In 2012, let’s dedicate ourselves to a maker system of economics, one that is based on creating new value, not trading old value. Let’s focus on those who develop tools within our community to replace consumption as an end in itself, and create a manifesto that guides city contracts and organizations, including the Chamber of Commerce, to seek the participation of local creative entrepreneurs first.
In order to encourage more entrepreneurs, the city should make the process of launching a business easier and more transparent. Navigating our building, fire and permitting costs is daunting and can result in a heavier debt load than anticipated, especially in manufacturing industries.
Leaders should view the arts and events that embrace culture from the perspective of economic development as an important economic driver. We need our officials to embrace the vitality of the creative sector in our community, and to pursue more strategic planning and topdown directives to look at how small creative businesses and grassroots cultural innovators can participate. As economic drivers, outdoor cultural events can be encouraged, not just managed or kept from causing harm. Kitty Love, executive director of the Asheville Area Arts Council, remarked, “Asheville is filled with an unknown number, in the thousands, of creative entrepreneurs, whose vital energy is, as yet, unharnessed. Let's bring that to bear on our economic woes.”
Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project estimates that WNC consumers purchased $62 million of local food in 2010. As a top food destination, Asheville is directly at the center of this market. In 2012, city leaders should be seen at the tailgate markets and farm tours. They can lead by example and source local food and food providers for conferences and events, and take it further by purchasing community supported agriculture subscriptions for themselves and their employees. By promoting the Asheville City Market’s ability to accept EBT payments and supporting Child Nutrition Directors in purchasing locally grown food for area schools, they would show that they understand the critical link between our food and the health of our community.
Let’s recognize the deep connection between quality public schools and a thriving economy. Leah Ferguson, co-director of the Asheville City School Foundation, points out that “Asheville City Schools are the city's schools, and we must invest in our urban public schools so that we can keep families in the city limits who will live, work and shop in our urban centers.”
It’s time to join the ever-increasing number of cities (including Los Angeles) that have passed a resolution taking a stand against corporate personhood, clearly establishing that we are a community who believes that money is not speech and corporations are not people.