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Sunday, January 30, 2011

January Rant - The Pursuit of Excellence

The Tangled Web

Our governments have become dysfunctional from the top to the bottom. I am not saying that everyone associated with the government is bad. I know that there are people associated with the government who truly care about what they do. They want to create a better society. But, all it takes is a few bad apples to rot the bunch.

Fear is one of the common threads that keep people from acting upon any grievances they see. It isn't about sniping about a bad economy. It isn't about taking pot shots about every issue that we disagree about. It is about the "Us versus Them" attitude of many of the people from the dark side of governance. Those people who lose their way and become entrenched. The people who cannot even tell you their mission or their purpose; why they choose to serve. They look at many of the people they are supposed to be representing as enemies. I believe, if you aren't representing the interest of everyone, then you are serving against the will of the people! And that is a major problem.

If we look at local economic governance, we see very few of these people who have any educated understanding, rationale, or philosophy related to economics. Are they following the Austrian model? Keynesian? University of Chicago - Milton Friedman? Supply Side - Arthur Laffer? Where does their economic guidance come from? Would they have an inkling of an idea about what I am talking about?

I don't care if people mix the above philosophies, because as human evolution has taken place so have economic realities. I just believe there needs to be some deep thinking about the economic roadmap being laid out before us and the map is important on every level of the government. There needs to be some guidance and context associated with leadership's reasoning. And there needs to be communication with the citizenry about what the government is doing with the capital it takes in as tax revenues or borrows against future tax revenues.

There are problems in every part of this nation. We are seeing communities fall into disrepair as the fight against the forces of a mounting tsunami of debt are racked up from pushing systemic problems down the road. We are fast approaching a tipping point where these economic forces are going to crash down upon all of us. According to a US Census Data analysis, in 2010 nearly one in three working families struggled to meet basic needs. Under these mounting pressures, there are two approaches that will be displayed as we move forward. The easy route of human nature would be "Every man for Himself" as the panic sets in and we are already seeing the vestiges of this begin. The harder route will be the more moral route, the route of virtue, where we are all in this together.

Smaller government doesn't have anything to do with taxes, because as we see in this community we have a thriving bureaucracy. We see local governments looking to keep local taxes low, while requesting more money from Raleigh and Washington. What these local decision makers fail to understand is that the money comes from the same pie; the American People and their present and future earnings.

And it rolls downhill, because as we have seen before, when Raleigh falls short of revenue, then they look to the revenues of the counties and municipalities to make up the difference. When the State and Federal funds dry up, then there are holes in expenditures that have to be filled or vacated.

They are not going to say, "Hey, since you kept a solid financial structure, we're going to let you keep all of the money in your treasury account." They are going to expect as many pounds of flesh as from those who have spent freely. The State of North Carolina owes the Federal government $2.5 billion for unemployment insurance debt. Guess where most of that unemployment has occurred? Do you think that the State might want us to pay a higher weighted installment of this debt and the interest associated with it than areas with less unemployment? Would that not make sense?

Why are we here?

I understand all of the above fully, but what many don't understand is how to separate politics from economic realities. Simple politics is what is ruining this nation, because it does not provide leadership and it represents nothing. Basically, it makes no sense. The term used by Warren Pollock describes this perfectly, "Pseudoligica Fantastica" - Every Space dog has his Sputnik. This means Hyperbolic fake reasoning. Trying to sell people a load of B.S. and make them feel good about it.

The people of this nation need to man up and ask the politicos why they want to hold office and what actions they are going to take to implement their objectives. If they can't answer these questions with relevant answers that go beyond the prototypical soundbite, then they have no business holding office. The onus of self-reliance is always placed upon the American people. That we need to do our due diligence before voting, but what about those who represent us? If they can't be self-reliant upon their own brain to explain themselves and their core philosophy and values, then why would they want to hold a position of responsibility?

The Cause of the Mess

This is not about political party affiliation. This is about Individual Leadership and Responsibility. If the shoe fits, then you have to wear it. Look at the General Realities (as pointed out in the January 2010 Trends Research Institute Newsletter):

1) Both parties were party to the bailouts, so-called stimulus programs, and saving the too-big-to-fails (mega-bank Financial Institutions).

2) Both parties were party to renewing the (anti-liberty) Patriot Act, both supported intensified domestic spying, the torture of suspected terrorists, and the President’s right to order assassinations of American citizens.

3) Both parties maintained a bipartisan, unbroken silence on the crippling Pentagon budget and America’s ruinous “War on Terror.”

As the newsletter points out and I concur, many of the leaders of our government have a mindset structured around “glibness, manipulation and pathological lying to feed their grandiose sense of self worth, while callously lacking empathy for others.”

"Whether moral hypocrisy or mental pathology, until the United States acknowledges and comes to terms with its own reality, there can be neither salvation nor recovery. Until it honestly assesses its own behavior and motives, America will not find the truth that will set it free."

The Hound

No one needs to come preaching to myself or others associated with the Hound about our message. If you don't like what we have to say, you have no reason to shout us down or try to shut us up. You have as many, if not more, avenues to offer your interpretation of the times in which we live. Don't shoot down our message. Promote your own!

This isn't about mocking elected officials or people in the bureaucratic structure. There are issues where we firmly disagree with these people and it is not based upon pettiness. Where we disagree is that in the United States of America we are all supposed to be in this venture together. The people that I know aren't looking for equal outcomes, we are looking for the Pursuit of Happiness through Equal Opportunity.

If people would follow the philosophical principles of Honesty, Integrity, Honor, and Loyalty, then I truly believe that they would understand where I am coming from. I understand the need to look toward ones own interest; but in order to have depth as a human being, you have to look out for the well-being of those who surround you.

Pursuit of a cost cutting, "it's better than nuthin'," bottom line leaves you with a sense of emptiness and discontent, that you aren't fulfilling your destiny. Excellence is the only bottom line that I aspire to. When you take short cuts and compromise that bottom line, then you aren't creating good value. The pursuit of excellence creates beauty, which derives an innate pleasure and satisfaction. If you want to turn our fortunes around, then I ask you to join me in this endeavor.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

The State Of Hickory 2011

Trying to Evolve toward Modern Realities:

This is the third year in which I will try to describe the condition of Hickory, as the city and its surrounding area presently stand here in the year 2011. I tried to take into account opinions from across the socioeconomic strata and the demographics of this area. The Hound has definitely had an impact on local thought processes over the past two and half years. Many of the structures of governance of our area have fully embraced the legitimacy of the Objectives of the Hickory Hound. And I can show you areas where we have made a positive impact and contribution towards the future of Hickory.

I want to reiterate that this mission is not about any endeavor of personal ego or esteem. This mission is about the big picture. It is about getting Hickory back on track by bringing the local citizenry into the process of governance. A government of the people, by the people, and for the people with breadth and depth will most assuredly stand up on a firmer foundation. This foundation will allow us to have an economy and culture that is more resilient and able to weather tough times better than we have done over the last decade.

Over the last year, we have seen certain leadership entities continue to gain ground on positions that they have staked out in trying to resurrect the local economy back to a solid state. The Chamber of Commerce has continued to carry out actions related to creating new economic conditions of reality, while trying to retrench the manufacturing brands that the area has been known for.

Let's look at the associations that the Chamber has formulated related to Catawba Valley Community College, the Appalachian State partnership, Lenore-Rhyne University, the North Carolina Center for Engineering Technologies, the Small Business and Technology Development Center, and the lower levels of primary education through the efforts of the Champions of Education.

What we see is that the leadership of these entities has fully realized the need to craft a new paradigm of knowledge and education related to creative endeavors. This is what I tried to relate to the leadership and citizenry of this area, when I first entered into the fray related to the local economic-political-cultural arena.

What I related was that we had not modernized our manufacturing structure. We had rested on our laurels and expected the future to come to us. And what we found out is that evolution did come to us, and it was a harsh reality, because we were not prepared for it. I honestly believe that we have taken more than the initial steps over the last couple of years to address many of these issues, but we cannot stop here; because if we stop, then we are going to end up right back where we were or worse.

Economic Realities:

I believe that the most important accomplishment that the Hound brought to bear over the last few years was the lack of jobs and job quality in this community. I truly believe that the mindset has changed 180° from where it was in 2007. We have taken positive steps towards remedying many of the underlying systemic problems that created the environment that led to the economic malaise that we have faced over the last decade.

Statistics show that we lost nearly 25,000 jobs in Catawba County in the first decade of the new millennium and in the greater Hickory Metro the losses totaled over 47,000. Hickory was the worst area in the State in terms of job growth, we lost over 25% of our workforce. The next worst was Burlington, who lost nearly 16% of its workforce. Over the same period, both Raleigh and Wilmington added over 12%, to each of their workforces.

Currently manufacturing only makes up 28% of the workforce of Catawba County. Back in 1990 manufacturing made up 56% of our workforce. The median household income for Catawba County was $40,536 as of the 2000 census. The American Community Survey shows that median household income, as of 2009, is $41,116. This means that over a nine-year period the county only saw a growth in income for households of 1.43%. Over that same time, the Consumer Price Index in the United States grew by 23%. This means that to keep up with the cost of living, the year 2000 household income of $40,536 should be $49,950.38. What happened to that $8,834? Could you not use that money today?

We cannot go back and change history. We cannot change the unfair trade agreements that have damaged our area. What we have to do is understand the playing field. I did not express the above numbers as a way to cast aspersions or play the blame game. I just wanted to convey some of the contexts of the realities of the world in which we live. The world is changing at a fast pace and if you don't understand the rules, then you have zero chance of winning the game.

One of the things that stood out from these numbers, provided by Taylor Dellinger of the Western Piedmont Council of Governments in an address of Leadership Catawba, is that as of 2009 only 85.4% of total housing units in Catawba County are occupied compared to 92.7% in the year 2000. Over that time frame, the County saw total housing units increase from 59,919 in 2000 to 67,924 in 2009. The total number of occupied units is actually up by a little over 2,500. What this shows me is that we were definitely overbuilt during the decade. We were trying to build for growth that never occurred. As the economy has continued to sputter, a correlation in the tide of increased foreclosures has occurred.

What will occur if the community’s economy continues this malaise? People are already being forced to dial back and face economic realities. It seems to me that as more and more people grow frustrated with our community’s economy that they are going to be willing to walk away from their mortgage to move where they can live a more economically viable lifestyle. This will lead to even more excess capacity of unoccupied dwellings and housing values will at best be stagnant and at worst plummet.

Reality Sets In:

There seems to be a disconnect between local government and the marketplace. Who amongst our local leadership is communicating with local developers and real estate brokers to assess what is happening with the real estate market. Is this just a problem in the relationship between these two entities or is this how Hickory works with all sectors of the economy? Why aren’t City of Hickory officials going to experts and picking their brains about what is happening in the marketplace. That sure seems like a more logical process to assess the realities of current economic conditions.

In looking at local Hickory leadership, it seems like they have an excellent grasp of static accounting and finance, but they don't understand dynamic finance. Static accounting deals with ledgers and zero-sum (finite) budgets. Dynamic accounting and finance deals with investments in growth. Zero-sum accounting tends to be risk-averse and thus reduces the chance for losses, but it also minimizes the ability to grow. Zero- Summers tend to hoard things. Dynamic finance allows for the possibility of growth, while understanding that there are risks involved in any endeavors associated with less certain investments.

Our local government does not seem to have developed a sense of urgency. In other local communities that have seen some successes, it seems like their local leadership is more curious and aggressive in seeking information about making the marketplace work. The local community governments which seem to be struggling are led by administrators who are more worried about making the government machine work and keeping everything oiled and making sure the deliverables are delivered.

What you need is a team with all of the parts -- designers, engineers, and accountants. You have to make sure to not let any one of these forces take control. You need balance. Hickory is in good shape with short term finances, but it is not congenial with the other local communities. It is better than it once was, but it is not a deal making town. They don't know how to make a good deal.

The people, of this area, not just the government, have had an obsession with cost containment to the point of inhibiting growth. This mindset leads to low-balling people. Paying people less than they deserve, finagling contractors to do less than premium work to save a few bucks, cutting corners here and cutting corners there, etc... This is very much representative of the mindset and the direction I believe we have seen in this community.

It becomes a challenge to see what you can get out of others for as little as possible. That tends to P.O. people. The best deals are done to the benefit of both parties. Both parties need to get value out of the deal and when this happens further deals will be made. When you low-ball people, that might be good for one deal, but it tends to spoil the environment when it comes to making future deals and it builds a bad reputation and word gets out to where no one wants to deal with you in the future and there is no trust and/or faith that a good deal can be made, because the well has been poisoned. We can’t afford to burn bridges and unfortunately, in the past, we have seen people in this community who burned bridges for sport!

I don't say this to hurt anyone's feelings. I say this, because it is the perception of many of the people that I've talked to both inside and outside of this community. That perception has become a reality and it is going to take a lot of hard work to change the reality of that image. That is the reality of why a lot of people don't want to invest in Hickory.

The City Of Hickory:

The City of Hickory has shown that they are unwilling to listen. There have been many instances in the past, near and long tern, where professionals would have been willing to have a conversation about the important issues of the day. The City Council and City Staff always have had their mind made up before the processes even begin. The discussions become a charade, and people resent that.

As far as the people of Hickory, some people in this community want their point of view to be “THE” point of view and they aren't willing to have their point of view blend in and become part of the prevailing point of view. They aren’t willing to put in the intellectual effort needed to build a consensus. It becomes a game of petty politics.

We have an area that is right now at 1987 employment levels. While this did not happen linearly over the last decade, it also didn’t happen overnight. We got a big whack in 2001-2002 and then again in 2008. After 2001-2002, we continued to see some expansion. Houses were still being built and other economic expansion happened, including air service into the airport. Much of the bad news has happened in the last two years.

Where we are today is that we are a community that in the last 25 years has developed a lot of infrastructure and services in bulk to accommodate 186,000 jobs. And now there are only 130,000 jobs in the community. We can't shrink back to 1987. Our metro community is built out. Soon this infrastructure could be in danger of degrading; if we don't do something creative to start expanding economically again. There could be a problem with roads, because they must be maintained. Interstate 40 is a perfect example. Water and sewer -- we're in pretty good shape. In terms of capacity of natural gas, water, sewer, electricity; we are way under capacity in our utilization of these resources. And we have not done a good job of articulating that message.

Studies show Hickory at the bottom of the barrel of just about every national study that we have seen. We have lost the industrial base and the money that provided the capital for entrepreneurial activity to occur. Hickory satisfied an enormous market of furniture, textiles and hosiery, and later fiber optics. You can't expect those things to go on forever. You should expect them not to go on forever and we didn't expect either one. Our leaders weren’t making any plans to deal with the “what ifs.”

When one looks at progressive and well functioning entities, most of the organizations related to business in our area are dysfunctional.

If you wanted to make an immediate impact on Hickory under current circumstances, then you would have to get a couple of Fortune 500 companies the size of Century Furniture to relocate here. They would have enough political clout to be able to guide the city, but could our present leadership pull something like that off? This is fantasy stuff. What does a historical perspective show us? The thing you can do is that if you can’t change the minds of leadership, then you can change the leadership!

We don’t need leaders who are in the political arena to stroke their ego. We need leaders in this community who are thinkers and who are intellectually curious. We need leaders who know how jobs are created, because if they don’t, they could cause the loss of jobs and the empirical evidence of the last decade shows that this was a contributing factor in what happened to our job market. Our leaders lost sight of what businesses need to make employment viable.

Instead of working towards a vision of what could make Hickory better, it surely seems that we have seen Hickory City leadership more focused on their worries that they can make things worse. They have not inspired confidence. They give off a feeling that they don’t know the way out of this malaise. And it surely seems that there is an unwillingness to step up to the plate and say, “You know what… I may not know the way out, but maybe we can get closer to it, so follow me.”

I truly believe that if someone were willing to step up and actually show some real initiative, that even if it ended up being the wrong direction that it wouldn’t take long to readjust our sights toward the right direction. And I feel we would give that person (those people) a pass, because at least they’re willing to step up and say follow me. And at the end of the day, even though we may have found ourselves further lost, that leadership stood up and was willing to be held accountable. But, under our current circumstances no one wants to be held accountable, so we remain in the darkness.

When one looks at the City Council and the various Boards and Commissions that they stock, one sees participants who are very static and status quo. There is very little conversation that has anything particularly dynamic about it. Everybody is following each other, they go along to get along, and if someone pops up with something different it is dismissed. If someone plays the role of the devil's advocate and comes up with a different kind of idea, than what has been proposed, then it is deemed to be too controversial and that individual is quickly quieted and told not to make waves. If they continue on with their personal objective, then they are summarily ostracized.

Frankly, we have a lot of people in this town, who are place holders. They have been put into leadership positions based upon status. They were born into positions of prominence and they really have not earned the recognition that their stature holds. These people have not really shown the characteristics of success. They have inherited their position and they are expected to maintain what they have been given. Honestly, you never hear anything about these people's business acumen. What does this say?

I think that this contributes to the “Us versus Them” mindset that pervades this community. These people have a negative view of wealth. Money is not a means to an end for these people. It is an asset that must be hoarded and protected for ones own self interest. And it does not create more real wealth. It destroys it.

Many of the people in this community who were earning $100,000-plus a few years ago perceive that they are hurting financially. If they were making $150,000 per year and now they’re only making $100,000 per year, they will tell you how hard it is to live on $100,000 per year, when they are $50,000 short. Whose fault is that?

These people from the upper socioeconomic strata think they are hurting, but I honestly don’t think they understand or can empathize with how the middle and lower economic classes are scraping by. There is a difference between dialing back on luxuries and amenities and scratching out an existence. There are people who can’t afford healthcare. There are people who are skipping or eating inadequate meals. There are people who are living in cold houses this winter. They get no luxuries. And these aren’t ne’re-do-wells. These are people in this community just trying to survive this downturn!

I look at what has happened with the swimming pools in Ridgeview and West Hickory. And now there are rumblings that the city wants to close the Recreation Center in West Hickory. There is no plan to create any activity for the people, especially the youth, of these communities and the way that the situation was handled wreaked of intolerance. Our leaders in the past deemed these to be worthy investments, but today’s “leaders” don’t have the vision of our forebearers.

Again, we see an “Us versus Them” mindset from our leaders and that leads to an opposite and equal reaction of “Us versus Them” from the less privileged communities on the South Side of the tracks. Wonder what happens to the relationship of trust? During these hard times, when we need the community to be united, we see leadership that refuses to communicate with the people and a great disconnect that continues to fester right out in the open for all to see. Do you not think that people outside of this area take notice of this? Can anyone be that naive?

Asheville and Wilmington are two areas of the State that are still doing fairly well in this tough economy. There is lot of cultural diversity and acceptance in those two areas. These two areas have embraced tolerance. If you go to Wilmington or Asheville, you will see a much larger percentage of their restaurants are owned by local people and they have thriving, robust downtowns. Here in Hickory, the majority of our restaurants are corporate. I believe a lot of that has to do with this lack of cultural diversity problem that we see in this area.

What seems to have fostered this culture in the Hickory is the fact that only a few interests own much of the most viable business properties in the area. The path of least resistance was to bring the Chains in and get them to set up shop here. This earned those families a percentage of those corporate earnings, but it is hard for the mom and pops to compete against these huge corporations. I am not saying what is right or what is wrong. It is just an observation. This was the easiest thing to do. It was the path of least resistance. And it has created a climate where we see a huge disparity of income from the top to the bottom in this community.

We do not have an egalitarian culture or community here in Hickory. As a result of this dumbed down, cheap begets cheap mindset, the only people who benefit from this are the few people who own property in those strategic locations where they could funnel the local governmental interests towards their direction and take full advantage of their strengths of position and influence. This developmental progression fed off of itself until only a couple areas of the city experienced growth and most other parts of the city have become depressed. This has not been good for the structure of Hickory. It has created a corporate, top-down Boss Hogg culture.

Hickory’s loss of Relevance

Hickory's problem is that Conover is right down the road and Chronicle is right down the road from Conover. Do you know where Chronicle is? Chronicle, back in the history of Catawba County is an area that we loosely call today Sherrill’s Ford. In the past, the area at the junction of Highway150 and Highway 16 was called Chronicle. This is where the action is going to be in the future.

As Jay Adams expressed to me:

For years, with my transportation background and my real estate background, I have realized that the biggest and most thriving community in Catawba County does not even exist today and it is there (Chronicle). With the current economic situation, the circumstances are going to chill the expansion, and it is not going to happen as fast as I thought it would, but as the economy returns and as development occurs… and what we may see happening is that we may see a peer-to-peer lending mechanism emerge. And if that gets going, when the activity returns it is going to suck a lot of energy out of Hickory.
A key to entrepreneurialism is that you have to have some kind of a micro-lending function, because the people that create innovation, for the most part, are the hungry. That is where the expression comes from, “Necessity is the Mother of Invention.”

One of the issues with Hickory is that it is complete. This does not mean that it has to be the end of the story. What it means, is that from a commercial real estate point of view, Hickory has all it needs to satisfy what it is and until there are evolutionary changes, there is not going to be any more real development.

The people who long for what Hickory was, can't understand that we can't get back to what Hickory was demographically or structurally. Their longing for what we were is destroying our future. It is destroying our capacity to change. They are longing for that furniture and textile world. We can do more manufacturing, but it is going to have to be high tech manufacturing or unique craftsmanship. We won’t be building crate furniture or producing everyday textiles.

One of the major issues that the City and the County are going to have to take a stand on, is that if the Feds or the State try to impose regulations upon the local community, and they mandate that the local area enforce said regulation, then local administrations should not enforce that regulation, if it is not in the best interests of the people here on the local level. That is the attitude that it is going to take.

That kind of mindset might be beyond the grasp of the people in the Whitener building, because they look at the people in Raleigh as giving them the means to keep the bureaucracy alive. Hickory City officials seem to believe that Raleigh empowers them, while the officials in Conover are saying that business empowers us and Raleigh doesn't empower us. Raleigh, you empower Hickory, go empower Hickory and while you're doing that, we are going to be growing the business part of our community. Conover’s paradigm is the reality that needs to be embraced.

Look at the Manufacturing Solutions Center locating at the Conover Station. That is an LED of bright light for this area and that could be the genesis for a new kind of entrepreneurialism that we have not seen. And Conover grabbed ahold of it. Look at the Conover Station, Conover has a game plan designed for the future, while Hickory continues to grasp for the ghosts of the past.

In Defense of Hickory

There is a defense of Hickory. And we would do ourselves wisely, if we would articulate a message with some type of representation of what Hickory was and what Hickory is and can be in the future. Hickory was a remarkable place. It was not warm and fuzzy. In the 1990s, it was compared to Silicon Valley, because of its entrepreneurial spirit. Look at how fragile that was. Hickory is now a shell of what it once was. We have been hurt badly. A lot of it is just circumstance and we need to have an understanding for the reasons for those circumstances.

Hickory has been disparaged by all of the studies. Here's the study that says we're dumb. Here's a study that says we’re unhealthy. Here's a study that says we're not business friendly.

One of the things that we want to do is take it upon ourselves to make a counter argument to the studies that are out there. We want to reverse engineer those studies. We want to articulate: Are they measuring the wrong thing? What are their metrics?

Hickory is a very unique place. Look at a town such as Concord. It was a static, one horse town dominated by one business – Cannon Mills. It was a very simple life. If you weren’t in Kannapolis or Concord to do business with Cannon Mills, then you had no business being there.

Hickory, 25-plus years ago, was an area that offered unlimited possibilities for people who had an entrepreneurial spirit. It was a very aggressive and very innovative and very competitive environment. It wasn't a warm and fuzzy kind of place. It was a wide open business environment. We have lost so much of that tempo and that character over the last two decades.

Do you love Hickory? A lot of people just see what they can get out of it. To a lot of people it's just a place to live. If they loved Hickory, they would say, "I don't like the way this is happening and I think it can be done a better way," and they would take action to make the necessary changes that need to happen.

Let's come up with a way of defending Hickory. I believe that it is imperative that we defend Hickory and our honor. If people wake up and take it personally about the way we are being viewed by the outside world, then people who have an association with Hickory will, without even knowing it, begin to think about why they care about this community. And that is what we need to do. We need people to think about why Hickory is important to them?

Jay Adams conveyed to me about his father, a veteran from World War II :“
Post-World War II, my father worked in Kannapolis and was unhappy and then he got an opportunity to go into the fabric businesses and he found his way to Hickory. And when he brought me up here, first time in 1968, his enthusiasm for coming to Hickory was palpable. Dad was in his mid-30s in the mid 1940s when he came here and he loved Hickory, because it rolled. In the late 60s, Hickory was wide open. Dad said when he was in prison camp in World War II, the guys he was with just wanted to have the American dream. When we came to Hickory, Dad talked about the 250 furniture plants within 10 miles of where we were. He was like, isn’t that wonderful?

Dad said that Hickory was a place where a guy with a high school education can make a fortune, lose it, and make it again. He said, ‘show me another place like this.’ It was the land of opportunity and for dad it was the place that dreams were made of.” That is what it was.
As Scott Millar conveyed to the Future Economy Council last year:
“The people in this area back in the day had the entrepreneurial spirit, because they thought that they could do the job better than their boss. That is what caused most of the companies to start up around here. They didn’t get along with their boss.”
Today, we think that we need to educate the workforce, and we do, but is it the number one priority?. We are 14th out of 14 MSAs in the State in this regard. We are at the bottom. When we look at Raleigh, a university town, we see an area that manufactures “educated” people. These people are very uniform and structured. The Education system desires to impart the same uniformed “Structured” knowledge across-the-board. This objective means that everyone will come out with the same understanding of the same subject. Is that good for innovation and the creative process?

In the entrepreneurial town that Hickory was, people did not follow the above process. They would learn to do their job through on the job training. They would start thinking about ways that they could improve the product. They would go home and start tinkering and building a piece of furniture or two, then they would sell it. Next thing you know they had created a market for their product and they would have to find some people to help them, then they would have to find a bigger building to operate from, and next came the need for a new building – Bricks and Mortar. Look at all of the jobs that were created.

One thing that others have talked to me about related to our need to address our educational attainment issues relates to the possibilities of mashing up our innovative and entrepreneurial instincts to that deficiency and doing something that is not being done anywhere else. If we can do that, then we will have taken a big step towards showing the world why Hickory is not understood and we will have defined the value of Hickory as a center for innovation and ingenuity.

I do not want to limit the scope of possibilities, but when I think of a center of knowledge, I think of Thomas Jefferson’s original vision for the University of Virginia as an open center for knowledge. It was not to be devoted towards certifications, but instead a center for learning and finding information, where students were free to come and go as they wished. To me, lifelong access to extensive resources of knowledge at an affordable price should be the objective.

Hickory wasn’t a place 30 years ago where you came with education and made it. Hickory was a place where you came with initiative and made it. Your personal economic activity either paid off or it didn’t. And if it didn't pay off, then you learned from the experience, you weren’t disqualified. You got up on your feet and tried again. Hickory was the place where that could occur and that has great value. Harley-Davidson Skunk Works was here in Hickory. There was a reason for that!

In the End…

One of the biggest issues that I see is the lack of real congeniality and mutual respect amongst the people of this community. There isn’t an appreciation for one another’s roles in the make-up of the community. You need the people who supply the brains and you need the people who supply the brawn and both need to look out for one another’s interests.

You cannot mandate respect. This is not a new phenomenon. This has been going on for years. You have to have an appreciation for your fellow man in order to build a strong and viable eco-system. Experience shows that in order to be a good leader sometimes you need to dial back the intellect and be patient and listen more than you talk. Good listening skills are half of good communication. One needs be respectful and realize that the other guy, no matter their station in life, may see something that you have missed. You need to realize that if you earn their respect, they will be loyal to you and defend you. That is lost in Hickory.

You know, a lot of our fellow citizens have been beat down by the current economic challenges that we have faced in this community. They need their leaders to make them feel good about themselves. This does not come from gladhanding. They need to feel that they have the respect of the community and their contribution to making the City work is appreciated. People need that reinforcement of success, and we haven't had many successes in the community lately.

One of the things that I've seen from my experiences in life, is that if you go to work for a company and you have a bad apple in that company; the bad apple tends to stay, because the other people don't want to tolerate the bad apple, because they don't want to deal with them anymore. When you come into a community and there are a few bad apples that are keeping the community from progressing, those bad apples tend to stay, while the other people are picking up their bags and getting the hell out of there.

Unfortunately we are at that juncture and when the census data comes out, and if stories are written about Hickory's downfall, if that happens and there is a good possibility it will happen, then Hickory is going to be a poster child. Hickory could revert back and it is not out of the question that we could lose our MSA status. That would be remarkable and whether you judge it to be fair or not, it will have happened under the watch of Mayor Wright and City Manager Berry. It will be their legacy. It is the legacy of everyone who has been in power over this last decade, who has worked to maintain the status quo versus the need for urgent action.

As for the lesson to be learned; if you direct everything toward yourself and your thinking is that the whole aspect of any endeavor is to bring it home to yourself and not the greater community, it ain't good for the community. If your objectives are being misinterpreted, then you need to communicate better. But, insinuating that people's lying eyes are deceiving them goes against their better judgment and in the end no one is fooled.

In the past, Professional managers have come into the city and they have no ties to the city. There's not much commitment from these hired professionals. We need to have committed professionals in Hickory.

Hickory can’t be what it was, but it can be meaningful. It can be relevant. We must figure out how to take our available resources and optimize them. I believe that we can come up with innovations and make them go viral. It would be hard to pick out a community that has been hammered the way that Hickory has been hammered, but in spite of all the bad numbers and the ridicule, if you walk around this town, it does not feel all that bad. Hickory has stood on its own and will continue to stand on its own and we will continue to be a great place to live, if we address our issues with a sense of urgency, because if our structural economic issues are not addressed, then things can definitely get a lot worse.

Thank You and may God Bless this city and help us to help ourselves.

Special thanks to Harry Hipps, Joe Brannock, and Jay Adams. And to the others that helped contribute and influence this article.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Economy News Nightmare: 20 Things That You Should Not Read If You Do Not Want To Become Very Angry

From the Blog - The Economic Collapse - Link to Article

Today America is very, very frustrated. In fact, we probably have not seen this level of anger in the country since World War 2 ended. So why are so many Americans so frustrated and so angry right now? Well, for most Americans it comes down to the economy. Very few things are more frustrating than not being able to find a job that will enable you to pay the mortgage and feed your family. Middle class Americans that do have a little bit of money are digging into their savings and investments at a staggering rate as they desperately try to keep their heads above water. Millions of other families that do not have a "safety cushion" are on the verge of losing their homes or have already been callously tossed out onto the streets by big, greedy banks. Meanwhile, our politicians continue to burden us with increasingly larger amounts of government debt and they stand idly by as our jobs and our industries are shipped overseas. So even though the mainstream media seems absolutely puzzled by the growing anger in America, the truth is that it is not a great mystery. The economy is an absolute nightmare, and if it gets even worse people are going to become even more angry.

The mainstream media and our top politicians are running around proclaiming that the economy has turned around, and yet all of the important long-term economic numbers continue to get worse. Do they think that the American people are stupid?

Perhaps they are just trying to be "optimistic" and are trying to get us all to "believe" in the economic recovery.

Well, while it certainly does not hurt to "stay positive" and to "have faith" when there is some basis in reality for doing so, but what the mainstream media is asking us all to do is to stick our heads in the sand and to pretend that all of our horrific economic problems are not even there.

Until we recognize exactly what our problems are and how bad they have gotten we will never be able to come up with the appropriate solutions.

Our economy does not just need a "tweak" or two. Our economy is a total nightmare at this point.

The following are 20 things about our nightmare of an economy that you will not want to read if you do not want to become very, very angry....

#1 Today, millions of American families are digging deep into their savings and investments in a desperate attempt to stay afloat. Over the past two years, U.S. consumers have withdrawn $311 billion more from savings and investment accounts than they have put into them.

#2 15 billion dollars: the total amount of compensation that Goldman Sachs paid out to its employees for 2010.

#3 The number of American families that were booted out of their homes and into the streets set a new all-time record in 2010.

#4 Dozens of packages that we buy in the supermarket have been reduced in size by up to 20%. For example, there are now 2 less slices of cheese in a typical package of Kraft American cheese, and there is now 9 percent less toilet paper in a typical package of Scott toilet paper. So now, you may think that you are paying the same amount for these items that you always have, but the truth is that you have been hit with a large price increase.

#5 One Canadian company is making a ton of money shipping "millions and millions of dollars" worth of manufacturing equipment from factories that are being shut down in the United States over to new factories that are being set up in China.

#6 In America today, the wealthiest 20% own a whopping 93% of all the "financial assets" in the United States.

#7 Only 35 percent of Americans now have enough "emergency savings" to be able to cover three months of living expenses.

#8 47 percent of all Americans now believe that China is the number one economic power in the world.

#9 If the U.S. banking system is healthy, then why does the number of "problem banks" continue to keep increasing? This past week the number of U.S. banks on the unofficial list of problem banks reached 937.

#10 According to former U.S. Labor Secretary Robert Reich, the wealthiest 0.1% of all Americans make as much money as the poorest 120 million.

#11 U.S. housing prices have now fallen further during this economic downturn than they did during the Great Depression of the 1930s.

#12 According to some very disturbing new research, 45 percent of U.S. college students exhibit "no significant gains in learning" after two years in college.

#13 Americans now owe more than $884 billion on student loans, which is a new all-time record.

#14 The United Nations says that the global price of food hit an all-time record high in December, and the price of oil is surging towards $100 a barrel, but the U.S. government continues to insist that we barely have any inflation at all.

#15 The more Americans that are on food stamps the more profits that JP Morgan makes. Today, an all-time record of 43.2 million Americans are on food stamps, and JP Morgan is making a lot of money processing millions of those benefit payments.

#16 Back in 1970, 25 percent of all jobs in the United States were manufacturing jobs. Today, only 9 percent of the jobs in the United States are manufacturing jobs.

#17 Dozens of U.S. states are either implementing tax increases in 2011 or are considering proposals to raise taxes.

#18 The United States has had a negative trade deficit every single year since 1976.

#19 The U.S. national debt has crossed the $14 trillion mark for the first time, and at some point during 2011 it will cross the $15 trillion mark.

#20 What the U.S. economy really needs is for the government to get off all of our backs, but instead they continue to tighten their grip on us. In fact, the Obama administration is proposing a "universal Internet ID" that would watch, track, monitor and potentially control everything that you do on the Internet.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Legislative Issues/ Economic Outlook Forum - January 20, 2011

Purpose - The long session of the NC Legislature begins on January 26th with a Republican majority for the first time since the 1880’s. The US and world economies have been in a serious recession and the new Republican majority in the house of Representatives will be trying to enact more conservative and pro-business policies to stimulate the economy again.

On the local front, the Economic Development Corporation is marketing this area and successfully targeting Highway 321 as the NC Data Center Corridor. The Chamber stands behind the fact that small business have to be our number one job creator in the future and what are they doing to stimulate not only new entrepreneurs, but helping existing businesses stay in business and be more competitive! This event is about these issues and other economic and political policies and strategies that will have a significant impact on Catawba County’s road to recovery.

Dr. Garrett Hinshaw
- President of Catawba Valley Community College - Made the introductions and moderated the event.

Photos copyright: ©2011 Pat Appleson Studios, Inc. All Rights Reserved, Used By Permission

Fox News Interview with Tom Donohoe President of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce - What Business Wants - Jan 11, 2011 - 4:32 - Chamber of Commerce cautiously optimistic about economy - Video at the Link

Moore Hallmark, Executive Director, U.S. Chamber of Commerce Southeast region - Immediate priorities are regulatory restraint and reform, expanding foreign trade, reducing national spending and debt, and rebuilding America's Economic Foundation. Mr. Hallmark stated how much we need to work on infrastructure.

Lew Ebert, President, North Carolina Chamber of Commerce - Mr. Ebert recognized the state representatives from our area. He addressed the political landscape and challenges facing the State of North Carolina. This is the first time ever that Republicans control both the house and senate in the State.

Mr. Ebert spoke of 4 numbers that describe our economy (34, 300, 300,000, $3.7 billion) 34 years since the State of NC had an unemployment level this high. 300 is the number of net new jobs created since the year 2000; 300,000 is the number of jobs lost in the last 2 years; $3.7 billion is the size of our State's deficit we are facing.... $2.5 billion is how much the State of North Carolina owes to the Federal Government for cost overruns associated with unemployment.

We will face the budget deficit challenges over the next 2 to 4 years. temporary taxes administered two years ago to address the deficit will sunset this year. A goal of the Chamber is to address the State's worker's compensation system. Costs are rising despite the fact that we are one of the safest States to work in. North Carolina's system is one of the few that allow lifetime benefits. Costs have nearly tripled since 1996. The cost of doing business in north Carolina is a priority.

Harry Davis, Professor of Banking at Appalachian State University - Professor Davis went over some excellent information. In previous recessions residential home construction was the engine that drove the recovery, but it does not exist presently. The rates of growth in this "recovery" are half of what they were in past recoveries. Personal debt is improving, but it is still way out of whack. Consumer credit is recovering somewhat. Increased spending is coming out of income, instead of debt.

U.S. Corporations are sitting on more cash than they have had in 50 years. The Bush tax cuts should have been dealt with sooner, because businesses have sat on the sidelines until they were certain what the business climate would be. This year could be the most profitable for S&P companies in History.

The unemployment rate went down from 9.8% to 9.4%, because 265,000 people left the labor force. We need to add 250,000 jobs per month to maintain the rate. In the first year coming out of the 80-82 recession, we added 3 million jobs. In 18 months in this recovery we have added 1.3 million. We have 6 million people who have been out of work for 27 months (long term). The highest that number has ever been previously was 2 million in 2001. Most economists believe it will take 5 to 6 years to recover those jobs. Every time we go through a recovery, it takes longer to get back the jobs.

We have a structural, systemic problem. We have people in jobs, that when they lose them, aren't going to come back. Manufacturing and construction jobs aren't going to come back. As the economy picksup, they are left on the sidelines. These people are going to have to deal with geography and go somewhere where their are jobs. North Carolina lost more jobs in November than any other State in the Union.

Do the States do any better at budgeting than the Federal government? Professor Davis argues that most States don't. he doesn't include NC. He talked about housing and he states that our nation gets it backwards. We have subsidized housing to creaste jobs. We need to subsidize jobs to grow housing. Who is going to buy all of these houses, when the boomers retire. What are we going to do with these houses?

The Boomers are creating a huge change in demographics that will create problem with economic growth because of changes in consumption and savings. The Boomers will be living off of their wealth, while the numbers of people gainfully employed will be decreasing.

The government cannot continue to spend deficits as a percentage of GDP (the total National Economy), we are currently spending 25% of the economy. If this continues, we will run deficits forever. It used to not be as bad, because we owed it to ourselves; now we owe it to Foreign Nations and Foreign interests.

We need policies that promote growth, more free trade, less government and regulation, incentives for business, infrastructure, human capital and worker preparation... We need our children to be educated in jobs that are needed, such as engineering. This is going to be slow progress over the next several years.

Scott Millar, President, Catawba County Economic Development Corporation - North Carolina is facing structural long term challenges. We need business incentives, that is just the reality. Every community is being very aggressive to try to solve these problems.

We have to have product to market in order to attract businesses. Multi-jurisdictional parks to to be ready and accessible for fast moving opportunities. This is what happened with Apple. They are currently working with a group in Claremont. They are also working with others in the county.

The North Carolina Data Center corridor is recognized as a hotspot by national consultants and Scott has heard this from his colleagues. This will afford more opportunities. They are examining related aspects in our local communications industry. We have had a manufacturing advantage in this sector. How do we exploit and synthesize the communication and information industries toward other opportunities. Where is the kernel we can market. We need to quantify the advantages we have over other areas.

The merger of Duke Energy and Progress Energy can lead to opportunities for our area. Nuclear and Renewable (alternative) energies can provide opportunities. The Eco-Complex will lead to avenues and opportunities in the near future. The Manufacturing Solutions Center can lead to opportunities in niche manufacturing, which will create jobs on a small, but very important, scale.

They are trying to recruit non-manufacturing service sector jobs, such as Fiserv and Convergis. These jobs are fragile, because of the changing economy and technology and the ways we do business. They are trying to make sure that local existing industries can compete and understand and access existing opportunities. Scott also addressed legislation related to existing industries. He talked about mismatches of priorities for funding of different levels of government and the problem with the current tiering structure format related to economic incentives.

Photos copyright: ©2011 Pat Appleson Studios, Inc. All Rights Reserved, Used By Permission

Danny Hearn, President, Catawba County Chamber of Commerce - Danny talks about individuals who are looking to start up companies, the heart of entrepreneurialism. He introduces Michael Neely, Owner of Blind Squirrel Digital, who also addresses the group.

Photos in video copyright: ©2011 Pat Appleson Studios, Inc. All Rights Reserved, Used By Permission

The hope is to create more small businesses in our area. This is where new job creation is going to come from. Are we making it easy for these businesses to start, grow, and thrive?

Mike Neely goes into his reasons for locating to North Carolina. he has previously worked for EA Sports and several feature film projects. He moved here to improve his family's quality of life. He likes the structure of the cost of business in the area. Currently Blind Squirrel Digital is working on several projects including newly released iPhone games and production of laser multi-touch screens. He speaks of the technological assets that we have in the Greater Hickory Metro.

Danny took the mic back and talked about what he has implemented over the last few years including Brainstorming teams associated with The Chamber's Entrepreneurial Roundtable Group. IBM stated that the number one need to succeed in the future is creativity and innovation. How do we create new ideas? The Chamber has created several mechanisms to create this climate of creativity.

The Edison Project will be a start-up entrepreneurial competition for anyone who has a new business idea that they want to bring to the marketplace. Applications will be approved this week. They will be accepted until May and in July and August the top ten will be announced and in September a major event will be held and these nominees will give 5 minute presentations and one of these nominees will receive $10,000 and thousands of dollars in pro-bono awards (legal, accounting, business management). What you get is not only a winner, but 40 or 50 other good business ideas.

Photos in video copyright: ©2011 Pat Appleson Studios, Inc. All Rights Reserved, Used By Permission

The Future Economy Council is a Think Tank, where we met Michael Neely and Houston Harris. A partnership with the Collaborative labs from St. Petersburg College in St. Petersburg, Florida will allow an 8 hour simulation process that will work towards creating a Strategic Economic Development Plan for Catawba County on March 11, 2011. The Chambers Annual meeting will include 20 businesses that are a sampling of the technologically innovative companies in our area. We should be proud and spreading the world. We need to find more. What does the logo "Start Something Here" mean? It is a portal site that will be introduced on February 17, 2011 at the Chambers Annual meeting.

The Hound believes the above was a positive event that should inspire the community to get to moving on various initiatives meant to direct the community towards a positive direction in the upcoming year. It was a meaningful event rooted in the realities of today, while creating inspiration for the possibilities of tomorrow.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Newsletter about the City Council meeting of January 18, 2011

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 1/18/2010 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. Minnie Bryant of Mt. Pisgah AME Zion Church

Consent Agenda:

A. Voluntary Contiguous Annexation of the Property of Martha Killian Located at 523 29th Avenue Drive, NW

B. Approval of Audit Contract With Martin Starnes & Associates, PLLC for Fiscal Year End June 30, 2011 in the Amount of $42,000.00 - Martin Starnes & Associates, PLLC has a three (3) year contract with the City to audit their books. Fiscal Year 2011 will be the second year of the contract. This years’ fee of
$42,000.00 is a 2.44% increase from last year’s fee of $41,000.00. Staff recommends approval.

C. Request From Hickory Downtown Development Association for Use of Union Square for 2011 Swinging Under the Stars on May 29, 2011 From 12:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m

D. Citizens’ Advisory Committee Recommendations for Assistance Through the City of Hickory’s Housing Programs - The following applicants are being recommended for approval for assistance under the City’s Housing Rehabilitation Program:
Joyce Brown Amount not to exceed $10,000.00 242 8th Avenue Drive, SW
Sarah Lopes Amount not to exceed $10,000.00 404 3rd Avenue Drive, SE
Funds for the above are budgeted through the City’s former Rental Rehabilitation
Program income received in FY 2009 and/or program income received through the City’s
Community Development Block Grant Program.

Applicant Ruth Morgan of 1483 3rd Street Place, SW is being recommended for approval for assistance under the City’s 2010 Urgent Repair Program for emergency-related repairs not to exceed $5,000.00. Funds are budgeted through the City’s Community Development Department funding received in FY 2010-11.
The Citizens’ Advisory Committee recommends approval of the above applicants.

E. Acceptance of VISION 100 Grant From the North Carolina Division of Aviation to Prepare a Stormwater Pollution Prevention Plan (SWPPP); a Spill Prevention, Control and Countermeasures Plan (SPCC) and to Assist in Runway Approach Obstruction Removal/Land Acquisition - The City of Hickory has been awarded a VISION 100 Grant from the NC Division of Aviation in the amount of $166,667.00 to prepare a Stormwater Pollution Prevention Plan and a Spill Prevention, Control and Countermeasures Plan mandated by the NC Department of Environment and Natural Resources and NC Division of Aviation. In addition to these plans, the grant includes assistance in the Hickory Regional Airport’s
Runway Approach Obstruction Removal/Land Acquisition Project. The project includes tree removal, possible land acquisition due to the removal of trees, surveying, etc. The federal share of the grant is $150,000.00 with the City’s share being 10% or $16,667.00.

F. Approval to Allocate Funds for Completion of Clement Boulevard Connector Project in the Amount of $430,423.00. - Additional funds are needed to close out the Clement Boulevard Connector Project which is 98% complete and open to the public. The additional costs include work on the US 321 median north of the Clement Blvd. NW intersection, i.e. engineering and construction costs totaling $65,000.00 along with additional construction costs to include required US 321 overlayment by NCDOT, concrete retaining wall revisions, additional traffic control message boards, sewer line relocation, guardrail for railroad gates, landscaping materials and intersection safety bollard materials totaling $365,423.00. A budget amendment is needed in the amount of $430,423.00 due to unanticipated requirements by the NCDOT,
design conflicts and adjustments to unit price quantities.

G. Budget Ordinance Amendment No. 13

1. To budget a $444 insurance claim check from Allstate Insurance Company in the Police Departments Maintenance and Repair line item. This payment is for damage sustained to a police vehicle on 11-06-10.

2. To budget a $5,056 insurance claim check from Trident Insurance Company in the Parks and Recreation Departmental Supplies line item. This payment is for the fire loss of appliances in the Henry Fork River Regional Recreation Park picnic shelter.
January 18, 2011 3

3. To transfer $6,826 from the Street Division Right of Way Acquisition line item to the Grace Chapel Rd./321 Connector Project Right of Way Acquisition line item. This is to budget the Right of Way acquisition expenditure in the Multi-Year Grant Project Fund instead of the General Fund.

4. To transfer $115,872 of unspent Capital Reserve Funds from Solid Waste to the Clement Boulevard Project. To transfer an additional $22,283 from the Water and Sewer- Fund Balance Appropriated and $292,268 from General Fund Balance- Appropriated to the Clement Boulevard Project. Costs for this project have exceeded the current funding due to unanticipated requirements from NCDOT, design changes to resolve utility conflicts, and final adjustments to unit price quantities. A total of $430,423 is needed to complete the Clement Boulevard Connector project.

H. Capital Project Ordinance Amendment No. 3
1. To budget a $115,872 transfer of unspent Capital Reserve Funds from Solid Waste in the Clement Boulevard Project. To budget a $22,283 transfer from the Water and Sewer- Fund Balance Appropriated and a $292,268 transfer from General Fund Balance-Appropriated in the Clement Boulevard Project. Costs for this project have exceeded the current funding due to unanticipated requirements from NCDOT, design changes to resolve utility conflicts, and final adjustments to unit price quantities. A total of $430,423 is needed to complete the Clement Boulevard Connector project.

New Business - Public Hearings:
1. Acceptance of Newly Proposed Hickory By Choice 2030 Comprehensive Plan - The Hickory Regional Planning Commission on December 1, 2010 voted unanimously to recommend the acceptance of the newly proposed Hickory By Choice 2030 Comprehensive Plan. Staff recommends acceptance.

a. Approval of Revised City of Hickory’s Land Development Code by Ordinance - The Hickory Regional Planning Commission on December 1, 2010 unanimously voted to recommend approval of the newly revised Land Development Code. The Planning Commission found the Land Development Code to be consistent with the proposed Hickory By Choice 2030. Staff recommends approval.

b. Approval of Revised City of Hickory’s Official Zoning Map by Ordinance - The Hickory Regional Planning Commission on December 1, 2010 unanimously voted to recommend approval of the newly revised Zoning Map. The Planning Commission found the Zoning Map to be consistent with the proposed Hickory By Choice 2030. Staff recommends approval. These public hearings were advertised in a newspaper having general circulation in the Hickory area on January 7 and January 14, 2011.

Newsletter about the City Council meeting of January 18, 2011 - Addendum Hickory By Choice 2030

B. New Business - Departmental Reports
1. Quarterly Financial Report - This year, the city is looking at problems with the general fund. So far with 50% of the year complete, the city has seen 56.38% of its revenues received, and the five-year average shows that 56.31% should have been received. The city feels that the numbers are good news. him him as to the 30 tax revenue comes in November, December, and January. The numbers so far reflect the revenues from the November and December, and once January's revenues come in that war reflect 95% of the monies that the city receive ( from property tax revenue). These numbers reflect less volatility in the revenue streams compared to what the city has seen over the last few years.

On the expenditure side, the five-year average shows that we should be at 48.71%%, but we're running above that and 50.02%. The numbers reflect a couple of projects that the city has going on.

The bottom line on the general fund is that the city has spent $4.28 million more than has been collected. The five-year average shows that the city should have spent right at $4.6 million more than it collected. city is close to where he they should be on these numbers. This is worse most of the city's struggles have been.

The water and sewer fund is the second-biggest fund and it makes up over 25% of the budget. With 50% of the year complete, the five-year average says that we should have received 45.4% of revenues. The city has received 45.2% of revenues. On the expenditure side the five-year average shows that the city should be at about 45.3% expended, but we are above that at 50.8%, because of the money invested in the Northeast waste water treatment plant project. the deficit and are expenditure should clean itself up over the next several months of the fiscal year. Money has been moved out of the water and sewer fund to the Northeast waste water treatment fund and other capital projects. If this is factored out, the numbers are in line.

Revaluation and property tax revenue, in talking to the county, the revaluation process has the initial numbers set for the city flat. Warren states that this is good news, because they believed that there would be a decline.

The concern is that there will be appeals. the volume of the level of appeals is the same as it was four years ago. The bad news is that the value of the appeals is higher. The County cannot give him the number. In Hickory, we are anticipating a loss of $76 million in properties tax base through the appeals (that would mean $380,000 in lost revenue for the city. Based on a $.50 per $1000 tax assessment). This will be built into the budget.

Property tax collections for the first half of the year or $15.7 million compared to $15.1 million for this time last year. Warren believes that this shows the trough of the recession was in 2009-2010. Property tax portion of the budget represents 68% of the total budget. The city continues to struggle with building permit activity over the last several 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. the city is meeting its revenue projections own sales tax revenues. The numbers have not rebounded, but they have stabilized.

2. Approval of 2011 Federal Legislative Agenda - City staff has prepared a Federal Legislative Agenda for 2011 which lists key issues and talking points to discuss with our legislative delegation, which contains the City’s views on potential legislation or initiatives to change current laws along with projects that the City is seeking additional funding for with the help of members of our delegation. The Legislative Agenda is an important communication tool that guides staff and city leaders to successfully deliver the message on key issues. City Council will use this agenda with our Federal delegation in Washington, DC. Staff recommends approval.

a. Approval of Four (4) Goals by the City of Hickory for Submittal to the NCLM Advocacy Agenda for Consideration by the Board and Voting Delegates on January 20, 2011 in Raleigh
- For the first time, the NC League of Municipalities (NCLM) is hosting a conference in Raleigh on January 20, 2011 for North Carolina cities to come together to develop a Legislative Agenda of priority items for the NCLM to pursue during the 2011 Long Session General Assembly. The City of Hickory has four (4) goals to submit for consideration that includes opposition to Interbasin Transfers; proposed changes to the economic tier methodology; recommendation of allowing counties to distribute E911 funds to secondary PSAPs and opposition to collective bargaining while strengthening current State law.

Ms. Surratt stated, several of the key issues that would be the focus of the federal legislative agenda for that the city of Hickory. Amongst those was the support of federal infrastructure legislation that uses a fair, fiscally responsible approach to regulations and rule changes. This would support infrastructure financing for transportation, wastewater, water and storm water. The city of Hickory supports the National League of cities in their efforts to seek legislation to provide that the additional funds for municipal and for structure, including long-term permanent sources of dedicated revenue, additional local option revenue sources, and state bond packages for and for structure needs.

The city opposes new EPA ozone standards, and opposes any reduction in ozone standards without the provision of resources that would allow the city and its partners to engage in additional reduction strategies.

During the discussion, Ald. Lail asked if this did not reflect the priorities set with Marlowe, lobbying firm, that were goals that they felt could be more easily achieved during the year. This does not reflect the priorities of the city in regards to transportation. This is not an all encompassing list.

Ald. Lail stated that he had a problem with to of the league of municipalities goals. He does not agree with supporting the expansion of the sales tax to include services or seeking legislation to revise the local transfer tax so that they can be adopted without a referendum. He does not support either one of those and he might be supportive if he gave authority to cities if they so chose to lead the this sales tax, but he reads this to be statewide and he cannot be supportive. He also does not believe that we should support legislation to change the way the local land transfer tax should be adopted. Just in order to make it easier to be adopted. There is a mechanism for counties the citizens to throw that tax in, if they so choose. The Mayor stated that the position on the sales tax is that it should be revenue natural. There is no basis to try and raise taxes to the state of North Carolina. Ald. Lail stated that he supports a motion to instruct the delegate to vote day on those two items. The Council voted unanimously to consent to voting no on those two items.

The Mayor stated that over the next few years he is going to call more people to go to Raleigh. The Mayor made a motion to support the other items on the agenda, which was unanimously consented to and Ald. Lail made a motion to appoint. Mayor Wright as the delegate representing Hickory at this conference, which was unanimously approved.

The Hound believes that the city should support legislation to readdress trade agreements on the federal and state level. That is the 10,000 pound elephant in the room related to our local economic problems. These agreements are not working. I am not against free trade when it is a two way street, but when these rules and regulations of foreign nations are not equal to our own, then we cannot compete and we will continue to see this race to the bottom that is destroying our economy, especially here on the local level.

This is where I have a problem with the Republicans. They seem to have just as much of a problem understanding economics as the other side does. There has to be a level playing field when it comes to foreign trade. That is what has destroyed our manufacturing base and thus the reason why we don't have a growing tax base or revenues to provide the amenities to enhance the quality of life of our local citizens. This has been going on for years, and other than weak attempts to address these concerns, I don't believe our local leaders have truly forced this issue. It's like they have given up. I think it should be the top priority on any agenda. Especially as far as federal legislation

We will never empower ourselves through government handouts and debt. We will only be able to strengthen ourselves by strengthening the foundation and principles of our local economy. What does that more?

The local economy, standard of living, and quality of life can only be improved by the expansion of commerce in the area. What are we doing as part of our local government initiatives to get this back on track?

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Newsletter about the City Council meeting of January 18, 2011 - Addendum Hickory By Choice 2030

New Business - Public Hearings:
1. Acceptance of Newly Proposed Hickory By Choice 2030 Comprehensive Plan - The Hickory Regional Planning Commission on December 1, 2010 voted unanimously to recommend the acceptance of the newly proposed Hickory By Choice 2030 Comprehensive Plan. Staff recommends acceptance.

a. Approval of Revised City of Hickory’s Land Development Code by Ordinance - The Hickory Regional Planning Commission on December 1, 2010 unanimously voted to recommend approval of the newly revised Land Development Code. The Planning Commission found the Land Development Code to be consistent with the proposed Hickory By Choice 2030. Staff recommends approval.

b. Approval of Revised City of Hickory’s Official Zoning Map by Ordinance - The Hickory Regional Planning Commission on December 1, 2010 unanimously voted to recommend approval of the newly revised Zoning Map. The Planning Commission found the Zoning Map to be consistent with the proposed Hickory By Choice 2030. Staff recommends approval. These public hearings were advertised in a newspaper having general circulation in the Hickory area on January 7 and January 14, 2011.

The History of Hickory by Choice at the Hickory By Choice 2030 Website:
Draft Copies of the document are available on the Planning Department Homepage.

Hickory By Choice Workshop: 5th meeting (2/9/2010 )
Hickory By Choice 2030 Workshop: 4th Meeting
Hickory By Choice 2030 Workshop: 3rd Meeting - (Unable to attend this meeting)
Hickory By Choice 2030 Workshop: 2nd Meeting

Why the original Hickory By Choice doesn't work
Hickory By Choice 2030 Workshop: 1st Meeting
Studio Cascade awarded contract at November 4, 2008 City Council meeting

The city's planning director Brian Frazier made the presentation and went over a few of the specifics of Hickory by Choice. Summarizing, Hickory by choice was originally adopted by the City Council in 1999, the revision called Hickory by Choice 2030 provides a long range vision and blueprint for growth and development. There are 10 specific elements included and related to the plan, including history, demographics, public utilities, development, housing, Parks and Recreation, etc. In early 2009, the city contracted with "Studio Cascade" to provide plan consulting services and to assist staff in updating the original Hickory by Choice. In February 2009, City Council appointed a 16 member advisory committee to provide input throughout the process. The advisory committee met over a dozen times throughout the process. Staff held six public workshops. In November 2010, City Council held three public workshops.

Staff also made presentations to various boards, commissions, neighborhood associations, and the Chamber of Commerce. The Hickory Regional Planning commission held public hearings on October 27 and December 1, 2010 and voted unanimously to recommend approval of the plan city Council.

The notable changes in the new document will convert the original plan into a truly comprehensive plan. The plan encompasses the realities of existing demographic and economic conditions. It also reduces the size of the planning area to existing annexation boundaries, reduces the number of mixed-use centers from 16 to less than a dozen, and designates a central business district. The plan also forms revitalization areas in distressed parts of the city that will have special enhanced design standards and provide opportunities to target some of the city's grant programs that foster adaptive reuse of the areas. The plan also changes residential density terminology. The current terminology has caused many problems in the administration of Hickory by Choice and the Land Development Code.

The Land Development Code, which is the legal implementation of Hickory by Choice, was adopted by the City Council in 2001. It has been amended 36 times since its initial adoption.

Notable changes to the Land Development Code include the reduction in the overall size of the document. Mr. Frazier states that the new Land Development Code will be more user-friendly. Additional graphics and illustrations should improve the implementation and interpretation of the document by showing examples, which will reduce ambiguity. One of the goals was to eliminate redundancies and inconsistencies within the document. Another goal was the creation of broad use categories to reduced complexity of land-use table.

Other notable changes are the reduction in the number of base zoning districts, utilization of conditional zoning, simplified and more flexible design standards, less onerous redevelopment standards, creation of different standards for centers versus core doors, and simplified design standards.

The reason for different standards for mixed-use centers versus the corridors is that having the same standards created a dumbbell effect between the centers where you cannot tell the difference between the areas between centers and the centers themselves. There is not a sense of place because of this. A prominent example of this is Highway 127 in Viewmont. They have tried to simplify the signage standards and cut down some of the verbiage and add photos.

Ald. Lail stated that there were some issues related to signage that were discussed at workshops that he thought would be discussed tonight as separate items. Mr. Frazier acknowledged that there were some concerns about signs related and went into details related to this. Many of these details were discussed at the last City Council meeting of January 4, 2011. He stated that these issues were still unresolved and open for debate. These issues are reflected. The recommendations of the Planning Commission are reflected in this Hickory by Choice document that has been presented this evening to the City Council.

Attorney Crone asked if there had been any changes between what the Planning Commission recommended in the document that was being presented. Mr. Frazier answered no. A piece of property in the Kool Park area was changed to reflect a change of land-use for that property. Mr. Crone further asked if this wasn't part of the Planning Commissions recommendation and is Mr. Frazier asking the council to approve the LDC that was approved by the Planning Commission soes it reflect that change. Mr. Frazier stated that the Planning Commission made no recommendation and decided to leave it as it was without an official recommendation and allow the Council to decide.

The Mayor asked if anyone would like to speak against the plan.

In speaking in opposition to the plan, citizen Deb McNeur stated that she was very concerned with what she had heard and read, that there is to be a Southern corridor that takes in HWY 321, Robinson Road, and 13th St. Southwest. Several years ago her neighbor had their property rezoned O and I because they teach music lessons and they had enough students that they had to do that. They were told by the Realtor that they could get big money if he would allow them to sell their property. She stated that when she informed the property owner of how the zoning rules really work, that he changed his mind and did not sell the property and he was really upset about the whole ordeal.

In regards to the whole process. She stated that the Realtor had told her that eventually the zoning would change to commercial in that area and they would be developing it. She stated that she was worried when she saw that 13th St. was on the list of the proposed zoning changes. From what she has gathered, if the property is zoned commercial and the property is not developed for a while, then if something happens structurally to the home, she would not be able to replace the damaged home and she could only get the insurance monies that were available. And if the land were chosen to be developed through eminent domain, then she would only get the property value.Her mother has lived and grown up in the neighborhood her entire life and has lived in the present house for 48 years.

Ms. McNeur said she is also concerned for herself, because of the property that is next door and zoned O and I. Her concern is about when such development takes place, where will they live. They could not take the assessment property value and afford to buy another house. She stated that she and her mother are concerned about what world people really live in. It causes them to have a little bit more understanding about why there aren't enough rooftops for a real grocery store, and why they were losing the pools and gymnasium in that area. They wondered why the neighborhood is being eliminated.

Jimmy Davis came to the podium and said he had one question. In this 2030 plan, where is Ridgeview and where are the plans for Ridgeview, because he is concerned with Ridgeview and the historical Black community.

Larry Pope next addressed the Council and stated that he had similar concerns related to what Ms. McNeur had stated. When property goes from residential to commercial, then he knows what happens to the property because his mother's property in his old home on 3rd Ave Southwest went from residential to commercial. They were told and have learned over the years that if anything had happened to the property that they would not be able to rebuild the house. They have another property behind the house, which used to be a rental property, but because of the amount of work that it was going to take to bring the house up, they had a choice, they could use the house for storage or they can spend thousands of dollars and if anything happened to the house, they could not rebuild the house, because the house had been rezoned commercial.

He knows what Ms. McNeur is saying about her mother, because when they (the City) came in on 12th St., between Grandview Elementary and Wendy's and closed off the road, the plans initially were to redevelop the area commercially. His concern is that you start at 13th and 12th make a commercial area and from there where do you go? You go on down 4th St Southwest and make it all commercial. We are realistic and we know, the Ridgeview community knows that Ridgeview is the only thing that stands between Highway 70 and downtown Hickory. As long as that residential community exists, then the city will never be able to develop Highway 70 SW to downtown Hickory. They have cut roads around us and on both sides. When they did 4th st and Built Hwy 127 along 2nd St. Southeast. Let's not take away from historical communities that want to exist and should exist, because the folks that live in that community are proud of the community. Most of the people that live in this area are senior citizens and don't have the money. And yes they are planning a development over in Green Park, but $120,000 is unaffordable to most of the people in this area.

Mr. Frazier answered the issues that had been brought forth from the people above. He stated that they had been in this process for 23 months and he is somewhat at a loss, because this is the first time he has heard these questions posed and he would be more prepared... He stated that they are looking at having Ridgeview and Claremont neighborhood preservation to help the redevelopment of properties and changing the residential setbacks of properties in Ridgeview. They're looking at changing the setback provisions to get some of the infield lots developed. They are not looking to change properties from residential to commercial in the Ridgeview area. Just by cutting down the Land Development Code and the whole simplification effort does a lot for the people of Ridgeview and any other neighborhood community in dealing with the Land Development Code and has office.

As for the question from Ms. McNeur, he is not really sure about what she is talking about. They have not changed the proposed thoroughfare plan. Councilman Meisner can attest, the vast majority of the thoroughfare plan is not funded in the area. What she is talking about has been in the plan in the original HBC plan from 1999. The city is not looking to do any major rezoning in her area.

Ald. Lail asked about owner-occupied housing. The notion that she would not be able to rebuild as an owner in a commercial district... Mr. Frazier interjected that he did not know where that had come from. His understanding is that if it is an act of God, and it has been less than six months, then you can rebuild The Mayor asked if you can upgrade your residence in one of these areas? Mr. Frazier answered that you can up to a certain percentage in terms of square footage. Dave Leonetti interjected that for single-family residential that you can basically do whatever you want as long... you can tear down your house to build a new house. There is an extra exemption to the nonconformity clause and basically all you need to do is conform to the setbacks of existing zoning laws, which are fairly similar and is fairly easy for most properties.

Ald. Meisner added that he and Ald. Lail are both on the NPO and the thoroughfare project is nowhere near being developed and will not be for 25 or 30 years. There is no plan that is near being funded. After Mr. Frazier reiterated that this is all in the plan, but is not looking to be developed, then Ald. Meisner added that the city is not developing property. This is just a rezoning. Private enterprise may develop, but the city has no plans that they will develop property through eminent domain. Attorney Crone asked if the NPO is a State road and the city has no input into whether it would be developed. Ald. Meisner stated that the city does have input about where they want future roads to go, but you put it on a list and the DOT prioritizes.

Ald. Guess stated that he had two questions. Is there anything in any of these plans that speaks to taking anybody's property. Elderly people sometimes are concerned when they hear about changes and they automatically assume that someone is looking to take their property. Mr. Frazier answered no. The Mayor asked if it was illegal to seize property for eminent domain for economic development purposes. Attorney Crone stated that that is a good question, but the short answer is probably not, but the only time you'll be taking someone's property in this situation is if there is a road expanded. Ald. Guess asked if this property were taken by eminent domain, would it be out of the city's hands and Attorney Crone answered yes.

Mr. Meisner stated that eminent domain by the definition is for the public good. If this were done for a private developer, then it would not be for the public good. The Mayor stated that those sorts of taking of property are usually done with the full acquiescence of... the resident is reimbursed to the point that they are happy with it. Attorney Crone stated that if a property owner is not happy with what is offered for the property, then they can contest the value of the property in court. Ald. Guess stated that it is really a moot point, because the city of Hickory is not involved in any of that. Attorney Crone answered by stating that the City of Hickory has no plans to widen that road any of our lifetimes.

Ald. Patton asked about the concern related to damage to the home and being able to rebuild their property. The Mayor stated that they can rebuild or expand or ... Ald. Lail interjected the code allows for that kind of situation.

Ald. Lail stated that continuing the discussion, he would like to bring up the issue of the signs and it is his belief that the LDC as written now is a little too restrictive. In relation to sign heights and areas in relation to high volume roadway situations, road counts from the WPCOG show that (I assume highway 70) has 46,000 cars per day compared to Interstate 40 that has 50,000 cars per day. A 10 foot sign is not appropriate for those kinds of areas. That sign has got to be larger for vehicles to be able to see and make use of it. And that is the point. He doesn't know how to move forward on that and he would like to propose an amendment to the LDC to change that.

He would like to get it out on the table to see if others on the council have similar concerns. The Mayor interjected that there are standards that you can get access to that talk about heights, letter-size, speed limit, lanes of traffic, distance, and all of the variables. There are charts you can look at, but he has not looked at any of the charts. Ald. Meisner asked if they could not take this one little item and study it further. City Manager Berry pontificated about wondering how you could do that, because you have your existing Land Development Code and proposed new development code. And you are talking about a small section of the code and could you pull out those sections and adopt the code. Without those sections, would it affect the proposed code versus the existing code. Attorney Crone affirmed that you could pull out the sign codes and utilize the existing code, but added he would like to hear from the planning department, because he wondered if this would affect the rest of the plan, because of references there.

Ald. Guess asked if you could approve it and amend it later. Atty. Crone answered absolutely. Ald. Guess asked if that would not be the most logical way to do it is to amend it later. Ald. Patton stated that they had discussions at the workshops about signs, and it has come to this point and she agrees with Ald. Guess that this is one of the issues to bring up later.

Ald. Lail reiterated that he believes the sign code in the document is incorrect in his opinion. He doesn't want to be in the position of voting down the code because of that one particular section. He would propose continuing the public hearing and allowing staff to come back to Council and have the vote on the signage issue. They have had a thorough discussion of this issue at the workshop, but they never took a vote and he believes that it might be a good idea to continue some of these public hearings anyway. On the record, they have heard concerns from one citizen anyway, and he is going to ask the clerk to put this in the public record regarding a piece of property. He would rather handle it that way than to go ahead and push it through today and have the whole discussion over again. Ald. Fox asked if he believed that the signage code was too restrictive. He stated the yes the proposed code is to strict. He believes that for a multi-tenant building 150 sq feet is not enough potentially to advertise the tenets of that building, whatever the case may be. The small businesses, potentially will not be able to be seen by the motoring public in some cases. Alder Meisner stated that he does not want to hold up the Land Development Code. He stated that that might be one of the first things that they look at to amend. Ald. Guess and Ald. Patton reiterated their earlier statements about going ahead and passing the document. Ald. Lail stated that he could not support the LDC with the signage codes that were in their.

Ald. Fox asked about the area in West Hickory that encompasses the residential area bordering 321 and 13th. Is this the whole mash rezoning of that area? Dave Leonetti answered that there are no plans and basically the area will be reassigned as a general business district. The residential district will remain residential and they have added a neighborhood preservation overlay to the district that increases the design standards for all types of development that need to happen in that area. The proposed changes to the zoning of the area should not impact the existing area. Ald. Fox stated that that area has been chopped up by roads and she understands the concern and there is a pocket of solid residential in there and the neighborhood group has been able to work with some of the problems and she wants to make certain that that pocket is still zoned residential. If someone chooses to move, then their house still remains residential. Mr. Leonetti stated that area in the next few years will be part of a revitalization plan and that does not mean that that area will be changed from residential.

Mr. Frazier interjected that they are looking at improving the aesthetic character of both the commercial and residential area and there is no plan for any wholesale changes in that neighborhood. There will also be a preservation overlay in that area that has not existed previously. He also added that he would like to see this move forward. Part of the plan is to look at both Hickory by Choice and the Land Development Code plans on an annual basis. And if something comes up before, or if the Council wants to schedule a workshop, then they can certainly do that inside the year to deal with the specific issues. If you take out assigned portion of the Land Development Code, then it becomes extremely difficult to administer the plan because the zoning districts aren't matching up anymore, because there are fewer of them.

Ald. Lail made a proposal that the hearing on Land Development Code be postponed to the next regular meeting of the Hickory City Council and that as part of the staff presentation that they would look at enlarging the sign sizes and heights to levels that are consistent with where we are now in those commercial areas. The motion was voted down 5 to 1. And the LDC was affirmed by the same margin.

Theresa Huggins next addressed the Council and spoke about a piece of property that belongs to her father-in-law that is located in the southeast section of Hickory, that will be affected by the new map, that is located at 39 10th St. SE. . The property is listed well below the price that he bought it for. There have been many people that have been interested in the property, but they have not been able to secure a commercial loan. This process has been going on for a very long time, but until they got a call from another broker interested in the property they did not know that the property was affected by the new maps. This will be changed to a residential property, and in essence, the property that is currently leased will be grandfathered in, but if it is sold, then it will not be allowed to be used as a business, which greatly impacts the value of the property.

The current tenant will be vacating the property in March and that means that any business will not be able to use the property, which greatly impacts the value of the property in a negative manner. Once the building is vacated in March, unless another auto mechanic or something very closely related one comes in and buy the building, then the building is rendered useless. The people on the council are business savvy and have investment properties... she doesn't believe that anyone can argue the negative impact on this property. What happens when no auto mechanic comes forward for this property? Then you have yet another commercial building that is vacant. That is prone to all kinds of activities that can take place, because people know the building is empty. What she is proposing is they leave the current industrial zoning on this building, because they are anticipating two offers on the property this week... And to allow it to exist in its essence, an industrial building and not add to the vacant building issues that we have faced.

Lynn Huggins next addressed the Council about her father Henry Huggins. At present, her father is 89 years old and has cancer. This is his primary source of income. She is at the City Council meeting, representing her father and asking them to reconsider the zoning or delay their decision. They have two potential buyers at this time, and this could devastate that deal.

Ald. Meisner asked Theresa Huggins about the two potential uses and whether they had been cleared with the planning department as to whether they could be used under the existing code as it is being used now? Under existing zoning both offers would operate fine. According to the realtors that she has spoken to.

A map was shown of where the building was located. The building is currently zoned industrial, and is located next to a residential area. The building is currently utilized as an auto mechanic shop. One of the potential clients is looking to continue as an auto mechanic shop, but also include wholesale and retail auto sales. This is not permitted in the industrial zone. Auto repair is fine, but sales are not permitted today. This is the largest property in the area and the residential properties are also designated as industrial. What they have looked at is why the property was ever zoned industrial, because there are houses located in the area. The property would be grandfathered under its current zoning. If there is a six months, where the property is abandoned, then they are looking at the residential zoning.

Ald. Meisner asked if this was a residence? The question was answered that no it is not a residence that it is a nice industrial building. Ald. Meisner stated that he could not understand why they would take an industrial building and zone it residential. The Mayor stated that he did not see how that would negatively impact anyone's property rights by continuing to zone it industrial. It was decided to amend the proposed code to be industrial. This would not be spot zoning, because there are other industrial properties that are attached to it. Plastic Packaging is located just to the west of the property. Anyone buying or selling there would know that the property is there.

The Council consented unanimously to approving the zoning map with amendments, including the Propst property, the Cloninger Mill property, and the Huggins property.

The Hound would like to congratulate Brian Frazier and the planning department for seeing this process through to its culmination. I think that Mr. Frazier has done an excellent job in communicating with the public in relation to this plan. I participated in many of the workshops that were held and can attest to the fact that Mr. Frazier, the Planning Department, and Studio Cascade were very much interested in seeing public participation in this project.

I do believe that the challenge of these documents will not be how they are written, but how they are implemented. I cannot argue with what Ald. Lail had to say in relation to signage. We have seen this issue come up time and time again in many areas throughout the State and across the nation. It relates to those interested only in some sort of aesthetic paradise, where they would wish to pretend that no businesses existed versus those who see nothing wrong with the Las Vegas strip. There has to be some sort of common sense compromise on this issue. Like I stated about this issue in my comments from the last City Council meeting, I don't see the harm of LED signage. So where do you come to a compromise on this issue.

Another issue that I witnessed at this meeting was the concerns of the people that live in the less privileged areas of this community and how this plan will impact them. I think that Mr. Frazier , successfully answered those questions, but I also understand where those concerns come from. Those issues come from the fact that the people that live in those areas usually don't get a seat at the table in the decision-making process. But, I will tell you that in attending at least five of these meetings that were held over the last two years, I did not see many people in attendance from the Ridgeview or West Hickory community. In my opinion, you have to take the available opportunities to speak about your concerns in order for those concerns to be addressed.

That does not mean that I believe that people from the more prosperous sections of our community should be imposing their will on the other sections of the community. I think that everyone in Hickory needs to get together and work together towards fixing the problems that we face. We don't need to draw the lines and fight with each other based upon some mindless ideology. We need to help our neighbor, because when you do that you empower yourself by creating a community with a stronger and firmer foundation.

I would like to finish these comments by giving my endorsement to Brian Frazier and the planning department. It's easy for anyone to see that these guys are completely dedicated to their job. I think they want to make things work around here. Their are always going to be times when people will be at loggerheads with the planning department, because they are in charge of enforcing policy.

This isn't a perfect world and if you look around you'll see that Hickory was put together piecemeal. Sometimes you have to take the square peg and force it into that round hole. In speaking with Mr. Frazier and seeing how he operates, I honestly believe that he will work with you. I also don't believe that Hickory can afford to lose. Mr. Frazier, because I can see that he does have vision and he is aspiring to excellence. We look at the Brownfield projects and his ideas related to revitalization. He gets it and I wish more people in this community got it. So if you get the chance and have the opportunity to work towards a project that will enhance our community, then you should work with Mr. Frazier, because I believe that that is the exact objective that he is focused on -- Enhancing Hickory.

Old Land Use map

New Zoning map

Future Land Use map