Trumping development

After nearly three months, colleagues at the newspaper office are getting used to a ringing cell phone, a brief pause, then a disgusted, “Shut up, Donald!” blurted at an annoying volume a couple of times every day.

With home and office phones forwarded for the duration of a now-ending annual pilgrimage to Kansas, a Clone Wars sized regiment of robo-calls from Cardmember Services, supposed police charities (which have little to do with police), and The Donald often have been the only vestiges of Illinois — save for a cat pleading for morning milk each day — during a summer encampment.

If only those robo-calls could get on the same line and morph into a politician bold enough to avoid pandering to abortion, greatness, guns, immigration, mistaken election “security,” and other sham issues — none of which are likely to change whomever we vote for.

A real, live candidate willing to stand firmly on a platform of permanently silencing Whatever-Her-Name-of-the-Day-Might-Be from Cardmember Services and banning unsolicited computerized calls and unsolicited junk mail could easily be elected czar of the known universe.

The Donald needs an issue vague enough, shallow enough, and populist enough to rouse the voting rabble. Getting computers off our phone lines and unrequested junk out of our electronic and postal mailboxes would seem to do the trick.

Then again, we may need The Donald’s bluntness to tackle a local issue: countywide economic development. With Donald busy thinking up new Crooked Hillary social media posts, we’ll try to summon our inner Trump to assess the situation with his inimitable style:

Last week’s reboot of the county commissioners’ economic development task force was all sunshine and roses, according to its official announcements. The session itself revealed storm clouds and thorns.

Despite talk of examining what other counties do, the clear agenda was to get Hillsboro, Marion, and Marion County to surrender the sometimes impressive amounts they spend, often in vain, on economic development to a quasi-private group with the motto: “If we merge it, they will come.”

However, an exchange between the chair and a Marion member, bemoaning why Hillsboro would seek to build a new hospital when Marion’s was so close and Hillsboro’s remains in economic difficulty, will not soon be featured in any treatises on how to win friends and influence people, especially on a panel split in Dickensian fashion between the two cities.

Then there was the question of who the “they” might be. After a sharp rebuff from Marion’s city administrator, explaining how securing a new factory is more complicated than making a personal sales call on a factory owner, the panel seemed split over a chicken-and-egg issue.

Absent a skilled work force already in place, is it best to lure development by focusing on making the county a tourism and resort destination first, in hope small businesses will locate here, then grow? Or should the county push ahead, with a Ray Kinsella type as its super-salesman, and try to land bigger fish before it has even cut bait to lure them?

In the end, it’s clear both Marion and Hillsboro and the triumvirate that regularly holds court in the Courthouse each Monday are unlikely to accede to anything that cedes any element of control to anyone else. But that doesn’t mean the task force should stop trying. It just needs to adjust its goals and, frankly, not conclude as to the desired outcome before it has even investigated the options.

One of the best solutions to the chicken-and-egg argument may be a incubator — an operation to create and grow businesses within our communities rather than attempt to lure them from outside.

Whether we look at Straub or the Herington Times, what we see every time we look at out-of-town businesses is a loyalty not to community but to bottom line.

Imagine finding a dedicated local couple willing to work hard and not close up shop for every vacation and team event imaginable. Provide training in some area like appliance repair and financing to secure an inventory of appliances and parts, and suddenly you have a new appliance business, which the county desperately needs.

The problem isn’t with finagling bureaucratic boundaries. It’s with finding willing workers, then supporting them.

— ERIC MEYER

Last modified Aug. 18, 2016

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