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Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Observing the Observer about Boosting Hickory's Growth

I'm not going to be overly critical of Ms. Dianne Straley's article from Sunday's Charlotte Observer entitled Boosting Hickory's growth. What I feel is fair to say from my point of view is that there never seems to be any point-counterpoint or opinion attached to articles such as these, from the Catawba Valley Neighbors or Hickory Daily Record. This makes them seem very ambiguous and the English teachers that I had in school certainly gave hell if I had no points of logical conclusion to subject matter. In my opinion, this article is pointless, because it just jumps around in an open ended manner with no context... just throw it up and see what sticks. Since the publication is an "Observer," I would like to make a few counter observations. I believe that these observations will be viewed as logical.

Ms. Straley writes about the visits to several regional cities . One such city was Chattanooga, Tennessee. That visit was reported on in The City Council Newsletter from January 3, 2012. Scott Millar spoke about the revitalization of Chattanooga at the Future Economy Council Meeting in November, which Hickory City Alder Jill Patton happened to attend. That meeting was reported on in this blog in an article entitled Scott Millar - The Future Economy Council - Catawba County Economics 101. You can listen to Scott talk about Chattanooga in Part 1 of his presentation. Logic: that is where the idea to visit Chattanooga came from. And I would like to say that it was nice to see a Hickory City Official of this stature at an FEC meeting.

(C-O) - The Mayor states, "...there is no quick fix to Hickory's problems... Council members don't know yet what they want to do, but they'll probably emphasize multiple improvements over five years... "What we want is a master plan that lays out where we want to be and how do we get there."

There have been a lot of us who have been solidly working on plans over the last several years. Plans that the County administration has wholeheartedly embraced, while the The City of Hickory has been reluctant to acknowledge, much less get on board with. In my opinion, the City of Hickory's two major mistakes; First, they seem bound and determined to go in their own personal direction. Second, this Mayor and City Council have waited on City Administration to direct city initiatives and action, while they sit back and wait for those initiatives and actions to be developed. The longer they wait, the further we fall behind and the longer it will take to fix the systemic flaws in Hickory's socioeconomic ecosystem.

(C-O) - "Change is coming. We can direct it, or sit back and let it happen," Wright said. "We're going to direct it."

This very statement was mentioned in our State of Hickory 2012 address and it comes from the words of Ted Abernathy spoken at the Entrepreneurial Summit forum held on January 11, 2012.
From The State of Hickory 2012 Address - Action speaks louder than words: Look at the way Hickory is laid out. Look at its old manufacturing structures. Hickory has not been strategically designed. It is a mess the way that Hickory has been laid out and there are people who want to keep moving forward in such a fashion. That is unreasonable. As we heard at the entrepreneurial summit a few weeks ago, there has never been a normal. We have to create the future. If we do not create the future, it will be created for us by external forces. We have so much to gain by joining together in a process of structured goals and development. Sure, these plans should be able to be reassessed, but to not have plans is to set yourself up to have others determine your future!

(C-O) - Hickory is currently debating a major land purchase for a mixed-use project that could be used for one of its future improvements, the mayor said. Wright would not discuss where the land's size or location because he said that information would drive up the price. The proposed purchase has been discussed in closed council meetings. The property, however, is not blighted, he said.

As those of you who have read this blog will understand, my ears perk up when I hear about economic development on the local level. What is bothersome to me in the above statement is that it is inferred that we aren't going to look to redevelop an area of the city that needs uplifting. I will patiently wait to see what this is all about, but we need to see revitalization in Hickory and it is a priority. Priorities: Numero Uno - Jobs, Dos - Revitalization.

(C-O) - Wright says he expects the city will emphasize: Recruiting more high-tech employers and data centers such as Apple, Google and Facebook, which have massive data storage complexes in the region. Improving recreation. Expanding higher education. Attracting more retirees. Encouraging more manufacturing.

It is further pointed out in the article that the area " suffering with a stark loss of manufacturing jobs as many companies exported work overseas. The area has lost almost 60 percent of its furniture manufacturing jobs since 2000... The U.S. Census shows the Hickory metro area grew about 7 percent over the last decade, but most of that growth is in older residents - a 53 percent increase in ages 60 to 64. Couple that with the 18.6 percent loss of residents ages 25-34 and it is clear that Hickory is becoming grayer. One possibility is emphasizing and improving the city's parks along the Catawba River, Wright said."

The numbers don't lie. The loss of the younger generations in this community have been pointed out since the inception of this blog in 2008. The Mayor is still talking about retirees, when it is obvious to see that we have already had major growth in that demographic. My personal feeling is that the Mayor and Council better relate to people of their own age demographic and don't understand the younger generations, so they have chosen to ignore the needs of younger people and in essence have thrown them under the bus for their own personal agenda. What they don't understand is that this is having a very negative effect on the growth of this community. They have created their own conundrum.

(C-O) -  ..."We want Hickory to be known as a great place to raise a family, to work and a fun place to be," he said. "We want to control the impression we give people."

I would like to conclude with this. If you want to control something that is out of control what do you have to do? You have to slow it down. The more convoluted energy becomes, the harder it is going to be to control. The message and marketing that we have attempted to sell has been stacks of BS piled on top of stacks of BS. It is harder to keep up with contorted messages than honesty. The State motto of North Carolina is Esse Quam Videri, which means "To be rather than to seem."

We need to get back to the core of what this community used to be all about. We need to get back to the basics. We need to get down to the essence of the issues that we face in this community. Jobs, Revitalization of our Infrastructure, and the restoration of our young demographic are obvious conditions that need to be addressed. We have people trying to state that outsiders aren't viewing us correctly. Maybe, just maybe, we aren't viewing ourselves correctly. Maybe we have a big ole case of denial. In my opinion, the bigger issue isn't to control how we seem. The bigger issue is to control who we "Be," who we are.


Carmen said...

Have you read Maybe you would like it.

James Thomas Shell said...

Read it all the time. You know that. Peace.

Anonymous said...

I read in the Newton observer today about a manufacturing company locating its headquarters and large manufacturing plant and create 600-1000 jobs. I hate we couldnt get that in Hickory with our large manufacturing base. Im sure the EDC for the county is disappointed as well as much as Scott Millar loves the Lincoln County industrial park, just kidding. Even thought it will be in Denver, not Lincolnton, looks like we would have more of an advantage in the Hickory area because of our history of manufacturing and good infastructure and land for growth as well. However great news for our brothers and sisters in Lincoln County