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Tuesday, July 19, 2011

July Rant - Can Hickory Be a Technology Hub

In this presentation, I wanted to speak directly to the followers of this blog. City Manager Berry has stated his desire that Hickory become a technology hub. In the following audio presentation, I explain one of the personal issues that I have faced in dealing with the city and another that others have expressed to me. These have all been given and confirmed as realities by several people I have spoken with.

Some may consider these issues small and trivial, but if you can't take care of these small issues, then how are you ever going to take the giant leap towards the desire of City Manager Berry?

I hope that you will take 10 minutes to listen and please feel free to let me know what you think.

The issues relate to being able to make online payments on the city's website. I have tried and you just can't get it done. I have also had people tell me that they couldn't fill out online surveys, because they couldn't find them. I went online and they were right. These surveys were nowhere to be found. How are you going to become a technology hub, if you can't build user friendliness into a website for the public or organize and run the city's website properly?


Silence DoGood said...

First of all, I think you’re tromping the right path. I think Mick is correct in that Hickory should become a technology center; key word is should. I’m not sure Hickory can. Sure, Hickory was a major manufacturer of furniture and textiles once upon a time. It took them a century to get to that self-acclaimed dubious title. At the rate Hickory is presently progressing, they have that same time line in mind to attain technology hub status. Hickory is trying to deal with people that have a large global footprint and they bring almost nothing to the table. Sure there are attributes such as friendly and crime rate to attract people. But the people are not going to come without a means to support themselves. But the education is not world class in the public schools. The land is not what I would call cheap, although it is abundant. And judging by the number of people hired at Apple, they aren’t too interested in hiring locals for their facilities, they’ll transfer their people in and who can blame them? Using your example of the website to illustrate that premise. The roads are of the washboard variety, meaning that they are paved mostly.

My second point is, as you have correctly identified, the elected leadership. I wonder how many actually understand the technology they want to be the center of? I don’t mean sit down and debug all 35 million lines of code for Microsoft Office. I mean understanding to the point of being able to carry on a lucid conversation with these folks when they come to town. I wonder how many know what Moore’s algorithm is?

The third thing is, this should have been moving forward in the mid 1990’s before the wheels fell off the wagon. Hickory had the bucks in fund balance to negotiate as an equal at the table rather than a beggar. Now, the headline states that they haven’t raised the tax rate in so many years. They’ve reduced the budget by 2.4% from the previous operating budget and that’s really something to crow about. If you’re trying to pacify Joe and Bob down at the CafĂ© and keep them quiet in the mornings when you go in to eat breakfast. And while they’re crowing about the tax rate not increasing, there is no mention of the fees or water and sewer rates increasing.

The final thing is the people. These companies are known for how well they treat their employees to facilitate creativeness, inventiveness, and dedication. The South in general and the Hickory region in particular isn’t known for such employee friendliness. If you think I’m a bit too radical with that assertion, look at the prevailing attitudes of those who are elected that you are presently banging your on the desk over trying to deal with. They don’t have to listen, won’t listen, and have no need to listen; they’re in charge, they know what they’re doing, and if they want your opinion, they’ll give it you. Do they say that? Not entirely, but it’s conveyed through their actions to the extent that words are not necessary to understand one would have more success herding cats.

So in my eyes that’s where it is laying presently. Hickory is once again at least 16 years behind the curve trying to play catch-up in an economic slump with double-digit unemployment that is projected to last for the next decade. I guess that could work to someone’s benefit. The king will find the good in any situation, so someone’s misery is someone else’s windfall.

harryhipps said...

I think wen moore peeple heer learn two reed and rite wee can git Bill gates two moove Microwave heer.

Anonymous said...

Count on Harry to make a really stupid response. Grow up.

Silence DoGood said...

Not that Harry needs me to defend him, but I found it to be satirically relevant and while some might consider it cynical, it is starkly accurate (And we are probably about as far apart as two people can be in opposing broad category political viewpoints). No, not everyone falls in to that stereotype, but more do than is healthy or desirable for the marketing strategy of the Economic Development Corporation, et al. Of course, the antithesis to that is this blog and those like it, since it demonstates that there are people here who can think for themselves and form their own opinions. One would think that would be a desired trait, but no, the politicians want obedient workers who are just smart enough to run the machines and count the widgets they make and sell, or used to. So now the big push is education and training, because "if you educate and train them, they will come." I'm not sure who 'they' are in context, but apparently, 'they' didn't get that e-mail with the marketing plan.

James Thomas Shell said...

I've known Harry for nearly 30 years. He is being satirical, but you have to look at the issues that we face in this community to understand where he is coming from.

It is just so freaking frustrating. We see things that are way out of control in this community and we are trying to make an impact and the Bubba's and their apathy are really killing us. The worst part is that these are the people that we are trying to help and they are working against the cause - 1) By lack of participation 2)By being ignorant of plain ole facts and 3)By supporting the status quo of disastrous consequences that have developed and been prolonged by the system as it is.

Everyone who listens to Harry in various meetings knows that he has a lot to offer. he commands attention when he speaks. People care about what he has to say, because he can be very engaging in the intellect and proper questions that he offers in any discussions. Harry was just expressing something that we know to be true. The lack of education in our area is killing us and the apathy is the nail in the coffin and a lot of our leaders won't say it publicly, but they like it this way. The Bubba's are the people they glad hand and the shrewd manipulators of the status quo are the people they serve.

Silence DoGood said...

The impetus for this piece is, I read the Hickory Daily Record. Not something I do as a matter of habit, but I was bored and while perusing their website, I saw that the EDC was covered at its annual meeting. Four paragraphs were devoted to Gary Laws and his passing and his awards posthumously from the Governor. I don’t know who Gary Laws was, but his death is certainly a tragic loss for his family. The remaining nine paragraphs, some one sentence, are devoted to what the EDC did for Catawba County the last fiscal year; who was appointed as interim and the new President. Nine paragraphs to learn that the EDC is claiming responsibility for 779 new jobs and $47.5 million in investment…announced.

According to the May 2011 ESC numbers, Catawba County has a work force of 73,012, of which, 64,606 are employed and there are 8,406 unemployed, an unemployment rate of 11.5%. That doesn’t include folks that have given up looking for work, so those numbers are certainly not accurate, but representative to make a point. Using that rate of job creation that the EDC was so congratulatory to themselves about, equates to 1% of the work force. 1.2% of the number presently employed, and 9.3% of those presently unemployed.

If, and that’s a mighty big word, the unemployed numbers remain the same, at that rate of job creation, it will take 7 years to bring unemployment down to 4% which would be a 64.9% reduction; almost two thirds of those unemployed right now would have to wait perhaps 7 years to see a job created.

And now in my third paragraph, you’ll learn why I decided to insert this here. Scott Millar is touting Steve Jobs and Apple in Maiden, i.e.; Data Centers. Granted, that was a boon to the area…for tax base. Apple is a great corporate citizen and I’m glad they came to Maiden, but they just don’t hire or need that many staff to do what they do. And Scott Millar is wanting to bring in more of the same, erstwhile acknowleging that there are, “opportunities in the energy and manufacturing sectors.” So Apple and the iCloud technology are going to grow Catawba County. Since iCloud is Apple, and we already have an Apple Data Center, I’m at a loss to understand why there would be an entire plethora of Data Centers using iCloud technology, since I’m sure Apple owns the intellectual rights to it. But Scott and the EDC’s baby is Data Centers. So at the rate of hiring 100 people per data center, Scott and the EDC will have to entice 55 data centers (mathematically it factored to 54.5, but who wants half a data center?) to this area to drop the current unemployment rate to 4%, which is a desirable rate.

I commented previously here about diversifying the eggs among many baskets, but this seems to be a single purpose quest for our beloved EDC. I’m sure too, if you asked, the pat comment would be that the EDC is actively pursuing all significant investment opportunities for our community. That’s sounds so good, someone at EDC could have written it, if I do say so myself. But the bottom line is, no diversification of industry. It’s boom or bust for this area and no balance among many varying business interests. Kinda pathetic actually.

And what a lot of people don’t know is, the EDC is given tax money by local governments in the form of ‘contributions’ in order to market Catawba County to companies in the hopes of them locating here. So if you’re wondering where some of your tax money goes, that’s it. An independent corporation that used to have it’s offices in the Catawba County Government Center, that for all intents and purposes, was a small moon of County Government itself, the County just didn’t have to fund all of it and it still reaps the benefits since any business that locates in Catawba County is good for the county.