fires and ignoring the blaze, which continues to rage and grow larger.
We need to step back a second and take a deep breath. This sole focus on the short run is going to kill us. We need to figure out a long term strategy for survival. I've worked with fire my whole life and I love it. I don't like getting burned, but it is the reality of what I do. You are going to get burned. Just like with playing with money, eventually you are going to get burned, but you don't focus on the burn. You focus on the creation. We need to analyze the trends and not figure out where we want to be next year. We need to focus on where we want to be in 5 or 10 years and have a flow chart that builds some flexibility into that endeavor.

Trends Analysis is what is lost on our community. Sometimes that is because of the egos. No one wants to be wrong, but you have a better chance of being successful, if you project a map of where you want to be and head that way. We need to look at what other successful communities have done, and are doing, and not copy that, but meld that into our own strategy for future growth.
I have done that with the "Putting the Pieces of the Puzzle Together" series linked at the top right of this page. I did that analysis last year and it is still valid today.

Those building permit decreases are due to the Real Estate Depression and the dim economic prospects of our area. We aren't going to be able to turn around the National Economic Picture, but I believe that we can do a lot working within the present economic realities to improve our area's prospects and I think the bunker mentality is harming that.

We need to make this a more attractive area to live and work in. That is going to take investment from the local public and private sector. It is also going to take changing the social norms and a willingness to market our new objectives in a real and meaningful way. We don't need to be Snake Oil salesmen to sell this area. People will see through that. We need to keep it real and show the world what we are doing to change our area's prospects. It is my hope that we will stop the Talk of Change and start doing something to create a Reality of Progress.

3. Parks and Recreation Commission’s Recommendation to City Council on Aquatic Recreation - Newsletter about the City Council meeting of November 16, 2010 - Addendum on the Hickory City Pools

Recognition of Persons Requesting To Be Heard
1. Mr. James Davis of 715 1st Avenue Place, SE requests to address City Council regarding
aquatic recreation. - Newsletter about the City Council meeting of November 16, 2010 - Addendum on the Hickory City Pools

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Newsletter about the City Council meeting of November 16, 2010 - Addendum on the Hickory City Pools

Pretext Comments - I pulled this item out of the regular meeting newsletter, because this was the most important issue discussed at this meeting and as most of you know it stands on its own merits. There have been a chain of articles devoted to this issue going well back into 2009. They will be linked at the bottom of the page to give you a historical context of this subject.

Departmental Report - Parks and Recreation Commission’s Recommendation to City Council on Aquatic Recreation

Kelly Hurley, Chairperson of the Parks and Recreation committee made the presentation to the Council. She stated that the Council mandated that the Parks and Recreation Committee educate themselves on the types of aquatic facilities available today and asked the citizens of Hickory what, if any, aquatic facilities they would want in the future.

There were three community meetings held in late September and they were led by Mr. Derrick Williams of Site Solutions.. The purpose of the meetings was to get feedback from citizens on aquatics. There was also a phone survey that was performed by the Jackson Group. The Parks and Recreation staff also organized two trips for commission members to visit nearby facilities. They visited a pool owned and operated by the City of Statesville. This leisure pool is only two years old and has many of the latest pool features available. The pool broke even (financially) this last summer and they did this after making a number of large purchases.

Commission members also visited the Village Park Splash Pad in Kannapolis, North Carolina. This state-of-the-art splash pad has a state-of-the-art water recirculating system. This facility utilizes water cannons, geysers, and jets.

She stated that they have learned a lot from this process. The input of the citizens at these meetings showed a strong desire to build an indoor facility that can be used year-round. And survey showed that 85.7% of Hickory citizens feel that it is important for the City of Hickory to provide aquatic recreation opportunities to the citizens. It also showed that 46.7% said that they would not want property taxes increased to pay for these facilities. Parks and Recreation recognizes that the present economic climate presents a challenge for all of us.

Based on this information the commission voted on the six possible options at the meeting held on October 9, 2010. A Citywide pool serving the whole community received the most votes at five, District splash pads received one vote, no City provided aquatic facility received four votes, and a year-round centrally located swimming facility received one vote. The commission's recommendation to Council is that cities should provide an aquatic facility and it should serve the entire community.

The Mayor stated that the Parks and Recreation committee have shown so much diligence and he appreciated the knowledge that they've shared with the Parks and Recreation staff and the Council.

Alderman Lail stated that usually when they receive a report from a Commission that they don't necessarily take action one way or another. He said that it will be very difficult for the City to do this in the next couple of years and to follow up on the recommendation to create a Citywide pool. Nevertheless, he said that this is good information to have. Alder Patton stated that the Parks and Recreation already have a plan and that she was at all of the meetings and one of the comments made is it needed to be studied about the priorities. There are already a lot of things that aren't being funded… the economic environment...let's just see where that comes in the scope of what they (P&R) want to do.

The Mayor stated that regardless of what Parks and Recreation recommends on facilities, that he would like to see a program adopted to ensure there is accessibility to swimming lessons for children. He wants there to be accessibility and affordability, including scholarships for children who cannot afford it. He would like to see a goal and he understands that it will take involvement of parents and partnerships including school boards and lots of other people to make this happen. Alder Patton added, anything that we can do to facilitate collaboration. And she further added that she has heard that there is a liability issue at the two remaining polls. She stated that she would hope that Parks and Recreation would work with public services to rectify the situation so that there will not be a liability issue with open pools. Council unanimously accepted the recommendation of the commission.

Citizens requesting to be heard:

James Davis, a representative of the Ridgeview community addressed the Council. He stated that tops on the residents list was a series of small pools in each ward. The recommendation voted upon was that of the Parks and Recreation commission and not the view of the citizens. The City of Hickory paid Site Solutions $20,250 to perform the survey and that is not a field of their expertise.

Officials sighted that the age of both polls and the high cost of repairing them were factors in the closing. We all know that the Ridgeview pool was not properly maintained. The residents noted that the reason why the polls went down was because of the administrators.

The City Council directed Parks and Recreation to find out what the wants and needs of the community were and the community has spoken. The pools could have been brought up to code by grants. The Federal government was providing grants for cities who applied for them. The City of Hickory never did.

They did a comparison between (possibility) of four district pools and the one large pool. The cost would be $3.2 million for the construction on the four district pools and on the Citywide poel the cost would be $2.5 million. The maintenance on the one large pool would be $50,000 versus a cost of $48,000 for the four district pools. After a few years the City would break even, just as other cities have done. Mr. Davis stated that he attended two of the charrette's that were held in the City. At the charrette's, on the (display) board, it was stated that they voted for more than just a centralized pool. They also voted for the district (quadrant) pools.

The Ridgeview community has determined that the survey was valid. Now, the Parks and Recreation committee has thrown out what the citizens wanted. The City should also look towards people who have expertise in the areas. Site Solutions has no expertise in the field of aquatics. We have people in the community who are willing to devote their time on these issues.

A Ms. Jett, next addressed the Council. She stated that she wanted to speak on behalf of her generation who utilized the Ridgeview pool and asked the Council to give consideration to the fact that they have never lived in that area. They don't know the needs of that community.

She said that she was previously a lifeguard at that pool and she further stated that she experienced very great numbers (attendance) and good programs. Swimming lessons were taught in the morning and she just wanted to state that we need to quit taking programs out of the neighborhoods especially during the summer when there is nothing for the children to do. They keep saying the budget, the budget; but no one is coming up with an idea of what to replace it with. That is the community's main concern.

We feel that the pools are undermaintenanced and we didn't just wake up overnight and the pools were not maintained. This was something that was known prior to this and she is saying that there needs to be more positive things going on and that means more programming for the children to keep the crime rate down. Ridgeview has been cleaned up and they want to keep it that way. And if you continue to take things out of the community that are supposed to be for positive entertainment and recreation for the children… Who let these pools go undermaintenanced and why is it now an issue, because they didn't just become undermaintenanced one or two years ago. It has been years and years of neglect. So they are saying to you. who want to close these pools, what are you going to replace it with, because our children and that community need things to do. They need things going on, on a consistent basis.

When she (Ms. Jett) was there, there were a lot of things going on. There were several camps that attended that pool. The pool was being utilized and she doesn't understand where the numbers went down and were things were lost, but she knows that that pool was being utilized. She stated that she had also worked at the George Ivey pool and there were camps from Statesville coming in and utilizing the pool. She added that the maintenance is left up to the recreation staff and she doesn't understand where the ball got dropped.

She asked the Council, how can you put this on the budget and economics, when these are our children and you can't put a price on that. This is something that should've been handled years before. This is something that should've gone without neglect. So you are saying now that it is the economy, but what happened years before when Hickory was alive and pumping? The pools were going undermaintenanced at that time. What she is saying to you is when you are talking about closing down this pool there should be something in place. Okay, we'll partner with Y, but the Y. is not owned by the City and the Y. is a private entity. What is the City of Hickory doing? Why do we have to keep partnering with people? We didn't have to partner with people and we didn't have to do this years before?

After being interrupted by the timekeeper Ms. Jett went on to state that she is speaking from her generation and from her heart and she wants to add that she has a heart for children and that she wants to make sure they reach their potential and she has given up her free time to see that happen. She has done several programs in the City and she will continue… when she was in college she came back to lifeguard at that pool for two years and she asked the Council if they had been in that community. Have you met the children.. have you spoken with people.. do you feel their hearts? She added that she is a representative of that community and she is a member of the community relaying how they feel.

Have you been in that community and have you talked to people and found out why the numbers (attendance) are down. Did anyone try to find out why the interest in swimming is down over there? Is that the reason why it wasn't maintained… Is it because the numbers were low? Did anyone try going in to revamp and do some different programs over there? Did anyone do anything? Sshe stated that she has given up her time and she has volunteered to make sure that our children in Ridgeview get attention and that they are reached. You have to do something that interests the culture and something that will spark their interest. She has done two very successful step teams in that community. That is what people are interested in and that is what they’re dedicated and disciplined to and they had some very successful years when they did that.

She was engaged with the children and they were interested in coming to the pool, because she was there. The children felt safe and warm and guided when they went there. She doesn't feel that anyone is taking any of this into consideration.

Walter Witherspoon was the next citizen to come before the Council. He stated that he had sat through various meetings involving the recreation commission and the planning commission... and we talk about Hickory by Choice. He stated that he has sent an e-mail to all of the Council members and now he is concerned about the rule of law. Your commissioned as you sit there, as we have a City Manager and a Council type government with the Mayor who is supposed to represent all of the citizens and Council who represents various groups, but you are the legislative body. You make the laws.

Now, my concern is, after hearing that recommendation. I understand that there is going to be another master-plan. I look in my notes and I notice in 1997 there was a master-plan, I noticed in 2008 there was another master-plan, and as late as May of 2010 there was a another master-plan. Tonight, I believe I heard that there is going to be a master plan for 2011. Is that right? Another plan?

Who financed those Plans? I don't know, I just asked a question. Now, where are we headed? Are we just making plans? Or are we ready to make some results to the citizens of Hickory? I have also listened to a person state that there was a bias because this did not include older adults. And tonight this young lady came up and she made a very good case about young adults. I am asking the City of Hickory where are you headed?

You've been charged with duties! What are we going to do? As I said I didn't plan to speak, but as a citizen of Hickory, I'm not a younger citizen, I'm an older citizen, a 73-year-old citizen in Hickory. I like to see progress and growth in Hickory for everyone. Now some people have been very fortunate in Hickory and that is what you do in a capitalistic society. You go out and get resources and goods and in turn you invest that and you turn it into more money and more capital.

When the City puts out a budget, it should be where citizens can understand what is being presented. If they don't understand what is being presented, then there is no need to present them, you are just wasting time. Now, tonight Mr. (Warren) Wood gave a very good presentation of the budget and an overview of where we are headed. He (Witherspoon) has looked at the budget himself and he understands that we're pretty safe, but it could get worse. We are conservative and we don't want to over extend ourselves.

We don't want a big aquatic pool that cost 20 million bucks. We can't handle that and we know that. But, we can provide something for our kids. We can provide more than a bus. We had 15 people going the first year and that has grown to 99. Lenoir-Rhyne can’t handle this, because they are having trouble scheduling groups. The Y. cant handle this, because they have to please their membership -- and they can squeeze us in?? That doesn't serve the public well. We are first-rate citizens. We are citizens of Hickory. We are all citizens of Hickory. It is the duty of the sitting body there (Council). What are you going to do?

It is our job as citizens. We can't just put it on them (Council). We have to be the motivators, if they're not motivated. The citizens must motivate them. We have to support them. I'm not here to put you down. I'm here to help you where I can, but I'm tired of hearing rhetoric. I'm one person and I've heard that before. There's not enough interest.

You represent people. You represent a ward. You represent people. Are all of those people in here? Do they have to be here? No. Because they represent their interest to you and you present the interests to the board.

I respect you and I respect government and once again I respect the rule of law. When am I going to get it? When is the public going to get a democratic representation. I will leave you on the rule of law. I tip my hat to Atty. Crone and Sister Dula over there. They know the law. But you instruct them and they are your legal advisers and if you don't go to your legal advisers and get legal advice -- that means what? That you don't need them? Listen to your legal advisers, because we know what's going on. I hate to leave on that kind of note. I'm just dissatisfied. Thank You.

Karen Hoyle next addressed the Council. She stated that she heard some things that didn't sit well with her as a citizen. She goes back to this being an All-American City. The citizens have spoken. The City spent almost $30,000 on surveys and charrette's and meetings;only to come back as a recommendation from the Parks and Recreation commission that was not based upon what the citizens said. The citizens spoke and they said that they wanted swimming and aquatics into four quadrants. I think it's important for them to make a recommendation and I think that Kelly did a tremendous job.

Ms. Hoyle stated that she'd gone to the meetings and Kelly Hurley did a tremendous job to make sure that the commission stayed within the guidelines of what the Council had asked them to do. But, she still goes back to the citizens and the citizens are the people that pay taxes. What good was it to have the charrette's and the survey, if they weren’t willing to listen to what was being said. This was a waste of tax dollars.

The other thing was misinformation. Time and time again I continue to hear misinformation given. I heard Mrs. Patton talk about the liabilities of these two pools. Nobody discussed liability but one person and it would be a travesty for us to sit back and listen about the pools being a liability. The pools will become a liability if nothing is done and at this time the pools are not a liability to the citizens or to the City. I want you to keep that in mind.

The other thing is why did we not apply for the Virginia Graham Bakker act grant? Why? If money and economics is an issue, why did we not apply for grant monies that were available to fix the pools. I have asked this question over and over and over again. I do not think that we would be in this position, if we had applied and they denied us and if we had applied and there wasn't enough money to do some work on these undermaintenanced pools, but the question still sticks in my mind. If money is an issue and grants are out there and we could use that money, then why didn't we apply. I am asking my elected officials who were elected, and sit based on citizens electing you, to go and do your own research. Please before you make your decision go back and do your own research and ask the people that you put in position why?... If there's money available, why? The citizens have spoken. I expect you to respect the citizens, because they spoke very well. Thank You

Dr. Jody Inglefield next spoke before the Council. He has presented a proposal to the Council on behalf of the citizens of Hickory for an aquatic facility. He attended all of the meetings and had a chance to here all of the comments. There is a lot of opportunity here he thinks. We need to look at what we're going to do in the future and he believes there is some urgency.

In terms of swimming lessons he thinks that is a fantastic idea, but he thinks that we need to make that realistic and pools are part of that. He doesn't think that it is good that we delay or study longer. Dr. Inglefield thinks that we need to get some concrete ideas of how this can possibly happen and how we can possibly get some aquatic facilities available. The basic recommendation of the commission is to have a pool. He doesn't think that we need to study it anymore. The citizens have spoken. It was pretty convincing that this is what we really need and we really need to figure out how we can do it promptly.

It should not take a lot of time or another couple summers to figure this out. This is not rocket science. A pool can be put together and facilities can be built and programs can be put together. We should not have to compromise. We need to collaborate. How can we get this done? How can we get kids in the water? When you are asking how old kids need to be to learn to swim, the younger the better. They love water. The earlier they learn, the more likely they are to continue and enjoy that, plus the safety issue, younger kids are the ones that are more likely to drown. We don't need to compromise.

We are an All-American City, why can we not do this? Why can't we do this and get a pool that will serve our needs. I know this is possible. I know the budget is tough, but we need to do something to invest in our future and make this an attractive place to live. I was really dismayed to see this latest Gallup poll about the quality of living in Hickory and that we are ranked last. I think all of this has to do with how we are going to attract people to this area, how do we attract businesses, will we have a poor quality of living. I just think there is an opportunity here and we'll take the fact that community citizens are here and the commission has said we need a pool. Let's do it, let's make it happen, let's not compromise, let's collaborate and get something done. I thank you for the process, the energy, and your time. I thank all the members of the Council who attended the meetings and Kelly and Harriett and the people that were involved. This has not been an easy process, but gosh Hickory has done things before that were great and why can we not do this. This is something that we can do. This is not impossible and I don't think that we have to wait years to do this.

The next lady that spokes name was Barbara. She spoke about the parking deck that is being built at the convention center by the Tourism Authority and how that was going to bring in revenue. That was one of the concerns that hit her. We take revenue out of the minority areas, what are we going to the put back in those areas? She said that she was told that there was something special that was going to happen and it has not happened.

She talked about the new soccer park that has been developed. We don’t have a great deal of kids that are playing soccer, but we have that new soccer park that we use money for. She said she is always getting information about this dog park and she just cannot see putting a dog park before pools. She also talked about busing kids and always busing kids to other neighborhoods to swim, to other neighborhoods to do this (activities)... why can't we have a little swimming pool and a little area at Ridgeview. Was the problem with us having a $55,000 pool. It is a shame that I have to look out my door every day and see this big hole.

It's not only in my soul, it's in my heart. She just can't see spending money on a dog park or a soccer field. Swimming is good. Swimming is better. They didn’t ask for a dog park or a soccer field. They don’t ask for much. They didn't ask for a parking deck is going to be put over their. She used to work at that hotel and she never put one event on paper that would compensate the people out of Ridgeview for that hotel, but their tax dollars are being used for this. Give us something please. Give our kids a chance to swim. Everything is being sucked out of Ridgeview. It is terrible. She goes to the next neighborhood and its vibrant. Why is it that our kids can’t have the same chance. I just asked our Councilman (Hank Guess). Please, you are a representative. Please as our representative. Please do something for Ridgeview.

The Mayor stated that he would like to make two comments. Listening to the remarks, he would like to talk about the survey and what he said about the survey. But, the parking deck is paid for by people who visit Hickory and the hotel owners. There is no General Fund money going into that parking deck. It is not a matter of taking money from taxpayers in Ridgeview and putting it into a parking deck -- or from anyone else. He also stated that he was hearing that they represent neighborhoods. Our charter says that we have six wards and each Ward will have a representative, but by our charter, and this will not change, every Council member represents everyone that lives in Hickory.

Another lady Angelika Wright asked to address the Council. She asked who owns this building that this parking deck is going to be put on? Was it the City of Hickory that owns the building? Are we going to have the land come back from the hotel people that own the hotel? The Mayor stated that he heard her issue. Ms. Wright stated she was asking a question. Ms. Wright asked who owns it? The Mayor stated this is a little different than the charette. Ms. Wright stated yeah but you made a comment just now about the parking deck, but who owns the parking deck. The Mayor stated that the comment that he made is going to be paid for from revenues that come from visitors who pay for a hotel room. Ms. Wright insisted in asking the question again who owns that? Mayor Wright stated is owned by the tourism development Authority of Conover in Hickory. Ms right thing in thanked The Mayor.

The Hound truly thinks this issue is about ego. I have studied this issue thoroughly and I believe that the City has decided to Damn the Torpedoes. We all understand the problems with the budget, but we also understand that there are a lot of alternatives out there when it comes to this issue of swimming pools.

The citizens have spoken and they want these pools and if I were Mr. Meisner, Mr. Lail, or Mr. Seaver, I think I would wake up and smell the coffee; because there is a Trailways heading this way and you have an election coming up pretty soon.

I don't have the full wherewithall to cover every city meeting that is held., but it sure does sound like the last Parks and Recreation meeting was very interesting. Any of you who want to know where the Council members stand on this issue need to look at the vote, that was addressed above, at that Parks and Recreation meeting (from the October 9, 2010 meeting). Connect the dots and look at the 4 people who voted for no form of aquatic recreation supported by the city. Link those names to the people who appointed them and there you will see an excellent account of what you are up against. Don't let Council hide behind this issue!

I have stated it many times, as has Harry Hipps, this Council refuses to listen to the will of the people. I understand what the Mayor was stating as far as the parking deck at the Convention Center, but I also understand the frustrations of the people of the South Side of the tracks. The only way that Ridgeview gets money is when it comes from Federal dollars, but the City of Hickory will send a lobbyist to Raleigh to secure a tax increase for a private special interest that is directly interwoven into our local governance. This is the true plight of the Forgotten Citizens of our city.

I'll tell you this. Our Council and City Manager do not have a clue about Tea Leaves. They are not open minded. They refused to accept the feelings, trend, and momentum of this issue. They created this mess with the pools by trying to ignore it and this pattern goes straight down the line with so many of these issues that we have seen over the last several years (the airport, the Cercil Brothers, Randolph's, the Graffiti issue, and I can go on).

The Mayor and City Manager wanted these charettes and this survey implemented, because they thought that the outcome would be completely different and when it did not turn out the way that they expected, well we see the same ole, same ole. The People want.... the Commission, Committee or Task Force recommends... Council and Staff do what they always intended from the beginning before the charades (I mean uh, uh, charettes). The will of the people is inconsequential.

I see a lot of spoiled people in our area (Daddy, I want a Golden ticket) and I truly believe that is what is holding us back in a ton of respects. I see people who have no sympathy for the middle class and the poor. It is really a nasty thing to witness. I've got mine. You get yours! Naa-Naa-Naa Naa Naa naa! It's my ball I'm going home, because your beating me. These citizens start coming down on them and they get that deer in the headlights look.

It is like Mr. Witherspoon pretty much stated. He is frustrated. You set up the rules, we play by them, you try and rig them, we beat you anyway, and you go cry to daddy. It is frustrating beyond belief to deal with people who call you crazy or say that you are a conspiracy theorist or whatever. It is time that some people grow up around here and start helping to grow the pie, instead of trying to finagle an extra slice for themselves!

There is no relationship between the local citizenry and our local government! Occasional glad handing does not equal effective governance. Effective Governance comes from Justice and Fairness. Not kowtowing to special interests and serving ones own personal interests! It comes from open, proactive dialogue with everyone!

Do some even have a clue as to how foolish all of this looks?

City Pools issue displays Local Officials' Myopic Views

REBUILDING & EMPOWERING FROM THE BOTTOM UP -- Citizens for Equity in Government

Citizens Of Ridgeview address the City Council about the City Pools Issue

Newsletter about the City Council meeting of July 20, 2010 - Addendum on the Hickory City Pools
More than Pools
Hickory City Pools -- Told You So 8)
Continuing the Rant - The City of Hickory's Budget
Newsletter about the City Council meeting of June 15, 2010
Newsletter about the City Council meeting of May 4, 2010
HDR Editorial - Hickory council needs a member with vision
The City Council Candidate Forum Last Night - 10/29/2009 - (Audio Available)
From the Hickory Daily Record - Election issues discussed at forum

Monday, November 15, 2010

Innovation 2010 - Andrew Hargadon - Creating a Network of Innovation

Photos copyright: ©2010 Pat Appleson Studios, Inc. All Rights Reserved, Used By Permission

Innovation 2010 Event - held at CVCC on November 10, 2010

Keynote Speaker: Andrew B. Hargadon - His Blog
Professor of Management
Director, Technology Management Programs
Faculty Director, University of California at Davis Center for Entrepreneurship
Chancellor's Fellow
Ph.D., Stanford University

Short introductions were made by Dr. Garrett Hinshaw of Catawba Valley Community College and Scott Millar of the economic development Corporation. Dr. Hinshaw wanted to point the connection between education and economic development. He talked about the possibilities of ideas being translated into realities; such is the nature of innovation. He stated that now is the time for innovation to restore this area to its appropriate role as a national leader in business, industry, and education.

Scott Millar made the introduction of Andrew Hargadon. He made some points about our local area and our heritage of manufacturing. In essence, he stated that the entrepreneurial spirit comes from a combative mentality. Lightheartedly, he made the point that many people struck out on their own, because they couldn't get along with their boss. People love to be able to develop their own opportunity. At one time, we led the nation in the percentage of workforce involvement in manufacturing. In the 1980s and 1990s there were almost 600 manufacturing firms in Catawba County.

Dr. Hargadon began his presentation by talking about Thomas Edison and the beginnings of his scientific and entrepreneurial experience. In 1876, Thomas Edison was an unknown and he announced the opening of his Menlo Park scientific research facility with the promise of a new invention every 10 days and a big invention every six months or so. Edison was able to deliver on that promise.

From 1876 to 1881 Edison was able to patent over 400 inventions. The research facility became known as an invention factory and Edison became known as the “Wizard of Menlo Park.” The factory produced fundamental breakthroughs in the telephone, telegraph, phonograph, the electric sewing machine, the electric railway, ink for the blind, the first fax machine, and many more accomplishments.

What we learned about innovation from Thomas Edison and others like him are basically five lessons. Most everything that we know about Thomas Edison and the inventions that he is known for were done in that five-year period from 1876 to 1881, including the electric industry through the creation of The Pearl Street Station and the light bulb. What we need to look at is why the Menlo Park research facility was so successful.

Dr. Hargadon said that we need to get rid of the idea of the “Great Man Theory” of innovation. The “Great Man Theory” says that for every great idea there was a single point in time where a single person had the idea. Before that point the idea didn't exist and after that the world was never the same. If we follow this theory, it says that we either need to be that great man, find that great man, or hire this person and pay them whatever they want. And if we don't do this, wet will sit back and watch the innovation process happen somewhere else. This is not a particularly useful message.

Dr. Hargadon's first point is that it's not about the idea. If we focus on the idea, we focus on the wrong thing and we don't get anything done. He gave an example of mousetraps. He talked about the quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson, which has been misattributed. Emerson's quote was much more complex than the "build a better mousetrap" quote that has been attributed to him. Emerson's point was that if you sell a better product that people will buy it from you. The misattributed quote did not come until seven years after Emerson had died. It was made by a journalist.

The facts show that the journalists interpretation of Emerson's quote is Misanalyzed. Since 1828, 4,400 mousetraps have been patented. Of those, only 24 have made any money and only two have been truly successful. The Victor mousetrap, introduced in 1897, is the most successful mousetrap ever invented and its design has not changed over the subsequent period of time up. The only evolution of the product was an idea to market the product as disposable, which took place in the 1950s, and the addition of cheese scented plastic more recently.

Next, Dr. Hargadon spoke about the Segway. When this product was initially introduced, it was said by its inventor that it would be bigger than the Internet. Dean Kamen was called a modern-day Edison. When it was initially introduced, the venture capitalist stated that the product would sell 100,000 units per year. In the first two years only 6000 Segways were sold. Why?

When the product was introduced you could only buy it at The other place that you could buy it was at Brookstone, which is a high-end toy store. They built a great idea and used $100 million worth of investment money, but they didn't have a distribution process.

It's not about the idea. It's about connecting. It's about building networks. Inventing is about creativity. Innovation is about getting it done.

Henry Ford started mass production of automobiles in 1906. He did not invent the car. He saw an opportunity utilizing mass production to a mass market. The idea was to create an affordable car. Ford Motor Company was his fourth car company. Proof of Concept in the early automobile industry meant that creators raced the car. Racing cars involved crashes, when the driver pushed the limits, and many times this meant the end of the car company.

The mass-market car completely changed the business model. Ford embraced the idea of building a cheaper car. He went and examined ideas that were already in the marketplace that could help him establish his mass-market company. The successful ideas included 1) interchangeable parts, 2) Continuous flow of production. 3) The assembly line and 4) The electric motor -- before this, plants were designed around a steam engine which would be located at the center of the factory.

The electric motor allowed work to be moved to different parts of a plant, instead of being centrally located around the power source, the steam engine -- Ford had worked for Edison and left when he could not convince Edison of the importance of the automobile. Ford did not invent any of the above processes, but instead he brought them together into one efficient product method.

Dr. Hargadon espouses the notion that Ford succeeded, not because he invented anything, but because he refused to invent anything.What can we learn from this? It isn't about the idea. It's about seeing the resources that are out there and being better about making the connections than anyone else.

Dr. Hargadon next talked about Edison not inventing the light bulb. That was a 40 year old technology. He built a better network around the light bulb than anyone had ever done before. He created a successful business selling people the lights, the wiring, the generators, and the steam engine used to power the generator. It became successful when it had as much reach as petroleum industry in the utilization of gas products. He took the best of all of the technologies and combined them with his friends in venture capital and utilized the utility business model utilized by the Petroleum Companies and created an entirely new business model around the idea of lighting. Most of the innovation that he created was in the service industry end of the business model.

Innovation comes from the network. Edison and Ford were able to take ideas and make them work where no one could before. Dr. Hargadon pointed to our area – the Hickory Metro -- and stated that we have an advantage because we have so many strengths and resources available that it is now just a matter of finding out the best ways that they fit together.

Dr. Hargadon talked about Apple Computer Co. He had worked there at one time. He was a mechanical product designer who worked on the number of the early laptop models. He spoke of the level of intelligence of the people that worked for Apple in the late 80s and early 90s. They had a mindset that they were going to change the world. He spoke of how these people thought that they were going to reinvent manufacturing. Their job was to redo everything that had ever been done and do it better.

While at Apple he was placed in charge of creating the smallest and most technologically advanced power supply to be placed in the new laptop computers that Apple was producing. He was given a $1 million budget and he stated that he spent it even though he later came to the realization that it really wasn't necessary. But, that was the way things were done then. Apple’s workforce was placed in charge of reinventing everything to change the world.

He believes that this is the reason why Apple almost went bankrupt in 1996. In 2001, when the iPod came out, he came to the understanding that Apple, as a company, had changed completely. The idea of the iPod is the antithesis of what Dr. Hargadon had experienced when he worked at Apple.

The iPod was the 15th MP3 player on the market. Apple had already committed to becoming the hub of the digital world and yet no one was building for that world. People did not care about the Apple Computer. It was only 1 1/2% of the market at that time. Apple realized that they would have to build their own MP3 player. Instead of going out and getting one, Apple realized that they needed to create a better network around their MP3 player.

They saw the first advantage of getting help to create this device by going to the consulting firm that designed the hardware for previous MP3 players and asking them to design a MP3 player like the others that the consulting firm had helped to designed. They next went and bought a software company to design the software for the iPod. Then they went out and did all the licensing necessary to create a proprietary MP3 player. By refusing to build a better mousetrap, they went from idea to market in eight months. None of the other MP3 players had this sort of seamless interface. They also saw that it as an opportunity to bring in the record labels.

In 2001, the record labels were famous for pursuing college kids for downloading music. Steve Jobs saw an opportunity and called up the chairman of Universal music. He spoke to him about the culture of the 1970s and the attitude of “down with authority” and the fact that now the record labels were that authority. Jobs asked, “Do you think the Internet is going to go away, which side do you want to be on?” The record labels did not have a viable Internet strategy and Jobs pointed out that Apple could help them create that opportunity. Apple created a digital rights management system that would mean that music would go on to the iPod and would not be transferred to other MP3 players. After that success, Apple went to the other record companies and this cemented the network that they were looking to establish.

Apple went on from there to create an interface that could utilize podcasts, Internet access, photos, television shows, and movies. Next they brought the chips in that were utilized in cell phone technology and created the iPhone. A Wall Street Journal journalist stated that the iPhone was the only technological device that became more valuable the longer that you owned it. It isn't the phone that is so valuable; it is all the other pieces of the network. 250,000 application developers have looked at ways to make the iPhone more valuable.

The real challenge for innovation is seeing the opportunities that are available. It is about the chance to create a new network where no network has been created before. It is about making sure that everyone in the partnership is getting something from it.

Dr. Hargadon next talked about the Barbie doll. Mattel did not invent the Barbie doll. It was designed after a doll that was sold in a tobacco shop in Europe that was not marketed to children. At that time, dolls sold in the US market were baby dolls that allowed girls to pretend to be their mother. The Barbie doll came along as one of the first successful aspirational dolls. It allowed girls to role-play as anything other than their moms. These dolls brought about a mindset of careers opportunities outside of the home.

Initially the toy buyers did not like these dolls. The first two companies that tried these aspirational dolls had failed. Mattel decided to create a network around a marketing campaign strategy over network television. Mattel began to advertise the doll on the Mickey Mouse television program. In 1958, of Mattel began to advertise on the “Mickey Mouse Show” television program, 75% of the viewing audience was watching this program. Mattel directly marketed the Barbie dolls to the children who then went to their parent and asked for them to purchase the doll. This was the beginning of children's television advertising.

Lego toys almost went bankrupt in the 1990s. They lost their demographic, because kids had more to do than play with Legos, which no longer fit into American children's lifestyle. Lego decided to go out and purchase the rights to the Star Wars franchise. Star Wars gave the children the story behind the building blocks.

Overnight, seven of their top 10 Legos products were from the Star Wars franchise. After a few years, they decided that they no longer needed the Star Wars franchise and they created their own story behind their products. Bionicles were centered around an Internet world where you can log on and see different characters with complex story lines. Now this product line has comic books, DVDs, and video games. This entire network is created around the plastic brick.

If one goes into a mass merchandise retailer today and purchases the “old-school” Lego products, they pay about one penny per brick. If one purchases one of these
New-line products, then they pay $.13 for the equivalent amount of material of the Star Wars franchise line. If one purchases the Bionicles product, then one pays $.22 for the equivalent amount of material. The difference is the network.

Printable M&Ms are now available. Mars Candy Company decided that they were missing out on a network that already existed. There are people who keep this product on their desk in their office. Mars looked at this as a way to enhance the connection. They bought an ink jet printer and experimented with vegetable-based ink and figured out a way to print two lines of 8 characters each of text onto an M&M.

“My M&M's” created the ability to go online and purchase a custom product. M&Ms that would normally cost $3 per pound cost the equivalent of $27 per pound when they are customized. This entire network was built in a tiny corner of the Mars factory, which was unlike everything else that they had built. They usually track M&M's by the ton as they are sold and this created a new network with their customers. This fundamentally change the way that they did business.

What we see is that people believe that if they don't have a great idea, then they should not move forward. People talk themselves out of the creation and implementation of a great idea, because they believe that someone else would've done it if it were a great idea. The question is who is going to see a great idea and bring it together in an effective network. People need to understand that they are just as capable as anyone else of taking an opportunity to create a network from it.

He gives the example of four undergraduates from UC Davis in the university’s entrepreneurship program who were brought together. They figured out a way to utilize microbes that could take municipal wastewater and turn it into biodegradable plastics. This saves enormous amounts on landfills and other expenses related to wastewater and when you run the numbers, you find that you make 10 times that on the biodegradable plastics. These four undergraduates who started this company have secured financing for $3.6 million and now they have a team of about 17 people. These are the kind of opportunities that are out there that people can reach for when they realize that the job is not to have an idea, their job is simply to be the ones that are aggressive and devoted to creating a network of support around the idea including investors and others.

Dr. Hargadon talked about William Gibson who coined the term cyberspace. Mr. Gibson was asked where he came up with his visions and how did he see this world that had come to fruition? He stated that it was relatively easy. He said he looks around and he sees people that are doing cool things and he follows them. The future is already here. It is just unevenly distributed.

The greatest opportunities we have as entrepreneurs and innovators is to take ideas that we see in one place and bring them into another and build a network around them to make them successful. We don't need to be geniuses to have a great idea. We need to recognize a good idea, when we see it, and recognize the networks that would make it great.