North Jefferson News, Gardendale, AL

October 19, 2011

Business AdVISE: Occupy north Jefferson County

By Teresa Vise
North Jefferson News

COMMENTARY — Occupy north Jefferson. Is it that different than occupy Wall Street? We think that our town is different in the notion of challenges and problems, but from Wall Street to Main Street, we are really quite similar. Job creation, economic concerns, debt, local government and a desire for accountable leadership all hit a resonant cord for both communities.  

Just as “All politics is local” so I have found that “All job creation is local.” You can’t open the paper or turn on the news and not find a discussion of the topic. So perhaps now is the time to put down the remote, fold up the paper and stop with the finger pointing. How about a good dose of “roll up your own sleeves and get busy” instead?

In Jim Clifton’s article for the Gallup Management Journal this week, he writes that “fixing America’s problems with job creation can only be accomplished one city at a time.” Well, if that is the case, then let us begin with our own town or towns.  

Here in the north Jefferson area, we already have strong leadership in place. We may not see eye to eye, and we certainly may disagree on many topics and decisions, but that does not make our leadership weak. Clifton continues to state that “A natural order is already present, in governments and local business and philanthropic entities.  Every city has strong, caring leaders working on numerous committees and initiatives to fuel their local economic growth – let's call it the city GDP – and to create good jobs. The feat these leaders have to pull off is doubling their entrepreneurial energy by aligning all their local forces.” That means we must stop looking at our neighboring cities as competitors, and start viewing them as allies.  

In his words, “They succeed by declaring all-out war.”  A war on job loss, a war on low workplace energy, on healthcare costs, on low graduation rates, on brain drain and on community disengagement.”  Those things destroy cities, destroy job growth, and destroy city GDP.  Every city requires its own master plan that is as serious as planning for war.  

I would add that this master plan, or community development plan, will only be affective if the leaders communicate the plan to the people of the city. It is equally important as well to embrace the success of your neighbors and help them to participate in the growth war. For certain, the last thing that you need is for an excelling city to be surrounded by declining cities.  

Clifton goes on to point out that we should remember what Washington, and government, is about really.  “In defense of Washington, it wasn't originally set up to be the nation's economic engine. The U.S. government has seeded whole industries through land grant universities, defense contractors and scientific and medical researchers to name just a few. But the government has never, will never, nor should it be expected to ignite badly needed sustainable economic booms. These economic booms originate in the souls of individuals,” he writes.  

How do you know if your city is on the right track for improving debt reduction and increasing jobs creation? If your city leadership is looking for more legislation, more stimulus and more (tax) money to solve your city’s problem, and then you probably need to look for new city leadership first. Stop what you are doing if it does not create real, meaningful jobs. Clifton writes, “Everybody in charge of anything needs to focus on job creation. If they divert their attention, vote them out. Be ruthless. If the bike path doesn't have anything to do with job creation, there is no bike path. If rezoning improves the jobs outlook, rezone. This is what leadership should work on everyday, and it should get city leaders up in the morning, what they should work on all day and what should keep them from getting to sleep at night.”

As you move in to your week, think about how you work with your company, philanthropy or local government and if it is affectively working in tandem with surrounding communities. Every city needs a team of leaders that work well of course, but not in isolation. Your tow, I am certain, is just like mine with multiple boards, committees and leadership appointments. Take a close look. Are they a reshuffle of the same stagnant minds without change for too many years? Or are you bringing in new thought leaders that learn from the old, but embrace the change of the new? Are you marching to the beat of the same old drum, or are you encouraged to at least on occasion ask for someone to change the station and say no to the same old song?  

Teresa works for Sanofi-Aventis Pharmaceuticals and supports the Fultondale Chamber of Commerce. You can find additional readings on her blog at http://businessadvise4u.blogspot.com or contact her at visemedical@bellsouth.net.