As we turn the corner on a new year, it is time to clean off the desk and share some items that almost turned into columns. These are things that piqued my interest and caused me to set aside an article or some notes intending to write a column about the subject. In other words, at the time they were not quite ready for prime time.
Give us jobs, any jobs
Jobs and revenue are obviously so important to some communities that cities and counties will recruit anything just to bring in jobs or money.
Exhibit number one to this statement is the following headline in a daily newspaper: “Hinds, 4 other counties could vie for prison.” Do you remember when people protested at the thought of a prison being located in their communities? And who would want a nuclear power plant in their backyard? The citizens of Claiborne County relish the prospect of millions in additional property tax revenues.
Sign, sign, everywhere a sign
Signs along roadways are fascinating, especially when they are paradoxical, misspelled or just plain intriguing. For example, I never thought of the law school in downtown Jackson as being of one gender or another until I saw the “Miss College Law School” sign on Interstate 55.
In a South Mississippi town I had to look twice when a billboard welcomed me to the local “Penecostal” church. Perhaps the congregation split from the more widely known “Pentecostal” group.
Rural communities are especially proud of their high school athletic teams as evidenced by the numerous “Home of the District (fill in the blank) champions.” These type signs tend to remain for decades. My favorite highway sign is that one down in southern Rankin County that welcomes visitors to Puckett, where there are, “…300 good, friendly folks and a few old soreheads.”
Much has been written about leadership. It is time to look at some characteristics of what I call good “followship.” I think there are good followers and bad followers. Good followers let their leaders know when the leaders are getting off the track. Bad followers will follow leaders even though they know that the path they are on is destructive.
No change artists
These are old timey community leaders who just won’t give up. They want to keep things the way they are in spite of an obviously changing environment surrounding them. They find creative ways to hold back their communities while others jump ahead. They fear change instead of embracing it. They discover only too late that communities are always changing, sometimes for the worse.
This new wave — OK, ripple — of entrepreneurs is moving into rural communities and opening new businesses. Some are opening new coffee shops or bookstores on Main Street. Statistics say that most will probably fail. Others are starting Internet-based businesses that do not rely as much on physical location. These pioneers and the forward-thinking longtime residents are transforming rural communities all across Mississippi and the United States.
I wonder if there is a market for a company that would be comprised of secret city visitors, similar to secret shoppers. This would be a team of people who, for a fee, would visit a community and then give the community an analysis of its image.
One day I’m going to reveal my top 10 list of economic developers and public officials. Unfortunately, it is a touchy subject because some deserving ones will be left out.
The things that irritate me were almost the subject of a column this past year. It did not get written because the list is too long and I was afraid that I would come across as a Mississippi version of Andy Rooney.
The short list would look something like this: People who park in handicapped places; public officials who will do anything to get re-elected; people who pull up to a traffic light in the right hand lane and then go straight; people who find it necessary to study at their envelopes before dropping them in the mailbox; media that don’t get the story even close to correct; television meteorologists who don’t know the difference between further and farther; schools that make kids raise money selling stuff door-to-door; restaurant listings on official highway signs that are over a mile from the intersection; cell phone behavior; and measuring someone by their rhetoric instead of by their actions.
Happy New Year!