Business community told it must look ahead, not back, for bright economic future

  • Published in Local News
LACONIA — When times are tough the biggest mistake that individuals or businesses can make is to try and recapture what they see as security and success of the past.
"There's no such thing as the 'good, old days,' just the old days," said Eric Garland, addressing the group of area business and community leaders Wednesday morning at The Margate Resort.
Garland, a writer and consultant who monitors economic and social trends, told the audience he believes the energy for future economic opportunities will be people at the local level making business decisions that will spur expansion and development at the local level. That, he said, will require imagination, trust in the future, and the courage to blaze new paths.
Garland, a Vermont native who spent part of his childhood in Claremont and who now calls Saint Louis home, was the keynote speaker at the Lakes Region Business Resource Fair organized by the Lakes Region Chamber of Commerce and the Belknap County Economic Development Council. The program also featured two panels of local entrepreneurs who shared their experiences.
"History is very instructive, but we tend to look at too-recent history," Garland said in and interview after his talk.
Speaking to approximately 100 people in the audience, Garland said, "The fact that there are a lot of people competing with the U.S. is not un-normal." But because of the devastation of two world wars that left much of Europe in economic shambles for much of the first half of the twentieth century, many Americans today tend to think the U.S. was always a manufacturing and economic powerhouse. Globalization is nothing new, he said.
For too long, Garland said, economic growth in the U.S. was built on development of suburbs, an almost-total reliance on automobiles for transportation, and the proliferation of large retail complexes. America's economic advance began to diminish in 2000, he said, but that did not become readily apparent until a few years later because the economic growth that occurred as the country entered a new millennium was built on mounting debt that increasingly paid for housing, consumer goods and higher education, Garland noted.
Garland believes that smaller businesses will be the ones to watch in the years to come. As a business model "the modern corporation is not long for this world," he said. "That style of business is not efficient, reluctant to listen to new ideas, and getting mean. ... You can't do more with less."
Garland said educational opportunity is the key to future economic growth and that educational institutions must to a better job in communicating with businesses to ensure schools are educating young people with the skills businesses need.
Quality infrastructure, particularly rail and highways that provide easy access to major cities, will be critical for business activity, including manufacturing, to succeed in the future, he said. That is true of the Lakes Region and elsewhere.
Also, Garland said that leaders in the private and the public sectors alike must realize that going forward, economic solutions will need to be more tailored to specific places and conditions. "It's no longer going to be one size fits all," he said. "People at the local level need to realize that this place is special and will require special solutions. No one is going to rescue you."
"I think it gave people (who attended) some big-picture trends," BCEDC Executive Director Carmen Lorentz, said of Garland's talk.
She also said that the panel discussions which followed gave the audience a good opportunity to learn about the young entrepreneurs in the Lakes Region area and what they have been able to accomplish as well as the resources that are available for those looking to expand an existing business or start a new one.
Lorentz was she pleased with the turnout which she estimated was 30 or 40 more than at last year's inaugural event. "We think the event will get better and better each year," she said.
NOTES: The half–day program included two panel discussions. One focused on ways businesses can grow through collaboration. The panelists were Heather Clifford of Infusion Studio, Jonathan Lorentz of NH Jazz Presents, and Ryan Robinson of Mainstay Technologies. The moderator was Carmen Lorentz. The second panel featured businesspeople who shared experiences about starting a business. The panelists were Jodie Gallant of JMG Marketing, Sensie Carl Young of Beyond the Belt, and Erica Duncan of Skate Escape. The moderator was Karmen Gifford, executive director of the Lakes Region Chamber of Commerce. Sponsors for the Business Fair were Meredith Village Savings Bank, MetroCast Cablevision, and Comcast Spotlight.