A pocketful of acorns

My wife and I were walking in the woods this morning and she came across a beautiful specimen of an acorn, brushed it off and pocketed it to take home. We both laughed as our children used to do this when they were little. Each time we went for a family hike or one where I took the kids out to give my wife some “me time,” I would return with a pocketful of acorns. Usually, fifteen to twenty acorns would make it home, sometimes filling both pockets in my pants, as I was the designated carrier.

To my kids, the acorns were treasures, something far more valuable than what they were. So, we would collect them until we had too many and they would forget about them. And, then when we went out again, we came back with more. I think it is the quest for acorns that made them special. Or, they just wanted a memento or souvenir of our morning walk. This morning, my wife’s acorn brought these memories back to top of mind.

When all is said and done, it is these memories that are mileposts in our lives. These memories are our “pocketful of acorns.” I cherish our family and it makes me smile when something happens which brings up one of these mileposts. Witnessing the actions of the children of our niece and her husband is one set of reminders taking us back to how our children acted. This is one reason I surround myself with pictures of our kids, especially when they were little.

My daughter, like many daughters, loved to wear hats and sunglasses. So, we have numerous pictures of her with a joyous smile in such attire. My sons loved their army men, Legos and hats as well, so we have pictures of them clad in hats or playing with their army men outside. I have one “acorn” of my youngest son, swinging on our swing in the back singing his own version of ACDC’s “TNT.” I have another “acorn” of my oldest son in his first Halloween costume as a clown and, just in case you did not know what he was, he would announce “I am a clown.”

I have another acorn of my youngest son asleep on his crib mattress at the bottom of the stairs after we put up a big boy bed and brought the old one down. My daughter left with us several acorns of her trying to wake me when I fell asleep reading her a story again and again. My guys left me with an acorn of laughing at me when I jumped on the bed to tell them a story and bounced off and down between the wall and bed.

Let’s do our best to remember our own pockeftul of acorns. They will bring a smile to your face, like it does to mine.


Asset Based Community Development fuels growth and jobs

The concept of Asset Based Community Development is one that was spawned from redeveloping blighted areas around a community asset, be it a school, library, church or landmark. For example, a school is more than a place to educate kids; it becomes a community center for after school and evening programs. When the school becomes run down, the surrounding community usually does as well.

Yet, the concept very much applies to redeveloping towns, cities, regions and other venues and has for some time. When New York City subways were a haven for crime back in the 1970s, the city began a daily occurrence of repainting over graffiti. When people saw this, crime diminished as the belief was if the City cares this much about graffiti, they will care also about crime.  The subway was an asset that had to be redeveloped and maintained.

If used wisely assets that have been redeveloped or nourished can create avenues for renewal and growth. In Greenville, South Carolina, the downtown area was revitalized around its assets which include the Reedy River Falls. Now, downtown Greenville is a wonderful and quaint venue for tourism and business. In Durham, North Carolina, the run down American Tobacco Campus has been revitalized into a place of innovative business, housing and restaurant venues. The new ball park and performing arts center round out an attractive area of Durham replenishing a previously uninviting downtown.

In Richmond, Virginia, an old train terminal has been converted into a wonderful children’s science discovery museum. This has been part of a refocus in downtown Richmond building off its unique history to make the downtown area an inviting part of an area of discovery. In Atlanta, the areas around CNN have been revitalized with the new aquarium and Coca-Cola museum, and the area around the refurbished East Lake Golf Club was redeveloped with golf club as a centerpiece for jobs, housing development and education.

Charlotte, North Carolina borrowed from Durham’s success to revitalize an area of downtown to build a beautiful new baseball stadium across the street from a new park honoring the artist Romare Bearden. This is dovetailed by other building projects that continue to renovate downtown which had been started in the mid-1990s.

Yet, the greatest success in North Carolina is Research Triangle Park (RTP) which came to fruition back in the early 1960s. Sitting between three high-caliber universities (Duke, UNC and NC State), a park devoted to research, marketing and leadership was created that attracted new business. The area, cities and universities have thrived under the RTP vision which is being revitalized as we speak. Durham’s success above is a key part of the RTP revitalization efforts and Raleigh was just voted the best place for growth in the country.

I mention this today, as we lose sight of the value that co-investment in maintaining, refurbishing or reconstituting existing assets means for a community. These are just a few examples of the partnership between private and public money that has made our country what it is today. When we speak of cutting expenses, as we should consider, we need to know that we should also be investing and spending in other areas where growth and job creation can occur. So, across the board cuts are unwise, as in some places we should spend more. We should recognize our assets (or strengths) and leverage them as much as possible. If we don’t, it is opportunity lost.

A few interesting tidbits on renewable energy

As the attention nationwide continues for fracking for natural gas, in spite of the mound of evidence of environmental degradation, chemical leakage and vast water usage, we are seemingly ignoring the greener path which has and will continue to bear fruit in our nation. Many do not realize the significant progress that has been made on the renewable energy front. With kudos to my blogging friend Hugh Curtler, at http://www.hughcurtler.wordpress.com who instigated this post with one of his own, a few interesting tidbits on renewable energy that do not get played up enough are as follows:

  • There are more jobs in the US in the solar energy industry than in the coal industry. In 2013, there were over 140,000 solar energy related jobs. This has been reported by several sources and verified as true by Politifacts.
  • The state of California, if measured as a nation, would be the 7th most prolific solar energy country. It is the US leader by far in solar energy development.
  • The state of North Carolina had the second most solar energy development in the US in 2013 and is now the fourth most prolific solar energy state. Two NC companies of several that are gaining national and global notoriety are Semprius, who makes the most elegant solar photovoltaic panel in the world, and Strata Solar, who is a fast growing developer of solar panel installations.
  • In 2013, there were about 75,000 jobs in the wind energy industry. If we play our cards right, there could be over 500,000 wind energy jobs by 2030. Wind energy production has increased from 4 million megawatt hours in 1999 to 141 million megawatt hours in 2012.
  • The state of Texas has a relatively quiet wind energy boon going on which is creating jobs and electricity for its residents. Almost 10% of the electricity produced in Texas comes from wind energy and it is the clear leader in wind energy production in the United States.
  • The US Department of the Interior just announced that its Bureau of Ocean Energy Management has defined three wind energy areas offshore North Carolina that total approximately 308,000 acres for potential commercial wind energy development. The entire eastern seaboard of the United States could be powered by wind off North Carolina.
  • Finally, one-fifth of the world electric energy production now comes from renewables.

Man influenced climate change is happening and I have seen reports that future models may understate the impact going forward. We need to move in a more aggressive way toward renewable solutions. As a business person and tax paying citizen, I feel that the greener paths will be more monetarily green than spending our dear water and air resources to dig vertical and horizontal holes in the ground to release limited supplies of natural gas.

Finally, it is not an either/ or issues on jobs, as the fossil fuel industry contends. Of course, there are jobs in the fossil fuel industry, but as shown above there are jobs in renewable energy creation. The solar and wind energy progress and positioning for future development is job creating and attractive to new industry.

Let’s stop the ill-fated fracking train and invest in the future.