Wednesday, March 18, 2009

A Change of Venue

I have had the opportunity to spend the majority of this week in the desert. I like the desert, I think people either like it or dislike intensely. Few are ambivalent about it.

In a strange kind of a way I see the desert as a metaphor for where we can go next with the economy. Many people think of the desert as an absolute arid wasteland with nothing to offer. I recommend to people that if they are within a hundred miles of Tucson to stop in at the Desert Sonora Museum. They call it a museum, but in some ways it is much closer to a zoo where the flora and fauna of the region are viewable in their native habitat. I can tell you that the variety of flora and fauna will astound you.

Similarly I look at places like Phoenix, Las Vegas, and Palm Springs that were "carved" out of the desert. Where some saw nothing but sagebrush and cactus others saw opportunity. I am not promoting the "instant community just add water" model, but these areas until recently experienced enormous growth.

As I was reading the newspaper this morning two stories also particularly struck me. The first story was where a team of surgeons removed six major organs from a seven year old girl in order to remove a baseball sized tumor, they then replaced many of her organs. I see this as an example of American health care at its best.

The other story was about some business owners who took a stand to "pay it forward"
  • A pharmacist who split $16,000 among his 24 employees. He asked each of them to donate 15% to their favorite charity and spend the rest in local businesses to stimulate the economy.
  • A florist who surprises 1 to 3 random customers per week with a free bouquet to brighten their day.
  • A CEO of a small business who offers each employee $2000 towards the purchase of a new car or $1000 towards the purchase of a used car. The car dealers in his community are among his customers so he is trying to help them stimulate sales.
  • A city councilman in California started a prom dress drive for young women who can't afford a gown. Local businesses joined the effort donating dry cleaning and free hair styling, and the local Elks Club is collecting shoes.

What is interesting here is that in each case these are small businesses. This is an example of personal competency and responsibility. These people didn't receive a bail out. They also aren't "turtling", they decided to take a personal stand.

I have said before that maybe the current economic situation will cause us to stop, pause, and reevaluate. There is plenty of "contributory negligence" to share with how we got where we are. As you know I am a huge believer that the answer is people, and I think some of these stories make my case.

For today anyway the market is up and all the news isn't negative.

Mark Herbert

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