The concern that rises above all others

February 25, 2009

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By now even the most determined optimist would agree that the economic downturn isn''t going to end anytime soon. After decades of unrestrained spending, citizens, governments and businesses are scrambling to cut out waste, reduce expenses and squirrel away every spare dollar. It''s happening across the country and here in the Golden Triangle. 

 


As President Obama said in his address to the nation Tuesday night, "the state of our economy is a concern that rises above all others" for most Americans. 

 


This would seem to be the time for thrift and prudence, for pulling back rather than taking risks. One need only pick up a newspaper or turn on the TV to be inundated with stories about big businesses going bankrupt, thousands of layoffs or the Dow''s latest plummet. 

 


While we certainly agree that it is time to change the spending patterns that have brought us to the brink of economic disaster, there also is a need for us to continue to build for our future -- albeit more efficiently and with more deliberation than we have in recent years. 

 


As the president reminded us in his inaugural address last month, this nation has survived 233 years because of those who were willing to take intelligent chances. "... It has been the risk-takers, the doers, the makers of things -- some celebrated, but more often men and women obscure in their labor, who have carried us up the long, rugged path towards prosperity and freedom," the president said. 

 


We are blessed to have some of those risk-takers, doers and makers of things alive and well in the Golden Triangle. Just last Thursday, for example, Jon Maynard, the president and CEO of the Greater Starkville Development Partnership, touted the Partnership''s plans to bring an automaker to a tree-covered site near Highway 82 and Hickory Grove Road. Commitments have already been secured from property owners who stand ready to sell if a tenant can be secured for the proposed megasite. 

 


Last Wednesday, the Institutions of Higher Learning board met in Jackson with another group of risk-takers and doers -- developers who plan to convert an old cotton mill next to the Mississippi State University campus into a major retail and residential complex. Amazingly, financing for the $213-million project has been put together despite the current economic situation, and the developers expect to break ground by the end of next month. 

 


In Columbus, local "maker of things" Mark Castleberry has cleared land for his latest development, which will bring hotels and restaurants to the 18th Avenue North area near Highway 82. 

 


These local business people and leaders are the kind of Americans President Obama wrote about in his book, "The Audacity of Hope" -- those who have "the audacity to believe despite all the evidence to the contrary...."  

 


And that belief in ourselves -- coupled with a willingness to become more efficient and to make difficult choices -- is what it will take to weather this storm.