The Herald Bulletin

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April 1, 2013

Emmett Dulaney: Project Oasis ahoy!

If I hired you to watch my children, and you came over and cleaned the pool, I would be upset. I would not be upset that you cleaned the pool – it certainly needs it – but rather that you neglected a far more important job and endangered the children. Just as job descriptions exist to define what an employee is needed/expected to do, missions serve the same purpose for organizations.

The Corporation for Economic Development is a 501c3 with a mission to: “plan and undertake activities leading to steady job growth, increasing economic diversity, and a strengthened employer base which enhance the quality of life of Madison County.” The mind reels at how many ideas the CED must have had to toss out before coming to the conclusion that flooding the busiest road in Anderson was the one worth spending six figures to study further since towns that currently have reservoirs haven’t found that they tend to bring in big industries.  Here are but three lesser things that could also fit the definition of “economic development” and that jumped in my mind while shopping for a new pontoon:

1. Studying why WEDA (the World Economic Development Alliance) is sending fewer leads here than they have in years past. This trade association, of which the Corporation for Economic Development pays to belong to, is the number one source for expanding and relocating companies to get contacts, find sites, etc.  The number of leads being pointed to Anderson is fewer now than it has been and it just might be worth investigating what has caused the drop in that number and seeing if it can’t be fixed.

2. Evaluating the use of forgivable loans to entice recent college graduates to live in the area or even high school students to graduate and attend college. You don’t see a lot of well-paying businesses seeking locations where the average level of education is as low as it is for Madison County. One way to bring more higher-paying businesses in may be to increase the county’s level, but a study would need to be done look into that.

3. Exploring the difference in needs between startups and small businesses. So many neighboring communities are seeing startup facilities (I shun using the word “incubator” for fear of misinterpretation) spring up that it begs checking to see if they are on to something or not. Whereas a small business begins and ends small, as Kristian Andersen so eloquently puts it, a startup is a big business that just hasn’t gotten big yet. Are there needs that startups have that others aren’t fulfilling? Could we lure them with our high-speed fiber, wireless connectivity, and other amenities?

I am sure that the CED considered these studies as possibilities and ranked them lower in priority than the marina. Within the realm of precedents, this certainly isn’t the first time God used a flood to initiate a new start. I so hope, however, that the Department of Natural Resources is thinking outside of their mission and going to come up with something that relates to a strengthened employer base for their next feasibility study since that topic seems to be going overlooked.

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

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