(Or Why do you Figure that Georgia’s High Tech Corridor is in A Pecan Grove?)
Georgia’s “High Tech Corridor” was established by the Georgia Legislature during the 2001 – 02 session. It extends from Athens to Augusta and also from Dublin to Perry to St Simons Island. It’s not really so much a corridor as a very long collection of roads with not a whole lot on them besides pecan groves, cattle farms, cotton fields and the occasional welding shop or sawmill. The photo of the pecan grove, by the way, was taken last week. It’s not going to be a manufacturing site any time soon.
To paraphrase Robert Burns, “the best laid plans of mice, men, and politicians oft go awry.” Perhaps even this epithet gives our great legislators a bit too much credit. My impression is that the high tech corridor falls more in the category of “Field of Dreams” than best laid plans. In other words, “if we put up a sign, maybe they’ll come.”
To pickup where we left off in Part One , this is exactly the kind of foolishness that politicians and chambers of commerce cannot resist. And Joe Consumer plays right along, even encouraging them when they proclaim the great accomplishments that have never taken place. What the politicians, the chambers of commerce and Joe Consumer fail to do is acknowledge and support the most powerful engines for growth and innovation that already exist in every local economy – small businesses.
In fairness to Macon’s Chamber of Commerce, they have done a good job in the last year. One year ago, Brown and Williamson Tobacco finally closed. B&W was once Middle Georgia’s largest non-governmental employer. High paying jobs were lost when the plant shut down and small businesses that supported the plant closed or laid off workers, too. Since B&W’s demise, the Macon Chamber has recruited several sizable employers to the area (Nichiha, a manufacturing plant and Kohl’s, Bass Pro Shop and Sara Lee Distribution Centers).
The Chamber has done well under pressure with the addition of big companies. But aside from a few networking opportunities, ribbon cuttings and a couple of seminars, the Chamber has not done much for small businesses. Nor have politicians at the state level. As an example, Georgia badly needs legislation that would enable and facilitate small business pools for the purpose of purchasing health insurance for their employees. Cowed by the insurance companies and confused by the inanities of the current system, the legislators have only just begun to acknowledge that there is a problem with health insurance. And the “solutions” under consideration appear to add layers of complication rather than reduce them.
And what about Joe Consumer? Joe could support local business with his billfold, but he’d rather go to Home Depot than the local Ace Hardware franchise. Never mind that Ace Hardware provides jobs for Joe’s teenage son and all of his friends and sponsors half of the events in his town. His perception is that Home Depot is less expensive. Even small businesses, who should support one another, tend to forget the impact of local purchases. How many small restauranteurs have you seen shopping at Sam’s Club?
Here’s where America, The Beautiful starts playing and the tirade ends. If you’ve made it this far, take out your billfold or your purse, head to the local butcher shop, florist, or printshop and buy something. Tell them thanks for hiring your neighbor and sponsoring your daughter’s soccer team. And enjoy what you buy, ’cause you’re keeping a lot of folks like me in the small communities we love.