Commentary – Keeping what you have

Jeff Burgar

In over 50 years of various businesses in all kinds of communities, I can honestly say that not once did myself or any staff ever get a visit from anybody on any kind of economic development office.
I was visited at Chamber of Commerce and Board of Trade meetings, and even at Legion and Lions Club Meetings, but never at any place of business. Of course, I’m at the age when it’s nice to go into a room and remember why you went there in the first place.
So maybe once or twice I did get a visit.
But if it is that rare, I am thinking I would surely have remembered.
I am also thinking gosh, I’ve spent most of my years in Chambers of Commerce, or economic committees of one sort or another, and even as chair of Community Futures.
A visit from an ec dev of some sort would have rung a bell, I think.
So, as it happens, at a recent meeting, an old story was revisited from a new person.
That story happens to be basically, “If you don’t look after what you have, don’t be upset when it disappears.”
This particular version of the story has to do with medical facilities, and much, much more importantly, the doctors and nurses who work in them.
The bottom line in this is, we spend so much time trying to attract new professionals to our communities, we hardly spend any time at all trying to keep the ones we have.
You may have a reason why that is.
In fact, our community might be doing a bang up job making sure our medical people are happy and successful.
But in either case, let’s expand that to all our people.
Are we keeping all our small businesses and all our local professionals and trades people happy? All our services and seniors?
Maybe we don’t care if the grumpy old goat who fixes fences at too high a price and takes too long moves to Red Deer or Saskatoon.
Maybe we don’t care if the little store we were always able to order things from closes.
But one day, there aren’t enough students in the school. Or somebody far away decides our government offices aren’t needed anymore.
Our community becomes another “frog in the boiling pot of water” sad case.
Or, as one local mayor said once upon a time, “If you are standing still, you are actually moving backwards.”
Meaning of course, if you think you are doing a decent job doing the same old things, whether you are in government, politics, or big or small business, somebody, someplace else, is dreaming up ways that will eat your lunch.
I don’t expect any economic development officer, or any committee, to have all the answers. But visiting with and talking with people who will make time to talk issues and problems will go a long ways.
Some of us have nothing to say.
But some of us out there will talk ears off to anyone who will listen.
That should include local politicians, one to one. In a sense, being in public office is being a business and community developer, and a maintainer, too.

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