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October 25, 2006 | South Carolina Headlines


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Just some thoughts on the day
Jonathan Pait
July 15, 2003

I noticed it has been nearly a week since I have contributed a column to the site. People are starting to think Jimmy is the editor! I figured it is time to remind the readers that I am still alive. Now that you know it, you can go on and read something else, or you can hang around to see if you can find something to trash on in the discussion area.

What a landing!

That was an interesting story about Walt and Donyelle Wilkins that appeared in the Greenville News this morning. What a way to start your marriage! It is sad to learn that the mother and her infant child died in the crash. However, it came to my mind that the pilot did a pretty good job putting the bird in the drink. The majority of the passengers came out okay.

Caught in a vicious cycle

Redistricting has always been a sore spot with me. I understand that communities go through changes and the interests of some communities split off to become more compatible with an adjacent community. However, I wonder sometimes if redistricting really is used to help create these areas of common interest or if the process is used to pad the interests of politicians.

Dan Hoover’s piece in the Greenville News this morning seems to point this out. Like affirmative action, redistricting has become a tool (on both sides) to affect social change. For some the idea is to make sure that minorities (read blacks) have representation in our state government. Of course, that has been turned to create a sort of political segregation. Here is the black district. Here is the white district.

The result is that we now have a perpetual line of minority representatives. However, there are some other results. One, that perpetual line is pretty isolated. While South Carolina can guarantee a few (shall we say token) minority representatives, they will continue to be marginalized. Second, racial understanding and shared interests become harder to obtain.

One statement in the piece really jumped off the page at me. Hoover writes, “The judges lamented the fact that increasingly heterogeneous neighborhoods were making it difficult to carve out minority-majority districts under the strictures of the Voting Rights Act.” Now, understand that the judges were not lamenting the fact that there are more heterogeneous communities. They were lamenting the fact that the Voting Rights Act appeared to be forcing them to do something that was hard to do.

We are caught in a vicious cycle where we continue to separate communities because of the skin color of those who live in them. All the while the communities themselves are beginning to change to make that endeavor a hard task. Ah, there is reason to be optimistic. Perhaps despite the politicians’ best efforts to keep us divided, the people will break out of the cycle.

It would be great if the judges had to say, “Sorry, it can’t be done. There are no clear dividing lines.” Of course, then the government would probably make us all move into separate neighborhoods so they could keep their “diversity programs” alive.

Chamber shamber

First, let me point out that I am a member of the Greater Greenville Chamber of Commerce. Actually, I’m a member twice. I represent BJU as well as my own company, The Worthwhile Company. I also know the following will probably make some of my Chamber friends upset with me. Just understand, I'm only commenting on one aspect of a very large issue. I well know that there are many other facets to consider. Here I am only polishing one.

I was interested to see David Brown leave the organization. I’ll be interested to see what will happen now that he is gone/leaving. Probably an article could be written on the story behind the ousting/resigning. However, whatever the case, here is a chance for the Chamber to start doing what it is supposed to be doing – supporting business in the Greater Greenville area. Instead of trying to become a political force, a social change catalyst and an economic development group all wrapped up into one. Maybe they should consider picking one thing and doing it well.

I would like to see that “one thing” being supporting small to medium sized businesses. There are several thousands of us in the area. Sure, we aren’t nearly as sexy as BMW or some high-tech, West Coast, gen-X infested, venture capital backed start up, but we are the backbone of this economy. I agree with Anastasia Howard, a Chamber director, “If the Chamber isn’t looking after the small businesses, who is?”

Now that Mr. Brown is leaving. Maybe we can have a president that will actually go out in Greenville and visit some of us and ask us what the Chamber could be doing to enhance our presence in the community. If the same effort could be put into that as has been put into social change and political influence the Chamber might be able to increase its membership and stop the flow of red ink. Sure, I know it won’t be nearly as fun as rubbing up against the big cats at the cocktail party, but it will have a more lasting impact on our community.

Don’t get me wrong. The Chamber does offer opportunities for small businesses. One of them has just now come into being. Commerce Xchange (next one is Tuesday, Aug. 5, 5:30-7:30 pm, Chamber Board Room) groups small business owners together to network on a regular basis. They sit around tables of six individuals and share their company’s story. They inform the others of needs and services they provide. Once each table finishes the process they switch and do the process over again. This is the kind of thinking that could be expanded.

What if the Chamber could pull together various companies with compatible skill sets that would provide services for larger corporations in and out of the state. The Chamber could help promote these "virtual companies" to sectors of the economy that could benefit from them. We are always busy importing--why not try exporting?

Why not take some chances on small business? We certainly take enough chances on the big corporations. “After Hours” networking parties (read clique gatherings) and seminars to tell us how to do what we already know how to do just aren’t enough. I believe a willingness of the board and executives of the organization to raise small business higher on the priority list would improve this segment of the Chamber.

I want the Chamber to succeed. It is a needed organization in our community. I only believe it is in the Chamber’s best interest to refocus and put greater emphasis on building up what we have while at the same time working hand-in-hand with the Upstate Alliance and the Greenville Area Development Corporation to recruit new business. The Chamber doesn’t have to do it all.

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