Wouldn’t it be nice to pick up a paper and read only pleasant headlines for a change? The news in Washington this week is that we have retired the national debt, unemployment in North Carolina has sunk to it’s lowest levels since 2006, and a group hug broke out in the streets of Baghdad. Unfortunately that’s not the headlines we read.
According to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), the annual difference between what our federal government collects in tax revenue and what it spends will be $1.3 trillion this fiscal year alone. Combat troops are leaving Iraq, however, we are still a stretch from a tension free region. Closer to home, North Carolina’s unemployment rate dipped to 9.6% in July and has declined for five consecutive months but still remains higher than the national average of 9.5%.
North Carolina’s Secretary of Commerce Keith Crisco visited the Lake Norman region recently and reassured business and community leaders while we’re far from being out of the proverbial woods, families and businesses are relocating to North Carolina because they have faith in our regional economy. Crisco went further and pointed to the local expansions at Microban, Newell Rubbermaid, along with the new Davidson business incubator, the Project for Innovation, Energy and Sustainability (PiES). The incubator has announced four new start-ups and is a great example of regionalism that Secretary Crisco pointed to as a real success story. PiES is one of several collaborative efforts in the Lake Norman market bringing together the Town of Davidson, business leaders, CPCC, the Lake Norman Chamber, Lake Norman Regional EDC, and UNC Charlotte. PiES is the result of Kathleen Rose, a local economic development consultant, and the Town of Davidson coming together in a collaborative effort to offer green start-ups advice, technical assistance, and office space.
Senator Burr, who was also visiting the Lake Norman region on the same afternoon, met with employees of Microban in Huntersville. The Senator was asked what is the most pressing need facing the American economy, and he was quick to point out “business” needs certainty when it comes to regulation and taxes; both of which fluctuate wildly at the whims of Congress. Senator Burr also took aim at the implementation of the new health care costs facing small business and Corporate America. It is estimated health care costs will rise 8.9%.(according to a survey of the National Business Group on Health) and many businesses are already freezing employment in anticipation of these costs.
Omar Khayyam in The Rubaiyat writes, “The moving finger writes; and having writ, moves on: Nor all your piety nor wit shall lure it back and cancel half a line, nor all your tears wash out a word of it.”
As our community and business leaders shared with Senator Burr and Commerce Secretary Crisco all the things we have done to assist small business and our larger corporations, I was struck at how much there is still to do. While there is nothing we can do about what has been done, and once done, cannot be undone, particularly when it comes to failed national policies on the economy and national security, there is still much we can do.
The poet John Greenleaf Whittier once wrote, “For all the sad words of tongue and pen, the saddest are these: It might have been.” When we look to those challenges ahead, and there are still many, we do so with both our elected leadership and business leaders working together in a collaborative and regional effort.
I cannot help but believe that given the talent, commitment, and energy of our community leaders we will see those challenges as opportunities – not what might have been, but what can still be.