Economic Energy? Look to Local Leadership

I read a recent post from the CEO of Gallup, who provided a good reminder that, like politics, ultimate business success is often locally driven. Yes, policies from Washington and state capitals make a big difference — but so does leadership in communities and companies.

A few highlights from Jim Clifton:

Throughout this year’s long election season, I was often asked: “Who will be better for jobs and the economy, President Obama or Governor Romney?” My reply most surely disappointed partisans from both sides: The president of the United States doesn’t make as much difference in terms of creating economic energy as you’d think, according to Gallup data.

In fact, if the president mattered that much, why is it that cities and states have such extreme variation in their local GDP and job growth? Shouldn’t they all go up or down together with each president?

Instead, Austin, Texas, and Nashville, Tenn., are booming, while Albany, N.Y., and Stockton, Calif., are failing. Texas is prospering while California is almost surely going broke. Austin’s jobless rate is around 5%, while the unemployment rate in Stockton is above 13%.

The difference, in my view, is that Austin has deeply caring, highly engaged business, political, and philanthropic leaders with principles, policies, beliefs, and values about human nature that work. They understand how to build a thriving, growing economy — one that welcomes business and entrepreneurship. Albany has the opposite, as I see it: Leaders with principles, policies, values, and beliefs that discourage business and entrepreneurship, if not outright scaring them away.

Cities across the country with great leadership are filled with booming startup companies, and those cities have thriving economies that create authentic, organically grown good jobs. These cities are saving America, while the others are letting the country down.

Great city leadership has never been so needed. Nationally, business startups are currently growing at under 400,000 annually. If this rate doesn’t double soon, in my view, absolutely nothing will fix our current nightmare of joblessness.

Of course good policy for small businesses is better than bad policy, but in my opinion, the estimated 10,000 business, political, and philanthropic leaders of all shapes and sizes who drive the performance of America’s top 100 cities are the most important people in our country right now. 

He Never Said the “S” Word, but …

Texas Gov. Rick Perry was accused earlier this year of threatening to secede from the union. That’s not quite how it happened. We’ll share the true story below.

What’s interesting was the reaction — both within the state’s borders and from around the country. A Dallas Morning News columnist captured some of the best, primarily in opposition.

Perry triggered debate of secession in April, when he fired up a "tea party" protest in Austin with an anti-Washington speech that prompted the flag-waving audience to shout, "Secede!" The governor, a Republican, never advocated leaving the union, but he said: "If Washington continues to thumb their nose at the American people, you know, who knows what might come out of that."

Allison Castle, the governor’s spokeswoman, said Perry’s intention was to point a critical finger at the federal government, not to encourage abandoning the U.S.

The reactions, however, have been coming in hot and heavy. A sampling:

"Don’t let the door hit you in the you-know-what on the way out!" wrote Summer Lovelace of Fergus Falls, Minn.

"Secede – good riddance," wrote Paul Bernard of Laguna Beach, Calif.

There was some support in Texas with calls, e-mails and a rally in favor of secession, but plenty were not in the Perry camp.

"You are embarrassing our great state," wrote Bellaire resident Felicia Konkel. "Are you really that desperate for acceptance that you would pretend to consider this ridiculous issue?"

And this from Paul Stiverson of College Station: "Those sorts of outbursts are making all Texans look like a bunch of inbred rednecks, and I don’t appreciate that."

Chamber Members Work Together to End Hunger (You Can Get Involved, Too)

Indiana Chamber members Tyson Foods and MediaSauce (Carmel) are working on a "big idea" project that will transform one of the world’s hippest music festivals into a venue to provide charity of the utmost importance. In an effort to combat childhood hunger, the companies (along with several others) are acquiring pledges from people to donate, volunteer in their own community or share the message — and Tyson will donate 35 lbs. of food product (the equivalent of 140 servings) for each pledge. And ultimately, if the goal of 1,000 people taking the online pledge is reached, a semi-trailer filled with 140,000 meals will arrive at the Capital Area Food Bank of Texas in Austin during the South by Southwest Interactive Festival (March 13-22).

The Pledge’s web site explains a record 30 million Americans are on food stamps, and food banks face unprecedented demand. Additionally, more than 12.4 million children are going hungry right here in the United States. (That’s 1 in 6.)

Another goal of the venture is to display how technology can be effectively used to galvanize people behind worthy causes. A press release notes:

“We want to show how simple it is to bring people together to help solve a complex problem,” said Scott Henderson, Cause Marketing Director at MediaSauce.  “With just one click, a person can feed 140 children. When you make it easy to share your message and support your cause, it is amazing how much more willing corporations and individuals are to do something to make a difference.” 

The campaign web site challenges visitors to help spread the word about childhood hunger in America, find ways to get involved with a food bank in their area and donate money to Share Our Strength.  The site encourages a deeper dialogue about the issue with a blog focused on this initiative and ways to collaboratively solve the roots of this problem. 

To learn more about the program or to make a pledge, visit the web site. We offer some due propers to Tyson Foods, MediaSauce and the other companies involved for tackling this project.