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You see what you want to see

We met again a week after we agreed to a vision statement for our town. It was time to divide into groups forming action plans in the areas we had declared needed work. This is exciting. By just changing what we say and feel about our community, we will create employment opportunities, stimulate economic growth and enable families to grow together through all phases of development. Heady stuff.

I was emotionally drawn to the group working on creating cultural expression for youth and adults. I long before made it a personal mission to establish live musical performances of local musicians. Indeed, I had joined the Elks because they owned the largest meeting hall in town and had started a jazz combo as none existed. I am even well along in the process of turning nearly unused Friday nights in the Elks hall into a weekly event – starting January.

Encouraging entrepreneurs and stimulating the business environment held a stronger draw. First because I’ve been self-employed for over half my 40 working years giving me experience, expertise and an obvious interest in this area. Also because, as we all learned last week, 80 percent of the jobs in small towns are going to come in this area. It is the foundation for success in this, and any other community.

On top of that is the little voice screaming last week’s dismal numbers that 40% of our 12-year-olds anticipate self-employment while 4% of our high-school seniors do. While rational parts of my brain are shouting, “get out of public schools at age 12”, I know that won’t sell in Preoria. So I decide to work on the demand side of the equation – trying to make the environment more fertile for entrepreneurs of all ages.

My wife was deciding between the group working on enhancing our local education and the one developing young leaders (under 40 years old) – another area we feel weak in. I advised against joining the people “whose hearts were set on expanding our already too expensive taxpayer funded school system”.

Our group quickly headed down the path of scheming on grant writing and government funding for money to spend encouraging start up and expansion of businesses. Lemmesee here, government programs are going to stimulate creativity, innovation and individual risk taking???

“As the token Libertarian here and amateur economist, I hate to see us develop programs and plans that are dependent on outside funding. I certainly don’t want to discourage any of you from going that direction, but I want to put my time and energy into the portion of this group that wants to develop ideas we control without outside resources or interference. What we need to focus on is developing an entrepreneurial kitchen. I don’t know what the appliances will be, what utensils we will need nor what ingredients are important, but I am confident the kitchen is the place to start.”

Somehow the grant-writing aid-seeking faction quietly tabled their idea as we went on working to develop organization and structure of our own that could potentially grow our own businesses and business creators. I think they are still going for it, but they don’t need ten authors. The main power of our working group is heading towards what we can do ourownselves… and loved the kitchen analogy.

The Rock Man delivers a great line in the middle of a wonderful monologue to Oblio in The Point, “You see what you want to see and hear what you want to hear“. It comes back to me often, as it did last night.

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The education group, whose membership sounded very much like the same citizens who are perpetually lobbying for increased school taxes (with occasional success), reported their results to the assembled masses. They are going to seek funding for an outside consultant to convince the voters to support increased school taxes. They are also interested in finding what training local employers are seeking.

When I look in the local help wanted I see only ads for store clerks, bank tellers, fast food handlers, long-haul truckers and warehouse laborers. I am not even slightly puzzled by the educational requirements. Somehow last week’s lesson that we are sending educated high school graduates away to find work wasn’t heard in some parts of the room. They have their heats set on sending even better educated kids away from an even more heavily taxed community.

But they see what they want to see and hear what they want to hear.