We're All In This Together
by: Valerie Gray
You all know I have a love for music. I have a habit of finding a way to incorporate those lyrics that talented people write into my everyday life. Some of the time I stop and realize that artists are using their life experiences to carefully craft those words into music. Enter the movie “High School Musical” and the song “We’re All In This Together.” (Sing it Moms of youngsters, you, like me, have heard it at least a thousand times!) It’s a great song about our differences between each other and how we should embrace them and make something of ourselves.
This particular song, while entertaining to my little “darlin’s”, is very fi tting for our area. I have struggled many days to come up with something to write about. A good friend and colleague of mine mentioned this very phrase today and immediately I start singing the version from “High School Musical.” How does it fi t into our everyday efforts here? Well, we truly are “all in this together”. From elected offi cials, City/County leaders, teachers, students, employed workers and unemployed workers, we all share a common goal here, to live the best life we can live right here in Chambers County.
Now I know some of you are rolling your eyes and some of you just shrugged while you are job searching on the internet or looking for a one-way ticket out of town. I am not in denial that our area is suffering and has been for quite some time. To know that your livelihood and the opportunities you have to rightfully gain employment rests on my shoulders is an awesome responsibility. It’s one that I don’t take lightly, nor do the dedicated staff members of the CCDA office. Every day we try to figure how to edge out our competition on a project. We try to determine if a particular project is a right fi t for our area, and if it’s fi financially/fiscally responsible for us to pursue it. We also try to figure out how to cost the county and cities less and generate more revenue for them all within one day. And finally how do we keep the businesses we have, here in Chambers County and healthy. My fellow co-workers within the offi ce, the cities and the county might think I’m a little too brash or a little too high-strung right now. We work on one speed at the offi ce, wide-open, and when I get fixated on a task, I don’t let up. Just ask the 40+ companies from out of town whom, this year, I hounded to death until they purchased a Chambers County business license. While it’s nominal amounts, it still feels good bringing money back into the County coffers instead of quietly sitting and watch it fl ow out.
There’s been a lot of talk lately that surrounds hind-sight and “we did too much.” I can honestly say I don’t believe we did too much. In 2006 we had a plan, and the plan was fairly simple, stop the death spiral of job loss that our county has suff ered since 2004. We did just that. I can’t imagine where we would be right now if we hadn’t bought that 300+ acres of pine trees down on Exit 70. I can’t imagine where we would be right now, if the voters of this county had not passed the equalization sales tax to pay for economic development and public safety. I can tell you where we would be if the people of this county (residents/citizens/leaders) had not possessed the vision and the will to compete and stop the hemorrhaging loss of jobs; we would be at roughly 20%+ unemployment rate.
Everyone possesses hindsight, and these days my hindsight is 20/20. I am painfully aware of mistakes that I and we made along the way. The type of person I hope to portray for my kids pushes me too. I acknowledge those mistakes to my Board, leaders and others in this community. It tastes like vinegar and I don’t like it, but I acknowledge it and learn from it and try to move on. There are going to be more mistakes made, there’s not a single one of us who’s perfect. I have found out the hard way that “hard times make good people make bad decisions”. One advantage that Chambers County has right now, is me. I’ve learned, I’ve grown, I’m not perfect, I’m real and I really care about the overall health of our local economy. The other advantages include, developed land at Exit 70 & 77 and LaFayette, an abundant workforce, leadership who’s goals are jobs, jobs, jobs and people who care about each other. If we want more diversified jobs here we are going to be expected to pull more than our fair share of the load these days. We need to consistently depend less and less on the state and federal government and figure out a way to pull us up by our own bootstraps.
Let me throw in one last cliché’ “we are only as strong as our weakest link”. When we practice tearing down one individual, one area, one town, or one entity, remember outsiders can’t tell the diff erence. We are all guilty by association. Those site consultants and prospects who have been here unannounced for the last 3 months (and yes I’m dead serious) only know us as an area, a region and if one of us stumbles we all stumble. I plead to you to encourage your leaders to work together to come up with solutions to rectify the budget issues that plague our county and cities. And no, I am not advocating for consolidation,but I am advocating for all of us to work together to be proactive and not reactive. Anybody got any ideas? I’m listening!