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Going Small While Thinking Big

January 17, 2013 - Ernest Hohmeyer
We have been indoctrinated to constantly create “fresh content” - literally daily - to stay “on top.”

As a region, we know something has to happen to spur business and we love the scenarios of the white horse champion rescuing the community damsel in distress.

We are so busy; can’t someone else spearhead the rescue?

Whether it is by design or reality, there seems to be correlation between big projects and a greater chance of failure – or at least it seems that way in comparison to communities outside the Park. Oh, yes I know we don’t have the population, infrastructure etc. but hey we hosted 2 Olympics!

What happened?

Is it just environmental groups or regulations?

Could it be that we are partly to blame?

I often wonder what we would say today if Lake Placid was awarded another Olympic Games, if another prison were to be built or a large sanatorium.

We have an interesting “local” population today of families that have been here for generations, retirees, new professionals, 2nd home owners and of course those invisible voices whose viewpoint calls from beyond the Park.

I remember when I was doing the economic gig, how excited I was to work on the Gleneagles project designed for the former Lake Placid Club. I think about the hours spent with community officials. Some of my fondest memories of working with then North Elba Supervisor Matt Clark are from that time.

As we know it was all for naught based on many reasons including economic factors.

And that’s the thing about big projects, they need to have so many parts come together to make them happen.

While they are being developed should we continue with equal diligence on other projects to improve our communities? Big projects can happen in our communities as history is witness to what we have accomplished. Is a healthy community also built on diversity? Will the backbone of our economic health always be measured by the success of our small businesses?

The Need to Create New

We often try to help by the symbolic need to create something new: a new task force, a new committee, a new economic development effort. Too few of us are on too many volunteer efforts that seem to have the same purpose.

I wonder if sometimes we should re-visit something old. For example, the old regional airport district or the Tri-lakes planning office of the late 80’s and early 90’s.

Is the best way to create regional unity not to create anything new but to work on projects together? Instead of worrying about structure, just figure out need, purpose and simple results? Does it work best when businesses lead the charge? Today, we seem to be growing averse to structure anyways with our informal “friends” with common “likes.”

Perhaps this new, informal, results oriented approach should be tied to our community betterment efforts.

A Wellness Effort

Let’s take our interest in wellness.

This seems to be an interest all of our communities share. There have been both small initiatives (the creation of the Adirondack Wellness Guild) and proposed large projects (Homeward Bound).

And there are many players involved with wellness with a preponderance once again of different groups. Efforts range from the above to the medical community, wellness practitioners, an effort to become a “Kneipp village,” and the exploding realm of eating and exercising well.

I often have been guilty of suggesting we create consortiums and networks, and my first reaction is to call for an “Adirondack Wellness Council.”

A Different Approach?

In this new era of “likes” and “friends” perhaps it not so important to have everyone present or that success is measured only if 100 people show up. Perhaps the new way to foster success is to get a few “friends of wellness” together, talk about common needs and opportunities and develop a simple project. This could be as simple as working together on co-op marketing or developing a regional event to branding our area as a wellness center.

We may need to first ask ourselves simple questions and not assume all of us are on the same page:

• Are we fully aware of the many resources involved in wellness?

• There are many individual or targeted efforts in wellness, are there gaps?

• Would a coordinated resource network help our businesses? Does it exist?

• Should we work together to foster a community strategy for wellness?

• Could this strategy of promoting wellness be a community economic and job driver?

Interested in Brainstorming?

Perhaps instead of creating another group, we begin by talking to each other. Perhaps this can start with 2 simple questions:

1. Is there a benefit to communicate with each other? 2. As a first step, is there a common project?

There is a Facebook page, “Adirondack Wellness Guild” that may be a place to start a conversation. If there is enough interest perhaps the next step is a brainstorming session. If common ground and possible projects are established, well then we may have a reason to establish a network. Too often though I have seen the organizational issues become the focus of the meetings instead of asking 5 questions:

1. What need are we addressing? 2. Will this help my business? 3. Can this effort assist my community? 4. Can we achieve results that are doable and measurable? 5. And, is this fun?

This last question can be an important one. Most of us are making a living in the Park and few of us will be on the Fortune 500 list anytime soon. Our businesses echo our personalities and if we are going to be involved, let’s have fun doing it. How many times when we argue is it about who is going to take credit or what organization will “run the show” instead of what is the need we are trying to fulfill? That is why it is often businesses taking the lead with government support that seems to work best.

Perhaps we can start by a regional wellness conversation.


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