Monday, February 13, 2012

Cities Mean Business

Cities, towns and businesses across South Carolina are celebrating “Cities Mean Business”  in February to encourage new and stronger collaboration between local elected leaders and the business community.  

Your local leaders are focusing on the many ways that strong cities and towns support economic growth of existing businesses and attract new businesses. Cities are magnets for good living, engines that drive commerce in South Carolina, and bridges to economic success.

Being a magnet for good living means developing and maintaining a community that has a strong positive quality of life for citizens. Quality of life is an essential element in attracting new businesses to Clinton, to Laurens County, to the Upstate, and to South Carolina. Cities and towns, including Clinton, work to maintain a pro-business atmosphere, create diversified economies, and commit to projects that enhance the quality of life in our community all in effort to make Clinton a great place to live and to do business. Future projects such as a new recreational facility, as well as current initiatives to improve the appearances of our parks and greenspaces as well as the enhancement of the buildings and sidewalks in our downtown district are all designed to develop, enhance, and promote a quality of life that appeals to residents and to the business community.

Clinton is a great place to live, but it is also an engine that drives local commerce. In Clinton, business can find the infrastructure needed to support a business and a productive work force ready to make things happen for business. The civic mindedness of our community leaders, the strong history of regional cooperation, and a favorable tax structure all work together to support the needs of the business community and to fund and provide needed infrastructure so that businesses can succeed in a global marketplace.

Clinton is a bridge to economic success for businesses because we are prepared to work to help business get from where they are to where they want to be. A community wide commitment to economic growth is apparent as Laurens County, the City of Clinton, the Laurens County Economic Development Corporation, the City of Clinton Economic Development Corporation, and the Laurens County Chamber of Commerce all work together to encourage economic growth and prosperity. New partnerships such as the Center for Entrepreneurial Development between the City of Clinton and Presbyterian College will result in opportunities for small business to meet new customers, develop new stratagies, and grow beyond their dreams.

A strong economy and the success of our state is a priority for business leaders as well as cities and towns. Working together through a positive partnership is critical for our hometown to move forward and prosper in the new knowledge economy. For the state to remain competitive with other states and nations, cities and towns must work together with businesses to ensure a positive quality of life and successful economy. Rest assured, your city realizes the role it must play for positive economic growth, development, and a successful business community. Your city leaders and city staff are ready to roll up their sleeves to make Clinton a great place to live, a great place to do business, and a great place to grow your business.  Clinton means business.

New Year, New Luck

January 2012

Many of you know that my wife was born and raised in Germany. In the German culture, holiday traditions can be very different from the holiday traditions that I grew up with here in the United States and our marriage has led to some interesting discoveries about the holidays. First of all, my two favorite holidays, Independence Day and Thanksgiving, are purely American inventions. My wife enjoys them, but they are a bit foreign to her. There are few German holiday traditions that are a bit foreign to me. There’s the feast of St. Martin, in which roving groups of German kids make lanterns, perform skits of the village green, and march in a parade before being turned loose on the neighborhoods to knock on doors and ask for candy. Then there is St. Nikolaus Day. On St. Nikolaus Day you are supposed to leave your shoes out and St. Nikolaus (not the same as Santa Claus) breaks into your house and leaves treats in your shoes. My wife never forgets to put her shoes out, but I always forget to buy things to put in her shoes. Usually I wake up and wonder why my wife left her shoes out. If anyone is wondering what my New Year’s Resolution is – it is to not forget about St. Nikolaus Day again this year.

And in my wife’s family back in Dusseldorf, Germany, New Year’s Day is a great big deal. It is a far bigger deal than it ever was in my family. We just went to bed like it was any other day. I mean really, do you really want to stay up till midnight? In Germany, they celebrate New Year’s by staying up till midnight and eating jelly filled doughnuts. I like the doughnut part a lot. I think my family would have just eaten the doughnuts about 9:30 pm and been in bed by ten o’clock.

The Germans also have a saying for New Year’s. Instead of shouting “Happy New Year!” the German New Year’s wish is “Neues Jahr, Neues Glueck”. It translates to “New Year, New Luck”.

New Year. New Luck. It is most definitely a new year, let’s hope we see some new luck in a few key areas.

In the world of economic development we are competing with every other small town in the country for each and every potential manufacturing facility or distribution center. There was once a time when a robust and booming economy may have allowed for the use of the Field of Dreams model of economic development. You know the “if you build it they will come” philosophy. In today’s world every city has a business or corporate park, and we cannot afford to wait for opportunity to fall in our lap. For 2012 we hope we see some opportunity in economic development that leads to jobs and growth. I also hope we are able, through skill and effort, to demonstrate to potential companies that Clinton is great place to do business.

This year we are hoping that luck, and an improving economy, will prompt the state legislature to restore the local government fund. The sluggish statewide economy prompted the state legislature to reduce the local government fund, impacting the City of Clinton by nearly $200,000 over the past few years. This year, as the state’s economy improves, the City of Clinton needs the State of South Carolina to return all the revenue that the state collects on our behalf back to the city so that we will have the resources provide public services and spur economic growth here in our community.

For months you have heard about the upcoming system wide meter replacement and the new software systems that the city will be implementing. These are huge projects that will forever change our operation, and I hope for a little luck when it comes to implementing these major changes to how your city conducts business. I also hope for patience from our customers as we make the largest changes to our utility billing operations in our lifetimes.

However, we can’t just sit around and wait for good things to fall in our lap. Peabody and Emmy Award winning journalist Ed Bradley once said “Be prepared, work hard, and hope for a little luck. Recognize that the harder you work and the better prepared you are, the more luck you might have.” Bradley understood that luck was not something the fell on you from the sky and suddenly solved your problems like a winning lottery ticket carried to your hand by the wind. Instead, luck is something that if you are prepared for, if you have worked hard to put yourself in a position to capitalize on it, then you can grab luck, wrestle it to the ground, and take advantage of the opportunities that it might bring. Bradley knew that a great majority of good luck was made when preparation and effort were mixed together.  

Even though we want a little luck in economic development, in Columbia, and on the big projects we are tackling, we also realize that we have the ability to shape our own destiny and must lay the groundwork to create a desired outcome in each of those areas. We realize that economic growth for our community will come from providing exceptional infrastructure, a highly educated workforce, and yes, from a little bit of luck.

Through the leadership of City Council, who have set a four point vision for the growth and development of our city, and through the diligent work of city personnel to implement that vision, we will be prepared in the New Year to capitalize on any luck that might come our way in the coming months. Here’s to a new year, and some new luck! Happy New Year!

Give the Gift of Community this Christmas

December 2011

My grandfather, we called him Pa,  was a World War II Veteran, father of seven, farmer, and just about the smartest person I ever knew. He could fix anything, tell great stories, and believed that the only things worth watching on television could be found on PBS. I also think that they only received three TV stations, so the selection was a bit limited at my grandparents home just a few miles from the Blue Ridge Parkway in rural Patrick County, Virginia.

In the summer, my cousins and I were often sent off to “Camp Granny and Pa” during which we would spend the week fishing, hiking, learning about the world around us from our grandparents, and assisting in farm chores. There was a lot of assisting in farm chores. I think the Camp Granny and Pa experience was more about having a steady labor force to keep the weeds out of the fields of beans, corn, and potatoes for Pa’s farm when I look back on it.

I remember Pa saving the brown paper bags that groceries come in, and then filling those bags with corn, beans, potatoes, blackberries, apples from his orchard, or whatever happened to be in season. We would then climb into his dodge truck and drive the mountain roads of the Blue Ridge. Every so often at the end of a dirt road, or in an unnamed hollow, or at a ramshackle house by a stream in the mountains we would stop, and Pa would take a bag of food and sneak up to the back door, leave it on the porch, and then we would drive away. It was an early taste for me as to how hard life was for some people, and how important it was to look out for your neighbors, even if you neighbors lived miles away in the next valley. My grandparents viewed the Dobbins area as their community, and they knew that they had a role to play in it.

A community is not defined by the quality of its roads, the number of streetlights that chase away the darkness, or the services it provides. It is not defined by how close the houses are. It is not defined by its size, its geography, or the number of trees it has. It is defined by the actions of the people who live in it. Community comes from knowing your neighbors, from sacrificing your harvest to help those whose didn’t come in. And in an economy like this one, a community’s success or failure is determined by the effort its citizens take to help each other through the winter .

For my grandparents, the entire area of the county and its scattering of residences and farms was their community. They looked out for their neighbors, and when a neighbor was in need you could bet a bag of food would appear on the doorstep. I think my grandfather would have been mortified if he had ever been caught leaving those vegetables at people’s houses. It wasn’t about getting credit – It was simply about making sure that the neighbors had what they needed.

This holiday season there are many in our community who don’t have what they need. There will be people on the 25th of December who see it as just another day. There will be people who celebrate the holiday with no one, and whose cupboards are bare. As a member of your community, I urge you to take just a little bit of your time and your plenty this season to support our community by sharing and supporting those who are dealing with hard times during the holidays. It can be as simple as baking a cake for your neighbor, or helping to serve food, or working with one of the numerous organizations in our community focusing on addressing the needs of our citizens. When you help your neighbor, you are investing in the emotional infrastructure of our community. You are adding to the definition of who we are as a society. More importantly, you are improving the quality of life in your city – by helping  people make it through the challenges that their lives have presented to them.  

Fire Prevention

November, 2011

If you were doing what I was doing last Friday a little before one o’clock in the afternoon, then you were finishing up lunch. If you were a member of our Department of Public Safety, then you were rushing to a fire scene in one of our residential neighborhoods.

The homeowners weren’t home when their alarm system detected a possible fire in their house. Within minutes public safety personnel were on the scene, fire engines were primed and ready, and a team of trained personnel had entered the home to locate and extinguish the fire and to evacuate anyone who might be in the home. Public Safety Officers assigned to patrol our streets that day were also on the scene and were part of the team that entered the house. Volunteer firefighters left their jobs and families and met the full time personnel on the scene. By the time I arrived, less than ten minutes after the initial call, volunteers and full time personnel had set up equipment, entered the home, and determined that a faulty heating unit had triggered the alarm. No significant fire damage occurred and no one was hurt. Although this fire turned out to be a small electrical incident, this incident should serve as a reminder how fast a fire can start, and how quickly it can change your life.

When the city’s fire trucks arrive, it is often too late for you to protect your home and property from fire damage. Our team of highly trained public safety officers are very good at what they do, but a fire in your home can double in size every 2.5 minutes. The City and the Department of Public Safety encourage you to protect yourself from fire by following just a few simple steps.

First, make sure you have a working smoke detector in your home. You should have one on every floor of your house, and in or near each bedroom. Over half of all fire related deaths occur in homes without working smoke detectors, so it is important to have smoke detectors and to maintain them in good working condition.

Secondly, teach your children fire safety practices regarding matches, electrical outlets, electrical cords, candles, and any other devices that could spark a fire. You should also develop a plan and practice evacuating your home so that your children know how to escape if your house catches fire. Don’t assume you will be able to rush into their room and escort them to safety. Make sure they know how to escape on their own if you are cut off from them by fire. 

Many structure fires are sparked by space heaters. Make sure your space heater is properly maintained, and keep it at least three feet away from anything that can burn. Please turn it off before you fall asleep or before you leave the room that the heater is in. If you use a kerosene heater you should avoid filling it with gasoline. Gasoline fumes are highly volatile and will burn easily. Try to place the heater out of high traffic areas to minimize the risk of the heater being knocked over. You should only refill kerosene heaters outside after they have cooled off.

Finally, our city streets are very busy most of the time. At one o’clock in the afternoon you might find that it can be difficult to maneuver the family mini-van through downtown Clinton, and navigating a 28,000 pound fire truck quickly through our busy city streets is no small task. If you see a fire truck or emergency vehicle approaching with its warning lights and sirens activated, please move your vehicle safely out of its way so it can get quickly past you. You never know – that fire engine might just be racing to your house.

Clinton: Your Hometown Public Power Utility

The City of Clinton is a hometown “public power” electric utility—a not-for-profit, community enterprise. Every day, every week, every year since the early 1900s when our electric utility operations began, the City of Clinton’s Department of Public Works has powered our days and nights.

From that morning cup of hot coffee to the late-night television news—and all the hours in-between—we keep the power flowing. 

Just a generation or two ago, people still marveled at electricity’s uses and improvements to their lives.  After all, it wasn’t until the 1940s that our country was fully electrified. 

Now we take for granted the contributions that electricity makes to America’s economy and infrastructure.  But just think about what a day without electricity would be like for you—and think how long that day would be for your children or grandchildren.

The City of Clinton’s electric system is known in the industry as a “public power” utility.  It’s one of about 2,000 utilities across the country that have been created as community-owned, hometown enterprises.  They are operated by local governments as a public service, with the mission of providing electricity in a safe, efficient, and reliable manner and with proper protection of the environment. 

The public power formula provides numerous advantages for our utility.  First, we are driven by public service, not profit.  Secondly, we exist to serve you – our fellow citizens, friends and neighbors.  Our loyalty is to our customers – not stockholders. We take pride in helping to make Clinton a good place to live and work. We are accountable to you, not to a management and board of directors in another city or country.

Unlike private utility providers, a public utility such as ours conducts all business in an open and transparent process. We follow democratic principles, with the City Council creating our utility policies. Citizens and utility customers are invited to attend a City Council meeting which occurs on the first Monday of each month at 6:00 PM in the City Council Chambers located at 404 North Broad Street.

The City of Clinton and the Department of Public Works work diligently every day to provide reliable electricity. We were recently recognized by the American Public Power Association with the RP3 award for meting high standards when it comes to safety, reliability, and long term management of our utility operations. Clinton provides highly reliable power to commercial and residential customers, and this was proven during last year’s significant ice storm when not a single Clinton utility customer lost power due to the storm.

When the power does go out, you can rest assured that our utility crews are quickly responding to the issue. Regardless of the time of day or the weather, our personnel are going to report to work and repair your distribution system. Often, our utility employees are leaving their homes and families in the dark so they can work to restore power to your home, family, and business.

You can rest assured that the City of Clinton will continue to provide reliable electricity—and deliver it to you instantaneously, day or night.   We hope we can also rest assured that you will continue to support of public power as an American tradition that works in the public interest here in Clinton, South Carolina.