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Fight short memories with great annual report

From the Ground Up

The story is told of the young politician who ran for Congress on the theme that he would work hard for his constituents and “bring home the bacon.”

The campaign was grueling, but successful and he ascended to Washington.

During the first two terms in office he concentrated mightily on getting every federal dollar possible for his constituents. If there was money for a bridge to be built or a road to be paved he was right in there fighting hard for a share of the pie. There wasn’t a weekend that he was not back home in the district touting his accomplishments and staying in touch with those who elected him to office. Everywhere he went people thanked him for what he was doing for the people.

Five years went by quickly and it was time to begin the campaign for a fourth term in office. He was now in line for a leadership position on an important committee. Everyone said that if he won this election he would be there for life. The importance of that fact was impressed upon him daily by his “keep our jobs at all costs” staff. He made a whirlwind tour of the district, announcing his bid for re-election and reminding voters that he had made good on his original campaign promise.

He pointed out the road and bridge projects, the increase in benefits for veterans and the new government center he had helped relocate to the district.

Election day came and when the votes were counted that night he was stunned to see that he had been narrowly defeated. In an effort to understand why he lost the election, the next morning he went down to the coffee shop where the politicos met and spun their tales and analysis of state politics. He pulled aside an old-timer and asked if people were happy with the way he had represented them.

“Look at what all I have had done for you,” explained the congressman. “Doesn’t that count for something?”

The old-timer raised his hand to his jaw and said, “Yes, all of that is true. But what have you done for us LATELY?”

This little tale points out how fickle and short of memory constituents can be when it comes to accomplishments by public officials. It also leads to the point of this week’s column: the value of an annual report.

While attending the recent annual summer conference of the Mississippi Economic Development Council, I had the pleasure of getting into a discussion with Charles Gulotta, president of The Alliance in Corinth, and Glenn Duckworth, executive director of the Union County Development Association, on the subject of annual reports. Both agreed that it is great benefit for an economic/community development organization, a chamber of commerce or a political entity to publish an annual report.

Mr. Duckworth immediately reached in his folder and produced his most recent report. It would be a good model. Although I did not ask his permission to give you his telephone number I don’t think he would mind too much if you called and asked for a copy of the UCDA annual report.

I bet that he would be willing to share a copy with you. His telephone number is (662) 534-4354 and his e-mail address is ucda@dixie-net.com.

In my opinion his report has all the basics of a good annual report for an organization of its type. It is highlights the past year’s accomplishments, it shows the goals for the upcoming year, it spotlights a few community leaders, and it contains the organization’s mission statement. It is also on slick paper and it is brief.

The annual report should also be widely available. Unfortunately, some mayors think that giving a “State of the City” speech once each year is an annual report. One speech is not enough. The report should be in people’s hands, on the counters in businesses and at the front door of City Hall. It is also on the organization’s Web site.

In summary, a good annual report has value and answers the question, “What have you done for me lately?”

Phil Hardwick’s column on Mississippi Business appears regularly in the Mississippi Business Journal. His e-mail address is philhardwick@usa.net.

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