John leads Central Dallas Community Development Corporation.
He works extremely hard these days at getting several large, multi-family housing projects--one with a sizeable retail component--out of the ground, literally. By definition he is also concerned about economic development for the sake of those who, for all practical purposes, are shut out of the Dallas marketplace.
John believes that our fundamental challenge is to learn to play the game of capitalism in a way that benefits the poor.
That means that job creation will remain a priority. But, the jobs we need to create must be the sort that pay a livable wage.
Back to the canoe factory.
John is a canoeing maniac.
He travels to participate in races and arranges family excursions to hit the rivers. He can be found on White Rock Lake and in White Rock Creek most weekends working out his stress in one of his several canoes.
Not long ago he told me that he had found a canoe factory in Florida that was for sale. It turns out that when you buy a canoe company you are purchasing designs and patents. As a result, you can relocate a company like this just about anywhere. It can be a mail order, on-line, "phone it in" company. You can open a warehouse factory anywhere you choose.
But here is the best part: employees of such a company would learn transferable, manufacturing skills and they would earn a wage that would allow them and their families to actually live!
We may never bring the canoe company to Dallas. We dream a lot here. . . so, who knows? Maybe we will.
But, John's thinking is on target. We have to play to the capitalism that makes our economy whirl. And, most importantly, we must find as many ways as possible to create jobs, real jobs, good jobs for the hundreds of people we meet every day who want to move up and on toward a better life.
John's vision reminds me of the work of Harvard professor, Michael E. Porter. His extremely interesting essay, “The Competitive Advantage of the Inner City” (Harvard Business Review, May-June 1995), has shaped a lot of our thinking about what might happen in neighborhoods like ours. As always, the only limits are funding and time.
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Larry James' Urban Daily
A repository of ideas, resources, commentary and opinions concerning the issues facing low-income residents of the inner cities of the United States and how mainstream America largely forgets or, worse, ignores the day-to-day realities of urban life for the so-called "poor." Written and edited by the President & CEO of CitySquare. Please visit CitySquare.
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