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Economic Development is . . . (increasing the flow) of capital through the community and reducing its leakage.

Look Like a Duck

A duck walks into a bar and says to the bartender “I’ll have a beer”. The bartender says “Hey! Where did you come from?”  The duck says “I’m working the construction site across the street”. And the bartender says, “Well why on earth are you working construction when you could be making millions in the circus?” And the duck said “What would the circus want with a brick laying duck?”

The discussion of ducks reminds me of the most famous duck quote ever from American writer and poet James Whitcomb Riley – “When I see a bird that walks like a duck and swims like a duck and quacks like a duck, I call that bird a duck.”

I had not given that quote much thought until while on a trip to Canada fishing; I visited a Cabela’s and saw up close how realistic some duck decoys had become. I was amazed how life-like works of art they were. James Whitcomb Riley (1849 – 1916) would be stunned to see what looks like a duck today.

Alright Heath, what do ducks have to do with our economy? Let me explain. I have been hearing from many people that are concerned about the decline of our downtowns (and rightly so). They are quick to say “Heath we need (fill in the blank) in town or we need that (fill in the blank) – why don’t you get on that.”

Looking at the problem quickly, the logical answer is to bring in more businesses to fill all the empty buildings. My analogy would equate that to placing a duck decoy in all the stores. It will look great and everyone will feel great, but the bottom line – if we invest in things that make us feel good (a work of art decoy) but does not solve a problem (feed our families with real duck meat) then our fate is bleak.

We need to dig deeper and ask the right question. Why did the businesses shut down in the first place? They are closed because of a lack of customers buying products or services. The answer to solving our declining downtowns is to create JOBS that create PAYCHECKS for the residents of our county. It is the paychecks that will, in turn, enable people to become the all-important customers that will shop at the retail stores we have (and the additional shops that will come).

So how do we create more paychecks? At the most basic level it is done by people stepping out and starting businesses – or growing their existing businesses. They grow that business – and employ people to service the customers – creating paychecks.

The bottom line is if we invest in decoys that make us feel good but which don’t actually work, then our fate is bleak, but if we take the time to grow real ducks Tama County will not only look good but it will actually be a great place to live.

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