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Campaigns Can Hamper People, Business Attraction Efforts

Imagine trying to sell a product at your business by drawing attention to all that is wrong with that product. That would likely limit your growth opportunities and you probably wouldn’t be in business too long.

Put that in context with elections, fresh on our minds coming off primary elections earlier this week. We heard a lot about the problems in our community and what’s going wrong, but little about how to fix them or about what is going right.

Imagine being a business thinking about locating here, or a family considering a new home in our area. If they saw the headlines, they might think twice about that critical decision. Fortunately, we only get that negative attention three out of every four years.

Don’t get me wrong, I recognize our communities have their challenges, but all communities do. And I understand that we need to confront those challenges to fix what we can. But campaign dialogue more often includes a lot of second-guessing and few ideas about how to cure what ails us. I’m hoping we’ll have a short respite before the rhetoric kicks up again for the fall.

In elections, candidates try to differentiate themselves from their opponents. The most popular approach to do that is to criticize their challenger, rather than tout their own advantages. Businesses have found that strategy to be ineffective. Instead, they focus on their own strengths rather than their competitor’s weaknesses.

Candidates also spend a lot of time identifying the obvious. They all are for spending money wisely; we wouldn’t support one that wanted to spend frivolously. They all want to keep us safe; we wouldn’t support one that wanted us to live in danger. They all are for government efficiency; we’d never support a candidate that pledged to be inefficient.

Businesses know they must differentiate themselves from their competitors. Price, quality, product mix, convenience, location, and customer service are all critical factors. And each day consumers vote with their dollars, spending their money with businesses that execute on those and other key factors.

In the old days, jobs, economic growth, and growing the tax base were popular campaign topics. Candidates recognized that the best way to improve the community was to make sure people had good job opportunities with good wages and benefits. We hear very little about those topics anymore.

Instead, we typically see a laundry list of new spending priorities from candidates without a plan for where the resources to pay for those priorities might come from. The public overwhelmingly wanted tax caps and have immortalized those in the State constitution, and at the same time demanded a higher level of government service. Tax caps mean resources are limited and there are few opportunities to grow the pie unless we attract new people, new companies, and new capital investment.

Candidates formerly recognized that capitalism and free enterprise could be good things for a community, as economic growth meant new tax revenues, which in turn spurred new investment by the local communities and reduced the tax burdens of everyone. Those topics have become taboo.

Our communities thrived when entrepreneurs took risks. When job creators generated new opportunities for our citizens. When our citizens recognized the need to get the education and training they needed to thrive in the workplace. When the government realized the need to place certain guardrails or safeguards, but not stifle or limit new growth opportunities.

We’re poised to thrive again, with the right vision and community leadership. And that work should include everyone. Take some time this summer, get to know the candidates on the fall ballot, ask them the hard questions, and don’t let them get away with a strategy absent of ideas that only includes second guessing. Demand more of those seeking to serve.




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