Thursday, July 28, 2011

Program for Self-Sufficiency

I attended our monthly meeting at the Job Link center in Walnut Cove yesterday and was very pleased to meet Elisha Harris, Success coach for the Community Service Block Grant progarm in Stokes County. Elisha is a very impressive young lady that has a passion for her work that is readily apparent. The Self-Sufficiency Program is designed to assist individual or families to overcome poverty. What a wonderful idea. It isn't about applying a temporary fix, it is about overcoming poevery and helping gain employment in a position paying a living wage.

This is accomplished by assisting clients in their efforts to improve their educational status but it appears to go deeper by looking for ways to empower their clients by teaching the coping skills such as: survival skills (I take this to mean surviving life, not necessarily the in wilderness conditions but what we face every day), budgeting classes, nutrition classes and much more. Many of us take these skills for granted but I think in the financial conditions we find ourselves in today, I think these skill sets are often not taught and they are not something that comes naturally.

Ther are a limited number of slots for this program in the county, but for some reason, they have a difficult time filling these positions, therefore, I challenge the readers of this blog, if you know someone who can use a hand and truly wants to improve their position in life, make them aware of Elisha and this program. She can be reached at or by calling 336-593-2371. This is not a "Hand-out but a Hand-up" and we can all use one of those from time to time.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

How to enter a room

It my nightly reading, I found a note that said that it is a matter of respect to re-post good information that you find. My wife forwarded this to me this morning and I think it is good information for anyone who as the part of their normal routine enters a room with a group of people either known or unknown to them. My takeaway is show your interest in what they have to say and you will be successful. People love to talk about themselves and if you are polite and a good listener, you can carry the day. See what you think and remember, no fist bumps!

How to Enter a Room and Network Like a Pro
Consider these tips to make a lasting impression on new connections, before a meeting even starts.
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By Ross McCammon | Entrepreneur Magazine - August 2011 | 0
So, we're assuming you're on time and you know why you're there and you know exactly what you want from the people in the room and you've Googled them and found out where they went to school and that according to LinkedIn they made a couple of questionable professional moves in the early '90s and at least two of them tweet. What we're interested in is that pregnant series of moments that lasts for around a minute and is ostensibly about introductions and handshakes and the offering of beverages and, if you're lucky, a Danish or something, but is really about the beginning of potentially important relationships.
The main problem with entering an unfamiliar meeting room is that it's like leaving a bar when it's still light outside. Things seem a little too bright, a little overwhelming, a little disconcerting. Yet no matter how thrown off you feel, the guiding principle is: It's your room. For the next, oh, 30 seconds to a minute, you're in charge. Even if it's their room, you're in charge. Even if your earnings are a 10th of the salary of that guy you're about to shake hands with, you're in charge. You're not the only one determining the mood of the room, but you have to take responsibility for it.
Consider a lesson from the forest. "Pretend everyone's a bear in the woods," says Robbie Pickard, a Santa Monica, Calif.-based comedian who spends his career entering rooms full of people he needs to impress. "If you look scared, the bear is going to attack you." Which we always thought involved yelling and waving your arms and stomping the earth and throwing a Coleman lantern. But what he's saying is, offer no apologies or expressions of trepidation or false humility. Protect yourself with confidence. Confidence makes you look comfortable.
It should seem like there's no other place in the world you'd rather be.
Key Technical Matters
1. WHEN people introduce themselves, say their names back to them or take a mental note. But try to keep their names in your head. Saying a person's name back to them 20 or 30 minutes after you've met them suggests graciousness and respect, and it will endear you to them.

2. DO NOT give out business cards before the meeting begins. Because it makes you look like a blackjack dealer.

3. LOOK everyone in the eye for, like, a millisecond longer than is comfortable.

4. Don't carry yourself in a way that could be described as "jaunty."

5. IF there are fewer than six other people in the room, shake everyone's hand. If there are six or more, shake approximately five hands, and then nod amiably to the rest. The shaking of hands can get out of hand.

6. At no time say, "Let's do this!"

7. NO fist bumps.

8. DON'T talk about anything that isn't pleasant, such as how much traffic you were just in or how hot it is or how you have a cold.

At this moment, more than any other moment in the meeting, you're your own agent. You're saying, "I'd like you to meet myself." (Note: Do not under any circumstances actually say, "I'd like you to meet myself.")
Bill Clinton is a useful example. The man knows how to enter a room. He might not know how to leave, but he knows how to enter. Two out of the two former press secretaries we called for help with this column (we figured they might know something about the subject of entering meetings, since they've seen people enter the most important rooms in the world) mentioned Clinton as the best room-enterer they've ever seen. Which is pretty easy to do when you're the president of the United States, but still, there are lessons in his approach.
"When Bill Clinton entered a room, he owned the room from the second he walked in," says Dee Dee Myers, Clinton's first press secretary and now a managing director at The Glover Park Group, a D.C. communications firm. "Because he was curious, he wanted to talk to people and would totally engage them. And pretty soon all the energy in the room was running in one direction."
Marlin Fitzwater, press secretary for Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, says, "Bill Clinton was probably the best I've ever seen. He walked in and demanded the attention of everyone. The lessons of Clinton are: Don't be aimless, don't be casual, don't be flippant. Let your audience know they're important and that you're there because you have a message to give them."
So, it's an act, yes. But it's not entirely an act. The act is supported by an important psychological underpinning: actual curiosity. "You have to be curious," says Thomas Huseby, managing partner at Seattle VC firm SeaPoint Ventures. "Most entrepreneurs are thinking about what they want to teach or what they want to convey, and everybody would much rather talk to someone who is curious. It's amazing what that attitude does."
That's how to enter a room. With curiosity. But not necessarily about the business at hand. Meetings at Esquire often start off with questions about the view from our conference room on the 21st floor of the Hearst Corporation tower in Midtown Manhattan. If the person we're meeting with asks anything at all about the city, we take them over to the window and give them a quick tour: the Empire State Building, the exact location in the Hudson where Captain Sully landed the plane, that statue of Ronald McDonald that somehow ended up on the roof of a four-floor walk-up on Eighth Avenue, how New Jersey looks vaguely bucolic if you squint. It's a rich, interesting conversation.
Who wouldn't want to be in a room with you now? You're amiable and confident and pleased with the way things are going. You're ready to talk and to listen. You haven't given them any reason why they couldn't see themselves giving you a lot of money or offering you a contract or partnering with you in some way. You're someone they could see themselves doing business with, is what we're trying to say.
All that, and you haven't even sat down yet.
Have a question for the Esquire Guy about how to comport yourself at work, on the road or maybe in a bar? (or even at work in a bar on the road?). Ask it at
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Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Do you think this would work here?

I found this story on my blog list today and my thoughts ran immediately to the point of why can't we do this here. We have empty buildings. We have farmers growing food and we have about 25% of our population that is having difficulty putting food on thier tables. If after reading this article you have a fire in your belly and it isn't just heartburn, give me a call and lets have a frank discussion on the matter.

From the Agurban:

He's Still At It!

Last week we told you about the Bulldog Express, a grocery store ran by high school business students in Leeton, Missouri. This week we want to update you on one of the first young grocery entrepreneurs we learned about back in 2006, Nick Graham.

Nick lived in Truman, MN with his grandmother. When the town's only grocery store closed during the summer of 2006, just before Nick's senior year of high school, he recognized what a loss the closing would have on the town. So, at age 17, Nick bought the store with his life savings of $10,000 and a $25,000 loan from the local city council, a gutsy move on the council's part. The store reopened it in October 2006. By July 2008, the store was profitable. Nick was offered a good price for the business and sold it.

Not only was Nick Graham running the grocery store in Truman, he was servicing about 14 customers as a wholesale distributor and generating $100,000 per week in gross sales.

Nick worked for several months for a couple other companies after he sold the Truman store, but couldn't resist the appeal of a business adventure. After hearing about a near bankrupt grocery store in Rolfe, IA, Nick drove an hour south of Truman to check it out. He purchased that store, and once again, was in the grocery store business.

Next came an investment in a combined grocery store and café in Pomeroy, IA in late 2009. The café that attaches to the grocery has been a great asset to Pomeroy's sense of community, serving as a gathering place for local residents.

Why are these small town grocery stores so successful? According to Nick, "We emphasize personal service to keep residents shopping in our stores. We call people by their first name. We deliver groceries. We do whatever somebody wants us to do to make our customers happy."

In addition to the stores in Rolfe and Pomeroy, Nick also owns stores in Fontanelle and Huxley, IA.

We love the Nick Graham story! Not only is he a millennial entrepreneur, he is providing a valuable service to small rural towns. We would like to learn more about other "Nick Graham's" out there. Please share your stories about your local millennial entrepreneurs.

Fun at the Shine Festival

Sounds like a a good time.

Dear Farmers And Value Added Producers,

On July 30th from 11:00am-8:00pm and 31st 12:00pm-6:00pm the Southern Culture Society, in conjunction with numerous sponsors including the North Carolina Department of Agriculture, will be hosting the 3rd Annual Carolina Shinefest. The festival takes place in downtown Madison, North Carolina.The event is a celebration of North Carolina’s history, food, music, arts & crafts and NOW, its LOCAL growers. The current schedule of events includes performances by North Carolina born musicians, an antique car show with over 100 competitor car entries, appearances by NASCAR Hall of Famer - Junior Johnson, and many NC arts & craftsmen. Roughly 20,000 people are expected to flood the streets of downtown Madison for this event.
Through the support of the NC Department of Agriculture, this year’s Shinefest will feature an opportunity for farmers to sell their products throughout the show. Spots in the farmer’s market will be FREEof charge and located within the confines of the Shinefest event. These spots are open to any farmer who would like to attend; however due to the limitations put in place by the size of the event, only a certain number of spots are available. These spots will be assigned on a first come first serve basis.
To apply for a spot at this year’s Carolina Shinefest, please fill out the attached application and mail it to:
Southern Culture Society
ATTENTION: Jessie Paschal
939 Burke Street
Suite F
Winston-Salem, NC 27101

For more information: contact Jessie Paschal at, or 336-293-4299, or me at
Ryan Casey
Southern Culture Society Volunteer

2011 Carolina ‘Shinefest Farmer’s Market Application

July 30 (11 am - 8 pm) and July 30 (12 pm – 6 pm)
Downtown Madison, NC

Name _________________________________________________________

Phone Number __________________________________________________

Address________________________________________________________ _______________________________________________________________

Email __________________________________________________________

Please list what you will be bringing and the pricing on these items _________

For more information: contact Jessie Paschal at, or 336-293-4299, or me at

Monday, July 25, 2011

Stokes County's Wealth

I was cl

eaning out my email inbox this morning and came upon a story that caugh my eye. It was in a blog that I read called Land-Think. I will post the contents below for you to get the full impact but it basicly asked the question if you had the option would you buy an ounce of gold or an acre of land, if the cost was equal. After thinking about it for a moment, I go back to the old adage about fishing: if you give a man a fish, he can eat for a day, you teach him how to fish and he can eat forever. That is what an acre of land means to me. If you know how to care for it an nurture it, it can take care of you forever. The ounce of gold might be pretty and shiny but it won't fill you stomach, give me the land everytime.

Yesterday I noticed that the price of gold has risen to $1600 per ounce, and the thought struck me that land in my part of west Alabama is selling for approximately the same price per acre. I posed the question to two local business owners whether they would rather own an ounce of gold or an acre of land. Both men responded that they would rather own land. This is an intriguing question about investing and value.
Full disclosure, I am not a research economist, an analyst, or an investment advisor; I am a real estate agent that specializes in selling rural land, so here is how I approach the answer to the question.
The Caprice of Gold
Gold has been a highly prized commodity for several thousand years. Gold matches well with the criteria Aristotle laid out for a good money in that it must be durable, portable, divisible, and have intrinsic value. Gold is a good store of value, and its scarcity has contributed greatly to the desire of people to own it.
From a layman’s perspective the price of gold seems to rise when there is a decrease in the confidence in the strength of our nation’s currency. Gold began its current run up in price in 2001 at $265 per ounce and has climbed to a high this week of $1602 per ounce. That meteoric rise is being touted by experts as a reason for investors to jump into the gold market. I question that logic for 3 reasons:
1. Gold is at an all-time high. The real estate market bust that we are in has made me skeptical of buying anything at premium prices. If the market goes south, who is left holding the bag?
2. Gold is Capricious. In 1981, the price of gold had been experiencing strong gains, right before the bottom fell out and gold lost 2/3 of its value in one year. It wasn’t until 2006, that gold actually reached the price it had seen 25 years before. For gold to have any value, you must have other people who are willing to agree to the value of your commodity. When an item is assigned great value but has little utility, I am always cautious.
3. Gold has a historic bull’s-eye on its back. Feel free to disagree with me on this point, and yes I do know our currency is not tied to the gold standard any longer, but hear me out on this. 1n 1933, President FDR signed an executive order making it illegal for any citizen of the US to own more than $100 worth of gold. It wasn’t until about 1974, that citizens were allowed to own gold again. With the recent spikes in gold prices and the falling value of the dollar, it seems plausible to me that trading of gold could be more heavily regulated with price controls or even stopped if the government decided it was in their best interest. I would simply cite the increased government attention at regulating the speculation buying of oil as support for that argument.
The Utility of Land
I like land as an investment for several reasons.
1. Land has utility. I am a function over form guy; you can tell that from my wardrobe, from my vehicle, and what I spend my money on. I believe in investing in land because you can grow food, timber, find water, mine useful substances, shape it, hunt and enjoy it. Land can sustain your life or your livelihood in many ways. Just last week I was talking with a farmer from Iowa who is having his best corn harvest ever at 220 bushels to the acre. That is a staggering amount of corn from an acre of land. Corn is just one of dozens of useful and essential commodities that can be grown on your land.
2. Land is historically a sound investment. Most people have heard the old saying, “Buy land, they’re not making any more of it.” Land has a certain degree of scarcity that contributes to its value, like gold and other precious metals. The USDA reported the average cropland price per acre in Alabama in 1997, was $1270. In 2010, the USDA survey shows a $2700 per acre price for cropland in the state. That is a 112% increase in price over the past 14 years, for a nominal rate of return of 8% annually through that period.
3. Private land-ownership is essential for our government to function. Local governments across the nation depend on private landownership to stay in business. Each local government appraises real property and assesses ad valorem taxes on landowners. These property taxes are used to fund schools and other essential government functions. It is highly improbable that the right to private landownership would be denied or that vast amounts of land would be taken by imminent domain. Where the government might see a potential threat to its currency in a commodity like gold, private landownership would still be an essential revenue stream for local governments.
4. Land equals Opportunity. America has been called “The Land of Opportunity”, and I would say that land equals opportunity. It is exactly because of the historical value and multitude of uses of land that it presents so many opportunities as an investment. You have flexibility (in some types of soil) to grow row crops, or graze cattle, or plant trees based on whatever has the highest rate of return. Land has potential for development and there is always a highest-and-best-use consideration for a property whereas a fixed asset is fixed. Owning land is an avenue to having revenue generating avenues as well as owning an asset that has real value.
John D. Rockefeller is quoted as saying, “The major fortunes in America have been made in land.” I tend to agree with his assertion, after all he managed his wealth successfully. Given the choice between an ounce of gold or an acre of land, I take the land every time.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Piedmont Local Food update.

Many people are curious about what an Economic Developer does. I can't tell you in the limited time that I have here and I am not sure you want all the trivial details but I would like to share a few moments from last week.

I had the opportunity to travel with Sandra Wesson, who is the direct point of contact for our local farmers and sales person, among a great deal of other jobs for the Piedmont Local Foods effort. I will tell you in no uncertain terms, that I am not sure I have enough energy to keep up with her on a regular basis.

The morning started early, around 7 AM at the pick-up site in Walnut Cove, from there we went to Wentworth and consolidated all the produce for shipment. It was a light day but I was able to get a sense of how much effort goes into insuring that all shipments are correct and the customers are getting quality food, 24 hours after it comes out of the field.

We had eight stops to make, in Greensboro, High Point, Winston Salem and finally Eden. We covered a lot of ground to deliver the food and we covered a lot of ground in our conversation on how much the program has grown and how much room there is to continue the growth. It appears that the volume will triple this year and with the right type of nurturing, triple again next year. This would not be possible if not for a very dedicated group of volunteer board members, a group of local farmers that are willing to look at new models for growth and a few dedicated people, such as Sandra that are so passionate about their efforts that it is infectious.

If you are from the Piedmont Triad, or just thinking about driving through (Sandra was meeting a client from Ohio who saw the website and wanted to order) visit the website at The only way you can get food any fresher is if you grow it yourself!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Tomato Season

We are in one of my favorite times of the year. The days have turned hot and humid, the nights are warm and fresh fruits and vegetables of all kinds are available for harvest, including my all time favorite the tomato. In honor of this wonderful time of the year, I thought I would share a recipe that my wife Kelly and I have been using for over 20 years and came from her Aunt Zelda.

Spaghetti Sauce

1/2 bushel tomatoes
2 cloves of garlic(or equal amount of granulated garlic)
3 pounds of onions (white or yellow)
2 hot peppers (I use Jalapenos but other types work well)
2 bell peppers- optional
1 tablespoon basil
2 tablespoons oregano
1/2 cup salt
1 1/2 cups sugar
48 ounces tomato paste

Peel and core the tomatoes (I use boiling water to loosen the skin on the tomatoes, saves a lot of time.) Peel and cube the onions,Chop the peppers and add mix all of the above into a large (12 quart) stock pot. Add the herbs, garlic and salt, bring to a boil and cook until the mixture starts to thicken (depending on what temperature you use, this will take around 90 minutes. Reduce heat, add the tomato paste and sugar and bring to a simmer for about thirty minutes, longer for thicker sauce.(if you add these at the beginning, the sauce has a tendency to stick to the pot and burn. We learned this early on in the process.) The sauce is then ready to can or freeze, it works equally well both ways.

We eat it with our without meat. It is a staple in our fall and winter menus. My only problem it getting enough made to make it through the year. Hope you enjoy this recipe. Please feel free to share other ideas for preserving the goodness of the harvest and remember to buy local!