I was out cold calling this week, and made my way through one of Wichita's industrial sectors looking for potential customers. I was amazed at the number of empty buildings. Some had weathered For Sale signs in front of them, some just looked abandoned. How did this happen? Obviously, there was a time when these buildings were in use. Thinking back, there are a whole lot of reason why they are empty now. Poor government policies. Poor corporate policies. Poor decisions and attitudes of the general population. Government, fed, state and local, have all made short sighted or poorly influenced decisions regarding environmental regulation, wages and taxes (see the recent suggestions that Kansas raise taxes to close the budget gap, at a time when people don't have money to spend, nor do businesses) have been made, making running these large plants and fabrication shops difficult and nonprofitable. Corporations have made short sited decisions in dealing with unions, in taking jobs out from under people who spend their paychecks on products and services that in turn create more need for the corporations products, and questionable executive actions and incentives (such as golden parachutes).
The main one I want to talk about here is the poor decisions and attitudes of people. The other two get lots of attention, usually ugly debates with one side blaming the other for everything. We will take a different path today. Looking at these buildings, I notice the huge steel fences, the steel bars over the windows. This is expensive security stuff, and I'm sure there are other measures that aren't so easily spotted. Why are these needed? Because too many people have the attitude that they would rather steal something and sell it than work for money (lots of sidenotes today, but think of this summers rash of copper thefts). Because too many people would rather break out windows for fun or tag the walls with graffiti, the second one made more distressing by the fact that many of those taggers are enormously talented and could make a great living in the art world or graphic design if they wanted to. I was filling out an app for a second part time job this week. Part of the app was a 145 question quiz with about a dozen questions about theft, knowing people who stole, or knowingly owning stolen property. While I was unemployed, I filled out plenty of apps that included a box to check to allow a background check to be ran for employment. Why? Because of those same bad attitudes and poor decisions people have made that emptied out those industrial buildings.
There are a whole lot of people here in America, and yes even here in Wichita Kansas who want the world handed to them on a silver platter. At least the culture revolutionaries of the 60's were willing to fight and sacrifice to try and take over the world. Here it is Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Do you think "I Have A Dream" would have had the same affect if it had been typed up in a blog? Going further back, do you think Henry Ford would have changed the world with a internet startup instead of the assembly line? Better yet and more to the point, would the Founding Fathers be the Founding Fathers if they hadn't been willing to put their lives on the line for their beliefs? America as a whole has lost the will to work. Pickup trucks stop on street corners to pick up a dozen illegal immigrant for a days work in no small part due to the fact that so many Americans don't want to work without a high hourly wage, a great benefits package and a weeks paid vacation every year.
Those poor government and corporate policies are feeding that loss of will (I'll leave the discussion of whether or not it is intentional to the tinfoil hat crowd) but it is possible to get out from under it. The first step, just like in AA, is to stand up and admit that you have a problem. "Hi, I'm (say your name here) and I'm a lazy bum who wants to be taken care of." I haven't codified the next eleven steps yet, but there are a whole lot of people our there who have in the past. Stephen Covey, Napoleon Hill, and W. Clement Stone are some great places to start. Those industrial parks didn't empty out overnight, you and I didn't turn into bums overnight, and neither one is going to rocket back overnight. But of the three listed causes, this one is going to be the easiest to fix, (which says a lot about how hard the other ones will be to fix)because as each of us becomes more industrious, more responsible, and more prosperous, the more right minded folks will be moving into the positions to start repairing the other two.