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Sunday, October 18, 2009

Local Spending Helps Local Economy


Do you realize what happens when we take something or someone for granted? We usually make some assumptions that lead to decisions that might have a negative impact.

As we prepare to enter another holiday season, I realize how incredibly simple it has been to jump on the highway and scoot down the I-69 corridor to any given retailer that might suit our fancy.

It has become such a habit that thousands of us find ourselves heading out of town with the simple justification that there really isn't anything here so we'll visit surrounding shopping districts to pick up something nice.

It actually isn't just the proximity of regional malls, upscale retailers, and broader selections. It's also the internet with it's “don't leave your house” convenience of shopping online.

I watch as retailers pour the bulk of their seasonal budgets to draw the lint out your pocket into their cash registers and can't help but wonder how the holiday makes such an economic impact on so many lives.

For some companies, it is the holiday spending that keeps them operational during the year. It means making enough money to pay employees and keep them covered medically. Though thousands of people spend their money outside the community, there is a valid case to be made with spending your money locally this holiday season.

Spending money in our community means that we are investing in the local economy. It puts the pressure on businesses here in town to invest back into our community as well. It has been demonstrated with the millions of dollars Kroger invested in the Cross Street store or the $5 million invested by Ed Martin Toyota, or even in the new ownership team (The Cook family) out at Mounds Mall.

I recently posted to Facebook images that I took of available retail space and received numerous emails from individuals who hadn’t seen the renovations to the inside of the mall. It is not just the mall. It is the economic welfare of the entire community that depends on local dollars.

When potential retailers looking to move to town see local spending they are more likely to bring stores that we travel to closer to home. Many national retailers are relying strictly on the numbers.

According to the retail & Commercial Opportunities Guide put together by the Economic Development Department for the City of Anderson we have traffic counts on our streets that range from 10,000 to 48,000. We have a population within a 10 mile radius of roughly 430,000 people. However you look at it we could make the numbers work for new business and businesses already here in town, but our case will not stick if we don’t put our money back into the local economy to help the cause.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

City should have its own TV station


Last week I scratched the surface of addressing an issue that seemed to spark the interest of many people.

I contacted Comcast, the local cable provider who uses public airwaves/ lines to broadcast, about what Anderson’s effort to have its own television station might cost. I spoke to Brett Hatch, Manager of Communications & Local Programming.

Mr. Hatch explained that Comcast provides “access” to local municipalities to air programming. Some cities have up to 5 channels that they use to broadcast community news, events, and community based programming.

What was astonishing to me was the number of people within the company that had no idea what Anderson was doing with the allocated channel given to the city. This is not about something for which tax payers have to pay additional fees to air programming. This is about public access channels that are given to this community by law.

There are several approaches that can be taken to secure a cable TV station which is much different than having a public access channel.

You have to apply for licensing through the Federal Communication Commission. This involves raising the capital and having the equipment to broadcast your own programming once approved by the FCC.

According to Mr. Hatch, the challenge is in providing 24 hour programming. He seems to think Video on Demand channels are the wave of the future. You purchase a channel and focus your efforts as a broadcast station on driving traffic to your VOD channel to watch your programming.

By the way, the FCC is an independent United States government agency established by the Communications Act of 1934. It is charged with regulating interstate and international communications for television.

Please understand that there are two separate topics here. One is that Anderson has been given public access channels by law which are underutilized.

Though the channel(s) are provided, the city would have to work with correlating groups, schools, and or university to provide programming content, local equipment, and locate the space to generate or originate a signal.

Again, the cost for something like this is in the equipment. Many cities, such as Muncie, partner with universities to use their equipment or make the investment to purchase the equipment for the community to air programming sometimes produced by local citizens
.
The other most common effort for those of interest in the private sector is creating a broadcast station. This involves undisclosed private dollars that a group or individual puts towards running an independent station.

Whether it is a public access channels or the creation of a local network by a non community based group, TV along with the internet offers our community access and opens the doors to information and potential revenue.

The Power of Persuasion


Last week, I had the opportunity to interview a couple of individuals who own their own advertising agencies for our weekly radio show. Both have over 30 years experience in their career field. Ken R. Wilson is President and CEO of I CAN Advertising Agency in Los Angeles, CA and Joe Newman is CEO of Joe Newman Advertising Agency in Indianapolis.

I had not viewed advertising as necessary to the life of a business as I do now. I always associated the success of a business with the service or product provided. Quality service speaks for itself and tends to yield good return clients or customers.

Then I ran across some information that highlighted the fact that nearly $400 billion was spent worldwide on advertising a few years ago. The numbers keep increasing annually. I recently judged why I have made some of the purchasing decisions I have over the years.

In some instances it boiled down to the power of persuasion by a company to acquire a product that I may or may not necessarily need.

Advertising is simply the avenue by which companies make consumers aware of a particular product and its value to a specific consumer base. It has developed over the years.

The primary medium by which most companies choose to advertise or market their product or service is either in print (internet, newspaper, magazines, etc.), on radio, or over the television air waves.

From my short interview here are a couple of insightful things that I learned. The information gathered could be applied to a broad base of services providers (i.e. grocery stores, auto dealers, local municipalities, retail shops, non-for-profits, churches, and restaurants).

First, advertising experts say you should set aside 4 to 6 percent of your revenue for marketing and advertising. Some companies do much more, but I have found this to be a good benchmark.

The next key point that seemed to be a commonality amongst agencies was
“reach times frequency.” How many people can you reach and how long can you reach them?

More targeted studies imply that companies are specifically targeting a certain audience to maximize their reach and advertising at a frequency that is associated with the consumer’s revenue stream.

As a company owner how much do you have to spend to attract consumers into your store?

Advertising done right puts you above your competition whether on an individual basis in the work place or as a company. What sets you apart identifies the reason to buy to your future prospects.

Play to your strengths to position yourself to persuade people to buy your product or service and of course provide a good product once you have the sale!

Your ability to present a unique selling proposition will yield immediate measurable results.

Investments that yield return benefit the State of Indiana


After living for several years in Washington, D.C., one of the things that I have come to appreciate here in Indiana is access to local and state Government officials and information pertinent to any given topic.

Due to the state of affairs for most of the cities in Indiana, the state has been exceptional at trying to develop and maintain programs that offer incentives to local businesses. I was introduced to one such program by former Director of the Flagship Enterprise, Art Patterson.

A couple of years ago as I was detailing my business plan, Art made me aware of the Venture Capital Investment Tax Credit. If you are like I was I had no idea that such a credit existed.

As described by the state, the Venture Capital Investment Tax Credit program improves access to capital for fast growing Indiana companies by providing individual and corporate investors an additional incentive to invest in early stage firms. Investors who provide qualified debt or equity capital to Indiana companies receive a credit against their Indiana tax liability.

The process involves the application ($200 fee) and certification of the receiving company and the approval and certification of the investor by the Indiana Economic Development Corporation. Once approved the investor is eligible for the lesser of two options, a tax credit of up to 20% of their investment or $500,000.

It is a viable option for presenting a capital campaign to potential investors. Your business may be in need of incentive based programs to increase your bottom line.

The state is at work to benefit you. I have found that a call to the Governor’s office or even Secretary of State has lead to information that has proven helpful. There are a list of categories that are deemed ineligible by the IEDC. It is worth looking into if you have been courting investors to raise capital for your business.

IEDC has other helpful information on grants , loans, and special programs at their website, www.in.gov/iedc/204.htm or call.

You may also view information that is helpful for starting a business at www.in.gov/iedc/StartingaBusiness.htm.

Times like these call for creative measures and by comparison to most states Indiana has things in place with hopes to strengthen the business culture of communities like ours.

IEDC’s Venture Capital Investment Tax Credit program is one of the few programs that I have found very few companies know about. The total amount of tax credits certified by the IEDC for any calendar year may not exceed twelve and a half million dollars ($12,500,000).

From an entrepreneurial perspective VCI Tax Credit is one of the most effective programs to stimulate investment in companies in Indiana.

Are you ready to start your own business?


A few months ago, my wife and I discussed her starting a business in an industry that she has been a part of for years.

Her work at ESTEE LAUDER and training with John Robert Powers Modeling School in Chicago has given her multiple vantage points of exposure to the career field of makeup artistry.

Along with her inherited culinary passions, make up seems to be something that my wife lives and breathes. She dreams it as passionately as I dream architecture and the design of buildings.

With any new business there are always several steps that you have to take to successfully approach start up. Here is a list of resources that you can review in detail to see if being in business for yourself is a viable option.

Resource No. 1:
Secretary of State
www.in.gov/SOS
(317) 232-6531

In 1816 the state of Indiana designated five constitutional officers of which the Secretary of State is the 3rd highest in command. This office helps to guide potential business owners and existing businesses with helpful information on what type of business to start, tax and licensing information, and general answers to business structured questions.

Resource No. 2:
SCORE
www.scoreanderson.org
(765) 642-0264

SCORE is sponsored by the US Small Business Administration. They are a national organization with local offices. Comprised of a mix of retired businessmen, they are a great starting point for questions surrounding what to do next.

Resource No. 3:
Anderson Public Library:
www.and.lib.in.us
(765) 641-2456

The library has countless resources at your disposal for ever type of business. There are also countless internet resources on the topic of starting your own business. One of your primary goals is to develop a business plan.

Many businesses fail because of under capitalization or they never had a successful plan in the first place. Businesses usually need to raise capital through public or private investors to establish a financial base.

Though the pool of investors seems to be declining, there are businesses that I have spoken with that have built an aspect of their business from private funding (through family/ friends etc). The state of Indiana has a great resource for information on Venture Capital Tax Credits for businesses as well (www.in.gov/iedc/204.htm)

Your plan should outline your marketing strategy and demonstrate how you plan to establish yourself against your competition.

There are three ways to effectively grow your business, mergers, acquisitions, and aggressive marketing. You should know your plan before you consider starting.

Begin to establish a plan of action that will take you to your goal. Your business may contribute to economic development in our area.

Don’t be afraid to fail. Failure marks fear and fear is a boundary that will not allow you to establish your own vision for success.

Could the Church be the Center of Economic Development?


After years of thinking about this and limited research, I have come to the conclusion that the church just might be the center of economic development.

Many of you might challenge such a claim because for some the church has represented the underfunded entity of most communities.

Segregated churches, lack of financial resources, promiscuity amongst its leaders, and division all represent synonyms for some people's impression of the modern day church; however, it doesn't diminish the churches stance in history (cite: history of Roman Catholic Church) nor its potential to achieve its underlying historic calling.

Since its inception the church has stood as a challenger to the secular environment and has in turn, in some cases, stabilized civilizations through religious order and or religious governance.

The early church though resisted, contributed to societal development from the core of its biblical foundation and the teachings which had a direct impact on it’s leaders.

This has an economic recourse.

Kings relied on priest to inform them in times of crisis (for example in the Holy Bible Joseph advised King Pharaoh). The governing corporate body sought out such council to gain insight into the future and or assistance with their decision making.

Here is the modern day correlation; the elected governing bodies are in crisis. Decisions made now will irrevocably impact generations to come.

Here is the modern day problem; How can governing bodies rely on a group of religious leaders who represented a fractured community of faith who struggle to pull resources and ideas across denominational lines let alone offer solutions to economic disparity?

For all of its history the church at large stands at attention in silence to the economic crisis now faced without a voice to change people's fears to hope as their internal efforts rely on some counter influence, be it social, financial, or political.

Here is my call; To every pastor and or leader of a titled faith based organization why not offer our leaders a God given solution for our community.

A church that meets the need of the community is a vibrant and relevant church.

Providing us with a solution that highlights your solidarity to each other regardless of your denomination, race, or financial status would benefit us all.

The church is the center of economic development, but only if its leaders direct its constituents into healthy influences and wise decisions. With the core focus of the church as the health of the total man there is no greater authority to address societal woes.

Many business owners and elected officials look to religious leaders for inspiration and insight especially in times of crisis.

The individual pursuit of purpose, happiness, and one’s inner inhibitions drives economic development, what better place to resolve those issues than the church?

What is your Net Worth?


Last week I took an IQ test (www.iqtest.com) after reading the book Outliers by Malcom Gladwell. My interest in my IQ stemmed from the book’s case study of Christopher Langan (www.youtube.com/watch?v=-ak5Lr3qkW0), who has an IQ of over 195. What stuck out the most was that he was a bouncer and body builder and content with his financial wherewithal.

We tend to associate brains with career and career with one’s net worth. In actuality net worth is simply weighing your liabilities against your assets. In some instances it is possible to have a negative net worth. Your net worth and IQ may not be related if you have not properly invested or grown your assets to exceed your liabilities.

What do you think the overall IQ of the citizens of our community would add up to if we tested a median of readers from 24 to 65? How about net worth?

As I began to research content for this article, I realized that the most insightful piece of information that I could produce might lead readers to set a goal to increase their personal net worth.

With a daily influx of news that advertises the economic disparity of the times, some readers might think it unnecessary to have thoughts of increasing net worth.

Along with a personal assessment, my goal is to reestablish a series of short term goals that will lead to increasing net worth with the hope of leaving something of lasting value to generations that follow.

The local rut of making enough to get by or sustaining a positive net worth seems unattainable to some as we see unemployment strut to all time new levels.

Though my personal desire to one day be financial well off is met with current real time challenges in a economic downturn, the truth is you can not arrive anywhere without managing a plan to get there.

Detours, road blocks, and wrong turns chip away at plans to succeed, but developing short term and long term goals offer road map information that will prove helpful along the journey.

If you have a negative net worth this means that you owe more money than you have. If your number is greater than your salary then you need to make lifestyle changes so that you can turn the situation around.

If you have a positive net worth, you should work on continuing to grow your net worth.

According to the Affluent Market Research Program (AMRP) the number of U.S. millionaire households is on the rise as of their last study.

Build your net worth by beginning to invest and getting rid of liabilities. As we prepare for the financial market to turn around set goals that are attainable. Seek financial counsel from industry professionals that can help you structure a solid financial future.

A positive net worth helps us all.

There is an Immediate Need to Reform County Government for Fiscal Solvency


With the talk of going green our society is faced with regulating energy output to its most efficient level. Along those lines of efficiency there are proposals to trim back everything from energy consumption to the structure of our local government.

The state of Indiana has 92 counties. Its structure represents government erected over 150 years ago. In 2007 Governor Mitch Daniels assembled a blue ribbon task force under the Indiana Commission on Local Government Reform. See (http://indianalocalgovreform.iu.edu/assets/docs/Report_12-10-07.pdf) for the full report.

The group consisting of policy analysts, former political leaders, and research assistants was assigned the task of evaluating ways to streamline local government. The effort took place under the Center for Urban Policy and the Environment.

Would Indiana benefit from eliminating the county commissioner structure and replacing it with a single county administrator?

As I began to research more on this topic and the national documentation of related decisions, I ran across an article written by Penn State University Professor of Policy Beverly Cigler who has written extensively on the topic.

According to Prof. Cigler there is no separation of power in the current structure. Many states have adopted a review of county government in preparation of proposing painstaking changes.

“County governments should be led by a single county executive and a stronger county council, to whom professionally qualified administrators should report and be accountable,” according to former Indiana Governor Joseph Kerns (D).

The report assembled by the task force also suggests
Local government should be more transparent, allowing citizens to better understand whom to hold accountable—whom to thank or blame—for decisions, actions and spending.

The current Governor suggests, based on a Ball State study, that nearly $630 million can be freed up because of streamlining county government. For those in opposition there stands little chance to justify why our 92 counties would not want to save the tax payers money.

This is by no means a loss of services or a reduction in the quality of service. It is a calculated effort to bring solvency to our economic efforts of relief.

In Indiana, including cities, schools, libraries, counties and towns there are over 3000 local governments.

The massive overhaul of county governance has its opposition and would be a daunting task.

Without diminishing the role and responsibilities of the public servants who serve in positions of county government, it is respectfully noted that adopting the suggestions of the Indiana Commission on Local Governance Reform would in fact duly position the State of Indiana for a progressive future.

Government has never gotten smaller since its inception; however, some jurisdictions have packaged an efficient model that I believe we should follow.

This model may be one of the most difficult to implement because of the number of positions it would eliminate, but for the future of our communities it is a proposal that each tax payer should consider with prudent measure.

The Business of Bankruptcy


There are hundreds of thousands of people in pursuit of the American dream while others are just barely making a living, heading to a dead end job to make gas money to get back to work the next day.

The business climate is stretched in a dismal reality that makes talk of vision and success seems like foreign words, yet there are those that remain positive and upbeat.

A couple of weeks ago I heard Donald Trump speak about a topic that people I know avoid like the plague, bankruptcy.

Coupled with the words “excellent tool” Trump explained bankruptcy as something many of his wealthy friends as well as himself have used to restructure themselves.

Along with his books on wealth, famed TV show, and casinos which have yielded both success and failure, Trump sees bankruptcy as nothing more than a beneficial legal mechanism.

“There is no shame in bankruptcy,” Trump says, "It doesn't matter - it's a modern-day thing, a legal mechanism."

However, acceptable Trump projects it, somewhere along the line my impression of bankruptcy has been engrained as a sign of failure for which you work day and night to avoid.

Yet with all of its preconceived shame by association, I am finding more and more people and companies (on a daily basis) who have quietly filed for either Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy (the most common) and emerged somewhat of a success.
Most cite their desire to stop foreclosures, eliminate credit card debt, tax debt, and medical bills while keeping their homes, cars, and other properties.

Last week the federal government launched yet another attempt to address bankruptcy law. The House Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Commercial and Administrative Law held a hearing on the collapse of Circuit City and how recent changes to the Bankruptcy Code may be hurting the ability of companies and individuals to restructure under court protection.

The goal is to shift the advantage back to the debtors.

With the local business climate the way it has been and Indiana’s recent position regarding unemployed constituents, more and more companies and individuals may be filing for bankruptcy.

In the last quarter of last year 14,513 individuals filed in the state of Indiana joining the nearly 300,000 filings nationally for the same time frame.

Thirty years ago people still had a flicker of hope in realizing a dream. Americans fought to succeed and were resilient in doing so. Bankruptcy filings existed, but it was the final option to restructure not to throw in the towel and quit.

The laws have changed to protect the system from abuse. If this becomes your option be careful to consult an attorney or do plenty of research to become knowledgeable of your rights.

A tool is only as good as the person using it and their understanding of how it works to solve the existing problem.

Rules of conduct for effective communication


For the last several months I have had the distinct opportunity to write a column that reflects thoughts and ideas in regards to business and effective measures that might enhance or give directive to our community as we journey through unprecedented times.

In a recent conversation with my peers, we began to address an underlying yet critical element of all business, communication.

With the current structure of our business environment, communication happens on many levels. It happens via email, text messages, over the phone, at lunch in person, and through third parties.

There is an unspoken communication etiquette that exists in business that if not closely adhered to could cost your company business or its stellar reputation.
Along with simple things like valuing what is important to your client and listening intensely to their need, there is always a need for someone in the office that can clean up communication mishaps.

What do you do about misunderstood emails? Or phone messages that might have taken the wrong tone?

Effective communication is a two way street.

After watching a colleague lose work because of a clear misunderstanding and reading about some of the mishaps television mogul Ted Turner highlighted in his book Call Me Ted, I have quickly learned that there are a few steps business owners and employees can take to keep the lines of communication between staff and clients clear.

Steps to effective communication are established with a person’s character. Always carry a forgiving attitude. In some cases you might be right, but have to yield your certainty for the sake of retaining a client that sees things only their way.

Most recently I forgave an out of state client a debt because I felt the relationship was more valuable than proving a point through gathering phone notes and emails to clearly highlight their error and I would like the same courtesy extended to me. This is not always the case.

Some people are hard to communicate with at any level. Like people who might not even offer you an environment to state your case or give off the heir that they are too busy to take time to clear the lines of communication.

Some situations where communication has become faulty may have to be let go, but not until you have tried every effort to extend the opportunity for open dialogue.

Here are some key points that might help avoiding communication mishaps.

Follow up critical emails with a phone call.

Have a third party in on all meetings

Listen and take copious notes

Follow meetings with documented meeting notes for review by both parties

If you lose a project always try to salvage the relationship whether you do work for that client or not

Give people the benefit of the doubt when negotiating, but always be clear in explaining your understanding of the circumstances

Social networking is good for business.


This morning I had breakfast with a friend and mentor, Architect Jonathan Hess. He is the architect that designed the Indiana Museum of Art building addition amongst other notable buildings throughout the country.

One of the topics of our discussion was social networking and its relation to business.

During the last couple of weeks, thanks to CNN, I signed up for Facebook. I am now connected to just under 300 people I haven’t seen or heard from in more than 15 years. FB boasts some nearly 150 million users.

If you are not familiar with the networking culture online, there are several major sites that “link” people based upon their location, background information, or simply by requesting to be connected to someone.

There is Bebo, Twitter, MySpace, Facebook, and LinkedIn to name a few. As an entrepreneur, I have gained a new appreciation for these sites because not only am I permitted to connect with mere acquaintances, but I am also able to share information about myself that might encourage someone to do business with me.

Mark Zuckerberg created Facebook at 19 years old while trying to connect students on Harvard campus. What ensued was nearly half the campus being connected online and a new culture of online networking being established.In a blog posted by Zuckerberg he states, “networks offer a way of making the world more open and giving people a voice to express ideas and initiate change."

Now politicians, entertainers and entrepreneurs are connected on a sub communication level that is revealing of our time. Everyone benefits from the ability to reference someone else for a particular task or even suggest a potential connection between two or more individuals that have like goals.

People I don’t even know contact me about their business and the opportunity to possibly be retained for contract services. Social networking online is good for business!

I have always advocated that by now every person should have an email address or access to one. Wireless hot spots should be city wide. I would pay a small annual tax that allows for the community to be amongst countless others to be WiFi supportive everywhere.

Another friend and I thought it would be great to connect everyone from the City of Anderson, past and present, to link our communities brightest thinkers and also to align a safe place for dialogue that was more business related and highlighted the welfare of our town.

With this thought in mind we launched “The Gathering” (www.gatheringanderson.ning.com) with the goal of connecting 40,000 people anywhere in the world from our town to stimulate and encourage networking locally and abroad.

Imagine friends, family, and business acquaintances from all over the world that either lived in or passed through our city connecting in one place. I am curious as what that might do to the business of our community and our local economy.

THE BUSINESS OF POLITICS



There is nothing more American than the Presidential Inauguration. The inauguration is like watching the last great monarchy or appointment of a king. Its’ rich history alludes to the fact that Americans are prone to formalities that carry with it the symbols of high society.

It’s hard to imagine that for all of the pomp and circumstance entrepreneurs rake in top dollar for such an occasion. There are t-shirts, hats, buttons, badges, and flags.

Though my political views probably parallel that of Pastor Rick Warren, I watched this year’s inauguration with the mindset of a young entrepreneur, as a citizen of a struggling economy, as a person of Christian faith and as one of the country’s millions of minorities.

As an entrepreneur, I never want to see “big government,” but I realize that it has never gotten any smaller since our government began. My hope is that what is placed into governance are policies that make government run more efficiently especially for business.

No matter your political views last Tuesday meant something special. Though I personally don’t agree with every projected policy I took time to celebrate the moment with the realization that lesser men have occupied this office and been given the opportunity to succeed or fail.

Last week prior to the event and with the celebration of Martin Luther King holiday fresh on my mind, I penned my thoughts as we as a country were on the verge of a new page of history.

For now there is no space between here and there. Time and space have collapsed with the dream of the inevitable.

For the struggles of every person who fought for equality, who died for justice, who sang with faith, who bled with hope, this moment transcends them all.

For this moment the past, present, and the future stand at attention to proclaim the beauty of what seems so right.

We have watched hatred guard the path that leads to justice, we have watched fear strong arm our pioneers to their death, and ignorance be the wall that separates the light from the darkness.
But for this moment time stands still to give credence to the generational journey, to the visionaries, to handmaids, to the slaves and captives of exile, to the babies unborn, to the cries in the wilderness, to the future of every living soul.

We stand in the shadows of some of those who lived with a failed hope. Who never saw this day in person, but dreamed this day all their lives.

This day in history means that a new seed has been planted in the hearts of some men. It means that faith and hope once again have eradicated the evil that has hid opportunity.

This day means that every man can once again carry the words that hang in the balance of our atmosphere penned in 1892 by the Baptist minister Francis Bellamy who with the aspiration of all people wrote - “One nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for ALL.”

Think of yourself as an independent entrepreneur...


2009 is upon us. If last year was any indication of how time flies, I think we all better buckle up. This year is a year of promise, depending on how you choose to look at it.

The way we view each year has more to do with what’s on the inside then what we see around us.

All the talk I have done about planning has been put into practice in my own life. Last week I put together a yearlong plan. My church has helped to cultivate a continuum in my life.

I heard that the more money you have the more planning you tend to do. I don’t know which is a byproduct of the other money or planning, but I will say that my plan includes goals pertaining to life, marriage, family, business, health and fitness, finances, education, travel and spiritual growth.

These items are attainable if I employ discipline and with steady encouragement from my wife, family, and friends.

I also have become privy to a resource that I would like to share with you. Her name is Julie Morgenstern. She has been featured in Oprah’s Magazine, spoken at company seminars for Microsoft and developed a rather successful enterprise in the “get organized” category.

For some people organization is a daunting task that should be done only when all the stars align. I have met very few people that do it well. Staying organized means creating a system that works for you. Did you know that there is actually a statistic that shows that people who keep their office desk organized are more likely to get promoted that a clutter box employee.

Julie has books and videos at the library that can help guide you through a cleansing process. Try reading ORGANIZING FROM THE INSIDE OUT or TIME MANAGEMENT FROM THE INSIDE OUT.

If you are a business owner introduce these videos this year and see how the productivity of your company changes.

The bottom line with organization is establishing a level of order that will make you more efficient and in turn improve your personal environment. Some people think order is a matter of how much space you have to organize. The reality is the less space the better organized you should be.

What can you eliminate as clutter from your daily life?
Several principles came to mind from years ago when I was introduced to Julie’s writings. She says “Be your own Boss, even If you are an employee of a company. Think of yourself as an independent entrepreneur working with your company, not a hired hand working for it. Independent contractors must deliver results every day while employees sometimes allow themselves more slack and act as though their employees owe them something.”

You can read more at www.bottomlinesecrets.com/article.html?article_id=41012.

You can also sign up for Julie’s free newsletter at www.mailermailer.com/x?oid=07073s

Healthcare is for Everyone!


After sitting down to all of the holiday trimmings over the last 30 days I decided to go play basketball at the invitation of a friend Saturday morning at South Meridian Church of God.

I haven’t stepped on a basketball court to play in the last 4 years and I have the waste line to show it. I went down into the basement and pulled out a jersey from the old ABA team my wife and I owned and one of the many pairs of brand new Pony shoes that I have in all sizes.

I figured I could at least look good if I was going to try to play again.
There I was stretching and praying that I wouldn’t have a heart attack. I grabbed a rebound and took center court on a goal to goal drive. I took the ball through my legs and behind my back in a moment of grandeur that gained a cheer “that’s the ‘J’ I remember,” from Shon Perry, a 30 something old high school classmate and friend.

My defender went one way and I another. I stopped took a jump shot, nothing but net!

I wanted to relish in my moment but the rest of my time on the court I spent looking for an inhailer. For a second, I thought I was going to cough up a lung. My leg tightened up and I called it quits after 2 games.

All this basketball playing had made me seriously thinking about health insurance and a physical. Being out of shape is one thing, but thinking that I haven’t had a serious check up since being laid off and starting my own company is another.

When I got laid off in September of 2007 I was forced to file for unemployment. I went to FSSA to get health coverage since I was approved for unemployment benefits. After nearly 6 weeks of communication and email and faxing multiple documents (nearly 50 pages), my family was denied health care coverage. I was told that I made too much money from unemployment.

That’s the most hideous thing I have ever heard! The weary process along with other pressing matters caused me to throw in the towel for the moment.
The state government approved the amount I drew down on unemployment, then they tell me I don’t qualify for coverage. So as my wife I got ready for the birth of a new born I had to take what little I received and pay full cost health coverage.

Today I am reapplying for HIP. This is my second attempt at HIP because of my change in status regarding employment. The health system is so confusing to me now. In Paris the younger generation doesn’t pay any health care. We need to Walmart healthcare. Make it so that we have what is needed at the lowest price possible and squeeze the healthcare system for everything its worth. For my dear friends in the healthcare industry please be advised that this simply my frustration talking.

I think the whole city should market themselves as one big company with 58,000 employees and strong arm the healthcare providers to give us coverage at decent prices. HIP is first come first serve. This could be all come and all are served. It is not rocket science. The healthcare industry seems swollen with escalating cost.

If you have been as frustrated as I have you may want to seek outside assistance in working through the system. A great resource is the Urban League. They will be holding a seminar to help people maneuver the system and get the coverage you need.

How Valuable is Land Use Appropriation?


Last week, I had a client send me to New York City to do a feasibility study for a project.

As the President of the Plan Commission, I took time to meet with the Department of City Planning Director and the President of the New York City Plan Commission. I sat in on their monthly meeting. New York City with its many boroughs and mass population has different issues than does a town of 60,000 people.

While at the Department of City Planning, I had a plethora of reference materials that office staff walked me through. As with any new development project, there is research that has to be done to make sure that the building requested meets established standards.

Land Use plans and Zoning have the ability to shape a city. It is vitally important to the structure of community. If there could be such a comparison, the Comprehensive Plan is like a Holy Bible of the community that every elected official should reference when contemplating land use decisions.

The entire concept is derived from the practice of designating permitted uses of land based on mapped zones which separate one set of land uses from another.
Zoning may be use-based, or it may regulate building height, lot coverage, and similar characteristics, or some combination of these. Designated permitted uses are categorized based on projections of what best suits an area as well as community input. Classifications cover Residential, Commercial, Industrial, Mixed Use, and Manufacturing depending on what city you are located.

Anderson recently completed an extensive plan a couple of years ago. In a visit to the office of Mayor Brainard of Carmel, Indiana earlier this year, he shared with me Carmel’s Comprehensive Plan. Any citizen of the community can view it online at www.ci.carmel.in.us/SERVICES/communityservice.html.

Each city has a plan that provides the frame work for long-range decision making. When I sit in on meetings and listen to some of our elected officials speak about our community it becomes quite apparent who has a person agenda and who understands the framework for this community and has read the City’s Comprehensive Plan.
From environmental concerns to urban sprawl there should be a unified point of reference for community and elected officials regarding any proposed future development.

Locally, the governing bodies over decisions regarding land use in order of authority are the City Council, The Board of Zoning Appeals, and the Plan Commission.
From granting variances from developmental standards, special exceptions, and administrative relief in regard to land use and building requirements or from individuals who are questioning the appropriateness of orders made by City officials to enforcing the Zoning Ordinance of the Town and make land use decisions, the directive is clear.

It is foundational to the community’s health and advancement that the value of land use appropriation be established and respected to ensure quality development of our town.

ET is the new IT


Today I did business with someone over 3,000 miles away. I didn’t travel there. I simply transmitted my banking information by secure email and less than 30 seconds later I received a small payment for a project that I will begin working on tomorrow.

As fascinated as I am by this, this is old news in the Information Technology (IT) world. In many ways, the internet shows the same trends in growth as did the American railroad around the 1830s. What we can do with the computer has become astounding.

I can walk down your street and look at your house by visiting Google Maps in nearly every state except Washington, D.C. The company NAVTEQ (naveteq.com) gathers information all over the country by driving cars equip with transmitters that sends signals to a satellite that turns into images of your property.

By now everyone should have access to a computer and benefit from its capabilities. There is internet banking with ING DIRECT, local banking 24 hour access through the internet, bill payment with PayPal, internet phone service with Skype (from $2.95 per month). We should be able to pay every government bill with the click of the mouse.

The vision of a healthy and vibrant community depends on the balance of being a leader in technology and understanding the propensity of a community to adapt to the changing world.

How connected are you?

Although I would argue that as a community we need to be on top of IT to be competitive, it is becoming more apparent that the future is with Environmental Technology (ET).

ET is the new IT. ET is the application of the environmental sciences to conserve the natural environment and resources, and to curb the negative impacts of human involvement. Going “green” has almost turned into a new Hollywood fad.
We have to challenge ourselves and our community leaders to prioritize the “green” agenda. Cities and businesses have begun to look into ways to cut their energy bills. Legislating new guidelines that call for energy saving measures ensures the most efficient approach to creating sustainable environments. From government to private residences, we all can contribute to educating ourselves on ET.

Here is where we can start.

Government: Low-impact sources such as wind, solar, and hydroelectric power reduce our dependence on coal-burning power plants, a major source of greenhouse-gas emissions.

Local Citizens: Reduce, reuse, and recycle
Businesses and Local Citizens: Save some virgin and old-growth forests by opting out of paper catalogs and browsing online

Home Owners: Make the switch to compact fluorescent light bulbs that last 10 times longer than regular light bulbs.

ET is the new IT. Find a way to have an environmental impact at home, work, and with whom you choose to do business.

Mass Transportation the Future is Calling



The pinch at the pump a few months ago led to thinking about where the future of transportation will take us. Several years ago, I began to do a personal study of mass transit. Maybe it was my exposure to the “Metro” in Washington, D.C. (www.wmata.com), or the “Tube” in London (www.tfl.gov.uk/home.aspx). Whatever it was, something has been ignited in me to see mass transit as a reality here in the center of our state.

My review led me into the studies completed by the Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO). MPOs were created by Congress in 1962 through the Federal Aid Highway Act. They carry out the planning process with the cooperation of the states and local jurisdictions.

MPOs are required in every urbanized area as a condition for receiving certain highway and mass transit funds. Unfortunately, Madison County / Anderson are not in the 9 county hub reviewed for the first cycle of development, which I thought our community leaders should have requested of the MPO.
For 7 years, I commuted from Anderson to Indianapolis to work. I cannot tell you the number of mornings that I wished that I could have purchased a ticket, parked my car, and jumped a train down the 1-69 corridor to Indy’s east side for work. Imagine being able to catch a monorail to the airport. Imagine your kids being dropped off at a station in town and being carried to their schools or for you shopping and sports enthusiast, imagine door to door service to the games on Sunday in Indianapolis or the mall.

Our reliance on our cars is such an inbred thing that it is hard to see ourselves without them unless forced to do so. The vision I had was to see mass transit development linking the Fort Wayne and Indianapolis airports by monorail with Anderson as a centralized location to manufacture and repair rail cars in the many vacated GM plants.

At this point, change is inevitable.
Realistically, mass transit isn’t something that we can see on the horizon in our community for another 15 - 20 years without someone comprehensively planning for it now!

As a community, it is important that we have a voice in the development of the future of our transportation planning by contacting legislators on the federal and state level to lead them into investigating how we might resolve our current woes. Eliminating gas taxes and saving pennies at the pump is a band-aid.

The Transportation Research Board of the National Academies (Transportation Research Record No. 1206) has a survey document of state legislation undertaken in Indiana to identify the goals and objectives of the state transit assistance program.
You can play a role in Anderson/ Madison County not being forgotten; contact your legislators today (www.congressmerge.com/onlinedb/index.htm) to ensure proper planning for our tomorrow, in our community.

THE ELIMINATION OF FEAR



One of my early assignments in college was to create a one point perspective drawing. Perspectives give you a 3D visual of an area and help illustrate more objectively from a given position. All of us have a perspective whether related to architecture or in life. That perspective is relative based on our point of reference. I have a thought provoking question to help guide us to a particular point of reference.

What would you do if you could not fail?

The root of the question addresses the self imposed boundary that we all use to keep from achieving our potential; FEAR. I have failed at small tasks, I have failed at large tasks, I have had financial failures, and I have made the wrong decisions at times which have lead to failures. Failures bruise us and make it difficult to try the same thing twice or even try something new. Fear marks failures, in most cases failure is what people do not who they are.

If failure was not an option, would you write a book, own a business, or travel the world? What would you do? The fact of the matter is our mental ability to dream is limited by the boundaries we set and the vision we have to achieve our goal.
Former Secretary of State of Indiana, Pat Miller, suggested that I read a book entitled The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference. The book talked about the very point at which an epidemic spreads. Can you imagine a local epidemic that spreads in a city full of people driven towards achieving their purpose based on who they are?

How does this play into our everyday life on a local level in our community? Before I attempt to address the surface issues like the mass transit, tax system, and zoning issues I want to clearly layout the foundation to proposed solutions and the premise of my thinking in a way that is nonintrusive.

The first way to approach building anything is to establish a core foundation of belief. From my collegiate studies of civilizations and the building of successful communities, there is an underlying fundamental concept. The way to break down any community is to diversify their language. In turn, if you want to unify a group of people the foundation of whatever they do starts with communication. A community that acts as one unit has more strength. A unified community has its collective buying power increased.

The determined few that live out their lives as a success have eradicated fear. With fear eliminated, several surface issues disappear like racism, classism, political pandering, economic issues, and religious segregation. From this point of reference the perspective is clear; fear is a major hindrance to a community’s progress.
Without our ability to dream, a comprehensive vision of the future of our community is limited to the boundary of the status quo. Community starts with you.

What would you do if you could not fail?

INTRODUCTION


Life has a way of presenting us with defining moments. Defining moments come for some with the passing of a loved one, for others it is related to personal accomplishments, and still for others it is the moment of their deepest pain or failure. For me, one defining moment was at 14 years of age. One Wednesday evening, my mother while dropping off my friend at home asked, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” Quite candidly and without hesitation he said, “An Architect!” I can still remember the impression that left on me, one that has lasted from middle school through my first architectural job in high school for John S. Kane, to my collegiate experience at Ball State and Howard University respectively, to my study abroad in Italy, until now at the age of 35. There is something captivating about the idea of creating something from nothing.

Defining moments showcase the idea of seemingly creating something from nothing, much like the process a seed endures. A seed is an ingenious creation. It can reproduce after its kind when properly cared for and nurtured. The seed’s potential is marked by what is on the inside. You never really see what is on the inside of a seed until the moment it penetrates the surface of the earth. It is the germination process that gives it its expression of life. It is the pressure that forces the seed to perform at its maximum potential, without that constant pressure there is no future harvest.

As I reflect on the community that I live and serve in and it’s defining moments and the seeds sown, I have come to the realization that the power of community and its defining moment is not the success of its economic plan or the structure of its education system or the faith of its believers. The power and defining moment of community is rooted and defined by you and I individually and the realizations of who we are. Not what we do by occupation, or what things look like at the moment, or what we have amassed as possessions, but who we have been ultimately designed to be as individuals. That identity is related to purpose. Each person has a purpose for living that is as different for each of us as our individual finger print. Life’s pressure has a way of maximizing our potential at the crossroad of our defining moment. What we make of it will inherently define us.

The seeds sown in my life have guided me on the pathway of scholarship and service and of faith and family. For the last several years, I have found myself in several different circles of influence whether it be social, cultural, religious, professional, political, or scholastic. Those circles of influence are a byproduct of accomplishment or recognition of one’s efforts and call to service. I am a product of my surroundings, books that I have read, things I have studied and also people in this community who have helped shape my view of the world.

Once a month, I will be writing for the Herald Bulletin with the hopes to inspire you with vision and broaden my own prospective of the world we live in today from a local perspective. It is my hope that what you read will give credence to you reaching and or exploring a defining moment in your own life and all of us arriving at a defining role together as community.