Monday, February 13, 2012

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!