Disappointing to see how few people in the Ridgeview community showed up for the "Citizen Review" that occurred on Tuesday. If they don't care about their community, then why should anyone else? Let's go back and look at how few people in Ridgeview have even bothered to vote in Hickory City elections, but will show up to vote in the national elections. That is the reason why Ridgeview falls behind, because they have chosen to be politically irrelevant... and they will continue to get what they want.
The majority of people who attended were ministers from inside and outside the Ridgeview community. They all seemed very enthusiastic about what has been presented so far. The ministers in the area that I have seen are very much hooked up with the Hickory Inc. structure. I interpreted what they were saying as that they were all in and going to work with the city and help sell this to their congregations.
There are still no specifics as to the 3Ps -- projects, priorities, and price. City Manager Berry has said that the City Council will prioritize the projects and the Bond Referendum will be broad and refer to categories such as "Business Park" and "Transportation" with monetary values attached to each, but the City Council will be the entity that decides on the projects and the priorities.
Last week the Mayor talked about the tipping point in this community and the reason why we need to act. I've told you and shown you that we are past the tipping point. Maybe we aren't past the tipping point for the Council, the local Powers that Be, or the upper echelons of Hickory City Staff. These people are in the upper 10% of wealth holders in this community. They cannot fully relate to the negative economic momentum that the people at lower income levels have dealt with.
Citizen Review - Power Point Presentation
Just The Facts about Hickory's Loss of the Younger Demographic: Mr. Berry is showing graphs that were available five years ago that show the job losses and the devastating losses in the younger demographics that we have seen in this community over the past decade. Also factor into this that we have the lowest Per Capita Income of any major Metro area in the State of North Carolina. The encouraging sign is that the local Powers that Be are starting to freak out about the signs. The signs have been there for years, but I guess they have finally come to the realization that we have structural problems in this community and this downturn is not part of a normal economic cycle.
Hickory Area Population Remains at a Standstill. There are at least 4,000 fewer (January 2013 numbers) people living in Catawba County today than were here in 2009. We know that the eastern part of the county (Sherrills Ford and West Denver) has grown, because of it's accessibility to Charlotte. So, if the area there has grown by 4,000 or 5,000 people, then what does that mean for western Catawba County? It means that we have lost several thousand people here and it will soon be reflected in the numbers. We are beyond the tipping point.
The 1764 Business Park project is the type of economic investment we need to see. Mr. Berry talked about this business park being located at Robinson and Robinwood Roads over in the Startown Road area near CVCC and the Mall area. This type of Commerce Center can bring good paying jobs. These types of jobs can help with the underemployment issues we have been facing in this community.
If we are going to see the younger demographics come back into the community, then we are going to have to see these good paying productive jobs come to the community. The demographic structure of the community is not going to change because young people move here to be servants for Octogenarians. There is no money in that, but for a few doctors, some nurses, and a few administrators. They are going to move here if they can find stability and a career path created by complex industries.
The two main infrastructure project concepts that have been talked about are the Mainstreet Linear Park and the Lake Greenway at Geitner Park. The development at Geitner Park is already moving forward thanks to Bob Lackey and it is notable because we are seeing true public private development. The Mainstreet Linear park is pie in the sky. It is basically a $27 million dollar (the price mentioned late last year) sidewalk to connect Union Square to what has been defined before as the Wingfoot District and then up to Lenoir-Rhyne. There is already a sidewalk there and people use it all the time. It just seems that we are once again throwing Hickory Tax Dollars to the same ole group of people.
Make no mistake, most people aren't against infrastructure improvements. What they want to see are tangible benefits and mechanisms of accountability and fairness to ensure that we don't throw good money after bad in an effort that only benefits a few people. Every one of these cities that the Council has been to and touted have "Business Improvement District" Taxes for their Downtown areas. Why are Hickory citizens from the outskirts of town supposed to continue supporting Union Square through tax dollars, when about five people own the vast majority of property surrounding Union Square?
I've heard it bandied about by the oldsters here that support the proposed bond referendum that they are planting trees that they may never get a chance to sit under. Some of us view it as that you are writing checks that others are going to have to cover for you and there may not be money to cover those checks when the bills come due... but ain't that Amerika.
A marketplace is all about people. I have also heard the notion of marketing Hickory as a small town. Folks, that is what got us here. That was exactly what they were pushing in the early 2000s, when the goose got cooked. I don't like the idea of a Quaint Hickory. I want to see a Hustling-Bustling Hickory like we were 20 years ago. Hustling and Bustling people in a contemporary reality. That is what leads to growth.
Steve Ivester and Harry Hipps have talked about developing clusters around our existing industries. Any economic development we see should center around development of Cluster Industries in our area. Harry gets it right in what he writes below:
Harry Hipps speaks about The Gallup-Healthways Survey