The Herald Bulletin

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Local Business

June 3, 2013

Emmett Dulaney: Random concepts worth considering

A recent article in Esquire alluded to men starting things they never finished.

In the spirit of that, the following are three separate thoughts that represent the beginnings of articles over the past few months. None of them have the depth to substantiate a column of their own, but each represents a reflection worth considering:

  • The junk drawer. A lot of things which once were ubiquitous are now in short supply and one of those would be the junk drawer. My grandmother had this physical location that she referenced as a drawer even though it pretty much consumed the entire cabinet. If you needed a screw, some wire, or even an empty bottle, she would direct you to look there first. Today we would laugh and dismiss her actions as either hoarding, cheap, or crazy. After all, she even saved slivers of aluminum foil in case some was needed for a non-food item while now you don’t even have to buy it in a roll – you can buy it pre-cut for you at three times the price of the roll. Maybe Grandma wasn’t nuts but just worried that tomorrow might not be better than today and maybe there is something to learn in her behavior.
  • Few things double in 10 years. One of the reasons we don’t have a junk drawer is because we tend to believe that tomorrow can’t help but be better than today, but there aren’t a lot of things that are. In order for whatever savings you have to double in 10 years, for example, you would have to receive approximately 7.2 percent interest each year and the government would have to agree to not tax the earnings: two conditions that are not very likely to exist. One of the few things that has doubled, though, is the number of food stamp recipients in Madison County. In December 2002, the number of recipients was 11,247. By April 2013, that number has risen to 22,928. During that same time period, the average amount of food stamps per recipient went from $85.19 to $132.12 – this 55 percent increase is double the rise in the cost of living over this time period. If you multiple the average by the number of recipients, the monthly cost of food stamps in the county has more than tripled (going from less than $1 million to more than $3 million) and while those numbers are remarkable, they are all in the wrong direction.
  • The business model I am currently in love with. The business model being used by Habitat for Humanity is nothing short of genius. Not only do they get volunteers to build, but they also ask them to raise donations to cover expenses of that project they are building. Think of the wealth of possibilities if only others would embrace this model: Kroger could ask customers to raise donations so that a customer can use the self-checkout; Marathon could encourage patrons to raise funds to be able to use the pay-at-the-pump option. My mind reels at the potential and I wish I had thought of it first.

Emmett Dulaney is the author of several books on technology and an Anderson resident. His column appears Tuesdays.

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