Growing a Geek Culture in Richmond

Surveying the courseA few weeks ago I was asked to talk with some folks at the Wayne County Area Chamber of Commerce about Summersault's past, present and future, and I enjoyed the conversation and questions very much.  One really good question that came out of the meeting was "how can Richmond better encourage, nurture, cater to technology professionals like the ones working at Summersault?"  I'll simplify that question to be "How can we grow a better geek culture in Richmond?"

It's something that I think about a lot (especially when we're trying to hire someone), but I didn't have a ready answer - partly because there is no simple answer, but partly because I hadn't really ever taken the time to write one down.  Below is a list of ideas and comments, in no particular order, that came out when I put the question to the wider Summersault staff.  I hope that you'll contribute your own thoughts and suggestions, and I'll pass the list back to the Chamber and anyone else I can find who might be in a position to work on some of these things.

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Local food issues panel today

Later today I'll be sitting on a panel put together by the Wayne County Area Chamber of Commerce, and we'll be talking about issues related to local food.  Beyond some home gardening I'm not a food producer or any sort of expert, but between my work with the Clear Creek Food Coop, my interest in food / energy issues, and my efforts around making Richmond more self-reliant, I hope I'll have something useful to offer.

It's at 3:30 PM at Ivy Tech Community College, 3421 Johnson Hall - I hope you can join us.

In case you won't be able to attend, here's a list of 12 reasons that it's a good idea to support the production and consumption of locally grown food (adopted from a list produced by The Ohio Ecological Food and Farming Association):

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EDC Board Appointments: Ready for Battle!

If you read today's Palladium-Item article detailing the recent attempts by Richmond's City Council to gain more representation on the Economic Development Corporation's board of directors, you might be a little confused. I certainly was.

On one hand, you've got the City painting a picture of being left out of the key parts of the relationship the EDC has with its Richmond constituents, having to fork over $730,000 without appropriate representation.

You've got a County official noting that the City is as well represented on the EDC board as the County or other entities, and that things are working just fine as they are, while the Chamber president notes that there may be a conversation to be had, but that the current actions being taken are too poorly timed.

What's going on here?  Everyone seems to be making reasonable statements on the matter that represents the point of view of the entities they serve, but it sounds like they're having the conversation with each other for the first time on the pages of the newspaper. ARGH!

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Buy Local press conference - at the mall?

It's not April first yet, so I couldn't really stop my jaw from dropping to the ground on this one: The Richmond-Wayne County Chamber of Commerce and the City of Richmond will be holding a press conference tomorrow afternoon to promote buying local - to be held at the mall, which is predominantly occupied by chain stores.

It seems like QUITE an unfortunate juxtaposition to me to have this kind of announcement in that kind of setting.

Malls like the Richmond Square Mall certainly provide great shopping opportunities, but tend to be populated by businesses that are not locally owned and that give less back to the local economy and community over the long run than businesses that are locally owned. In most "buy local" campaigns across the country, one of the primary goals is to get shoppers to expand their notion of shopping opportunities beyond "the mall" to once again consider what small business districts and downtowns have to offer.

If Richmond residents think that buying local just means going to a shop within city limits, the potential impact of the buy-local message is diluted as their dollars leave the community for corporate headquarters elsewhere.

I asked the Chamber and Mayor's office to reconsider the venue - feel free to do the same if you're so inclined.

Too many community builders in one town?

GazeboOne of the recurring themes in my writing in speaking about how to make our communities more self-reliant is that we can't necessarily depend on entities and organizations that aren't locally rooted to address the issues that are of local concern. The natural corollary to this is that, in addition to individual citizens taking action, we should be able to look to locally rooted organizations to be moving the community forward, helping us make it the place we want it to be.

But one only has to look at the long list of community building organizations and entities in Richmond - and the overlap, duplication, and even competition that some of them represent for each other - to wonder if maybe this isn't an area where we're actually holding ourselves back instead of moving ourselves forward.

Consider, in no particular order: Continue reading Too many community builders in one town?

Ethanol as a local, national energy solution?

In today's Palladium-Item, Brian Bergen with the Richmond-Wayne County Chamber of Commerce agribusiness committee has a piece about Ethanol as a solution to the nation's energy problems.

I'm so glad that the Chamber is focusing on the relationship between agribusiness and the energy crisis that we face as a nation and as a planet. I'm also glad that the solutions we're talking about are keeping in mind a systems approach - how the inputs and outputs from a particular industrial or energy-generating process can be used as efficiently as possible.

But I hope that whatever solutions we pursue take into account that there is a tremendous amount of energy that goes into making our agricultural system work, and so any energy solutions derived from it must take that cost into account. The USDA recently noted that ethanol generates little more energy than it takes to produce. Some scientists have shown that ethanol production consumes 6 units of energy for every 1 it produces.
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On volunteering

IMG_1141.JPGIt's a privilege to volunteer in one's community. In one sense it's literally a privilege of having the time and means to say "I'm doing okay enough in my own life that I want to share some of my energy in service to the lives of others." In another sense, it's a privilege of publicly holding up what's important to us, a way of honoring our own roles in a community and the value that it has to us. My involvement in the Wayne County area is a way of showing not only my own interest in making it a better place for me and my loved ones to live, but also a way of making a commitment to the lives and needs of those who I don't know that well, who I can't necessarily relate to, who will be here long after I'm gone.
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