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Baseball, quality of life and economic development by Mike Sutter

 

I read somewhere that, “Baseball is a game played between two teams, one out and one in. The one that’s in sends players out one at a time to see if they can get in before they get out. If they get out before they get in, they come in, but it doesn’t count. If they get in before they get out, it does count. The game will end when each team has the same number of in and out, but one team has more in without being out before coming in.”

Confused? While it may seem confusing to those new to the game of baseball, once you start playing it the basics are easy to learn but may take a lifetime to master. It would seem that like baseball, providing a high quality of life (“QOL”) for yourself and your family can seem easy at first, but also take lots of hard work to accomplish. And like baseball, reaching a better quality of life is all about trying to get as much “in” as you can, before you’re “out” of opportunities. That’s where economic development comes into play. The basic tenants of economic development are analogous to baseball. The economic development concepts seem simple enough, but are much more difficult to enact. The key component of economic development that energizes and drives the quality of life for everyone is the creation of ‘jobs” and mastering this task is not simple in today’s tenuous, complex and sometimes convoluted business environment.

This country has long been a place where almost every person who was willing to work could get a job and improve their quality of life. They could “score some runs.” With a willingness to do a reasonable day’s work, most people could find in their job a passport to economic well being and thus, a better quality of life. Since QOL is based in most part on our ability to secure a good job and provide the kind of upward mobility needed to reach our goals, the economic realities of the recent past have been a harsh reminder of how swiftly good paying jobs can disappear. In the past these jobs were much easier to obtain with or without education and in a few cases with little effort. Starting in 2008 (although many would argue long before that), the job environment changed to an atmosphere of fewer companies, fewer employees, smaller wages and fewer benefits. This “Great Recession” has seen a drastic paradigm shift from our past when companies competed for employees to currently where job seekers more often than not compete for jobs. For working people this doesn’t necessarily spell doomsday, nor does it brandish them to low paying jobs. Employers still seek local employees, but in many cases these positions require a different skill set based in specialized training and education, plus a can-do positive attitude.

Many jobs locally are the result of a home-grown entrepreneur starting a business. However, a large percentage are a result of businesses relocating here or deciding that new or expanding facilities will succeed in LaGrange County. The job of assisting home-grown businesses and attracting new ones is a vital part of the mission of the LaGrange County Economic Development Corporation. The more our community can attract new jobs, the more improvement there is in the quality of life. Because income turns over many times in a community and affects everyone, it promotes sales in clothing, gas, appliances, entertainment, and leisure. It pays the doctor’s bill and helps the local restaurant attract customers. This same income builds more homes and fixes others. Each dollar of income literally turns over and over through the entire local economy and grows exponentially as it “revolves” through the community. Simply stated, having stable and good paying jobs will always be the singular key engine that drives quality of life. All the best recreational facilities, transportation services, entertainment venues, retail outlets or educational opportunities are of little importance unless there are jobs in the community that can provide the kind of income needed to utilize them. When you are afraid of where the next rent or mortgage payment is coming from you’re not too concerned about the availability of recreational, retail or educational opportunities. The reality is that adequate and decent paying jobs are in many cases not developed in LaGrange County without effort. It takes entrepreneurs who are willing to stay here and develop businesses in conjunction with new ones coming from the outside to locate in LaGrange County. Locally, the responsibility of ensuring this becomes a reality is the mission of the LaGrange County Economic Development Corporation.

In the very serious game of improving the quality of life in LaGrange County, the LCEDC is leading the way in making sure we are “in the ball game” and the community is getting more opportunities to win. Whether the LCEDC succeeds with a “long ball” win or with a series of “small ball” successes, everyone can be assured that it shows up every day to compete, master and win the game. It has proven over its short life that it can hit in the clutch, carry a big stick and never take a 7th inning stretch. LCEDC handles the “heater,” the “slider,” “the split finger,” and the “change-up” with equal ability while “closing” on the kind of jobs that improve the quality of life in LaGrange County.

Baseball, quality of life, and economic development are related. They’re each about more “ins” than “outs” and crossing home plate as often as possible.

Learn more about how the LaGrange County Economic Development is “Pointing the Wayà” by visiting www. lagrangecountyedc.com.