(A huge thank you to all of the great news outlets who are helping me bring this conversation to a much larger crowd than I could myself. This was printed in its entirety by the Southwest Times Record, Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, and a shorter version was edited to appear as a Letter to the Editor with Talk Business & Politics – NWA)
I am willing to concede that innovation in our area has been long perceived as dormant at best, but if you have ever carried on a conversation with someone from our area who has had their child(ren) go to college or leave our area to find a job, they will probably tell you that the fault doesn’t lie in the lack of innovation occurring in our region (ie their children). Rather, they will almost always point to the lack of readily available local programs available for their children to utilize and learn how to constructively apply that innovation. While it’s true that we’ve got a long way to go before our region gets to where we need to be, it’s also true that “the journey of a thousand miles begins with but a single step.” Our region has produced and continues to produce exceptional people in business, leadership roles, innovative entities, public servants, etc. and I do not believe it is possible for our current woes to continue without remedy. Too many people recently have all arrived at the same conclusion; it’s time that we begin investing into our region’s development and the belief that it starts with creating opportunities for our entrepreneurs.
It is our responsibility to become the supportive citizens that we are calling on, to become the embodiment of our own demands, and to begin working to create systems that will invest into our region by nurturing the God-given innate sense of curiosity that we all possess by putting in motion programs that will provide the people in our community of all ages with the resources they need to pursue their ambitions and further develop their talents, ideas, and interests.
I was encouraged by the feedback generated from my last piece but it will take more than one commentary to effect change, and especially change of the magnitude that myself and so many others want to see. Since the last piece was printed, I have found myself subtly drawn back into the painfully familiar “that’s a good idea but (insert reality here)” and the “that’s just not us” conversations, which may have originated out a heart of concern years ago, but now these sentiments serve as little more than verbal quicksand. If you read my last piece you will recall that my wife and I traveled to Bentonville to attend the ‘G60 Pitch Contest” and you may remember that I posed the question “Why don’t we have something like this in Fort Smith?” That question quickly surfaced as the prominent talking point for much of the dialogue that grew from the piece, as I had hoped, only the conversation was based around the “why we don’t” instead of the “let’s do something about it”. I posed the question, but I did not follow it up with a call-to-arms, which prompted inquiry instead of action, but the time for inquiry is over. It’s time for action.
We can’t allow our region to continue to talk about these issues without spurring a call-to-arms. By practicing the habit of consistently talking about our problems without actively pursuing solutions we have unconsciously helped to spread a contaminating logic that has us convinced “not here”, “not now”, and “not us”. So it is my goal to use my brief time here to introduce another thread of thought to our region, namely, “why not here?”, “why not now?”, “why not us?”. And in an effort to keep these thoughts from being subject to the paralysis that is only idle, idealistic conversation, I’m introducing an immediately feasible, tangible event to start with.
This is a call-to-arms. I have talked with the founding organization of the ‘G60 Pitch Contest’ (www.g60contest.com) as well as a second event, which takes place every Wednesday morning, titled ‘1 Million Cups’ (www.1millioncups.com) to learn what it would take to bring these programs to our area. (I have included the websites for these two programs for you to perform your own research, as I do not have the space to go into either of them in detail here.) There is no reason that we cannot have these two programs in place in Fort Smith within the next couple of months. This is not the solution we need, but it is the first step on our thousand mile journey. Who’s interested in joining me on this journey? Thank you for all of your support in the form of feedback, questions, suggestions, and ideas.
If this idea is something that you want to get involved with, let me know. I would be happy to talk with you about your vision and ideas for our region.