Friday, July 31, 2009
Thursday, July 30, 2009
I am going to spend a little time on a web search before moving on to the business attraction area, not the least because in a cursory review this plan seems to vector to a perceived need to expedite the purchase of “ready-to-go” sites – a concept generating a lot of attention and controversy in the County just now.
Also, my family will be out for the weekend – staying at the River’s Bend Guest Ranch (http://www.riversbendranch.com ) so I am heading out to the Hawksbill Cabin today. I am looking forward to a bounty of new stuff to write about afterwards!
Now on to the review of the plan –
“In order to retain businesses in Page County, public education is needed to let firms know what resources (financial, information, expertise, etc.) are available to leverage their existing efforts and investments.” This quote is the sole reference to existing business in the 1.5 page executive summary of the plan. It is a distinctively noncommittal observation – “public education is needed” – no assignment of responsibility, no data, no performance metrics.
Further back in the plan, where the goal and objectives are listed, the four items listed for retaining existing businesses are basically a repeat of those found in the 2003 plan:
- Expand existing efforts to educate businesses…
- Continue to build relationships with existing businesses…
- Undertake a survey of local businesses…
- Identify companion businesses to those existing in the county…
The first three are given high priority, while this last is rated less important. All were to be done with current staff resources – Chamber of Commerce, EDA, or Board of Supervisors resources – and some with current funding. The middle two above – the relationships building goal and the survey – require program funds for implementation; which is the same status they had in the 2003 plan, if I recall correctly. One thing I would like to see is a status report, not just in this section but in all sections – going back to the old stratagem of “what gets measured gets managed.”
The plan includes a straightforward justification for these simple investments:
- “…existing businesses provide the greatest opportunities to provide new jobs and capital investment.”
- “…business retention is even more critical than business recruitment to the economic viability and growth of the County.”
These are strong statements – and their placement in the plan is significant, appearing as they do before the discussion of goals related to recruiting new businesses. There is a long history of businesses leaving the County or closing outright. And the data shows that more than 60 percent of Page County's workforce commutes to work places not located here. If I were an owner of an existing business in Page County, I’d be asking questions about this – and I’d want to know why, with this kind of wording around the goals, more hasn’t been done to support existing businesses.
It gets to the soapbox point: why all the fuss about a land deal that will cost a lot more money than the small outlay it would take to lay the ground work for future growth, based on what’s already here?
Seems to me, this is another case of low-hanging fruit, along with overlooking the tourist and agriculture sectors as possible investment targets, that was missed somehow by the Board of Supervisors and the EDA. I’d love to see a revisit of these items as part of the way forward for the County.
Wednesday, July 29, 2009
The plan outlines three strategies for developing sustainable agriculture in Page County, but provides little detail on how to implement them – doesn’t even call for the first step in implementation, an assessment.
Here are the three strategies:
- Plant substitute crops – soybeans and hay: soybeans to tap into the bio-diesel market with the side benefit of creating animal feed as a by-product; hay to cater to the growing number of horse farms in Page County.
- Emphasize sustainable approaches – take advantage of the growing demand for local produce and the areas proximity to larger markets in Harrisonburg and Northern Virginia.
- Repurpose resources – create an agri-tourism destination; transition poultry farms to horse farms; and create non-traditional agro-enterprises such as wineries in Page County.
Past blog posts here have considered the economics of hay farming, as well as the sustainable agriculture approaches listed here. I haven’t been able to get further into an assessment of these subjects to determine whether they could be relied upon for a family’s livelihood, as much as I would like to believe they offer that potential.
I mentioned the absence of real planning here. What are the recommendations for developing sustainable agriculture in the 2008 Page County Economic Plan? Fine-sounding concepts, “innovation, communication, and cooperation” are emphasized and a program of forums, engagement, and even an agriculture summit are proposed. These are given lower priority than educating Page County’s political leadership.
Compared to the 2004 plan, this 2008 plan is short on details and imagination. Having completed a review now of tourism and agriculture, the next step is to review the strategy and goals for industry; given the appearance of much current emphasis on that sector – Project Clover, the purchase of developable industrial land – I’m anticipating there will be more detail there. That’s a pity, because as the plan itself says, Page County agriculture is a “$108 million industry” comprised of “400 small businesses.”
An industry and small businesses that were not given a priority in the 2008 plan, that is.
Tuesday, July 28, 2009
A section I found interesting was the discussion of the relationship between poultry farmers and the industry itself. The farmers own the land and buildings, but the poultry is owned by the large companies – Tyson, Cargill, Pilgrim’s Pride – who are beginning to make better economic decisions about where to locate their operations, with the result that Page County is often not optimal.
When I use the term “better economic decisions” above, I am referring to the simple fact that these large companies are acting in their own self interest to minimize their costs. The implementation often involves consolidation of farms, suppliers, and processing in close proximity to each other to minimize transportation time and costs – a decision process that does not favor Page County.
To be the selected location, economic theory suggests there needs to be a natural advantage, such as a major center of production for feed corn or some other input resource, or a point of intermodal transfer for transportation. Page County has none of these – and the decline of farms and farm production income is the result.
On the other hand, these consolidated centers of production are not operated in the most sustainable ways – I’d bet that there are a lot of challenges containing and managing waste materials, and energy use is not a top priority for management. With the Shenandoah River facing stress from other past and present sources in the watershed, there is yet another reason that Page County may not be the best location for these operations.
Even so, Page County remains the second largest poultry producer in Virginia. Yet, with 400 small businesses and $108 million in revenues at stake, this plan outlines as its primary objective:
“Department of Economic Development will ensure that political leadership of the County is educated, as soon as possible, about the issues facing the agricultural community.”
I’ve reached the end of my post today. Tomorrow, we’ll take a look at the issues and opportunities section of the two-page write-up on sustainable agriculture, and I have a few more thoughts on this topic to add.
To sum up, I’ve got to underscore that if anything in this plan creates a sense of urgency for me, it is right here, this industry, and the relative lack of importance it is given in this overall plan. The plan sets up the concept of a three-legged stool for the Page County economy – tourism, agriculture, and industry. So far, two of those three have been given short shrift – no real hard thinking on the facts – and that’s a real disappointment.
Monday, July 27, 2009
Friday, July 24, 2009
Tourism is one economic driver that nobody seems to question in the County. I’ve heard estimates of the number of visitors at SNP as over a million, and a half million at Luray Caverns. The plan acknowledges this with the quote, “Just a few miles in any direction offers visitors a chance to enjoy the abundance of Page County’s natural resources and a range of recreational activities including camping, canoeing, cycling, fishing, golf, hiking, horseback riding, and photography.”
The plan summarizes the impact of tourism, noting expenditures of almost $51 million in 2007, employment of 654 people, and annual payroll of almost $11 million. An occupancy tax generates a budget that is used to promote tourism in the County, guided by the Chamber of Commerce’s Tourism Council. Mary and I have stopped by the visitors’ center and can vouch for how friendly and knowledgeable the staff is; these functions are imminently moving to the newly restored Luray train station which will further serve to make visits to the County memorable.
A new feature of the 2008 plan is a summary for each initiative, presented in something of a scorecard format; at least it is easily adaptable to results reporting in the next update. For each major section of the plan, there is a table that outlines objectives, assigns the lead role, sets a priority for each objective, identifies support roles, and lists resources.
There are four objectives for Tourism. The only “Priority A” objective here is:
“The Director of the Economic Development Department will work with the Executive Director of the Chamber to develop reporting formats for the marketing and financial updates that will be submitted to the Board of Supervisors on a regular basis.”
As I mentioned in past posts, I see the opportunities with tourism as low-hanging fruit in the overall context of economic development for Page County. There’s no question about the natural resources available, you have a solid base of visitors to work from, and you can easily monitor the impacts of improvement objectives.
If less than $200K in promotional funds is all it takes to maintain tourism traffic at 1.5 million visitors, tourism revenues at $51 million, and creating payroll of 654 employees, does adding $20K create the opportunity to increase everything by 10%? If that investment won't improve the statistics by 10%, how much will the impact be? If it only creates 10 more jobs, that still seems worthwhile.
Seems like an easy place to start to me.
We are headed out to the Hawksbill Cabin for the weekend (we have a Luray Wranglers game on tap – thanks for the recommendation, “posumcop” – next week’s posts will include a wrap up on those activities and continue with this review of the 2008 Economic Development Plan. The Agriculture sector is the one I will take a look at next.
Thursday, July 23, 2009
The Page County plan doesn’t include all of this material, but it does start with a vision statement, so at least we can take a look at that as the central idea of the plan. There are five elements of the vision, and I think it can be assumed that these would pass muster with most County residents:
- Better quality of life for the community – includes better wages, improved infrastructure and amenities, a healthy place to live, and improving employment prospects;
- Job retention and creation – seen as a “fundamental” goal;
- Retain the rural character of the community and natural resource protection – including mountains, groundwater, caves, and rivers, but also farms, woodlands and open spaces;
- Balance the growth between agriculture, tourism, and industry – elsewhere these are referred to as Page County’s three-legged stool of the economy; and
- Strengthen the collaboration between the County and towns – the recognition that cooperation is the only way to ensure successful growth. A rule of thumb is that while the towns have concentrated populations and thus require significant infrastructure, they represent only about 30 percent of the county population.
Three of these goals are linked in my mind – quality of life, job retention/creation, and the economic base of the County. So tomorrow’s post will look into those a bit more, taking the three economic elements one at a time.
Wednesday, July 22, 2009
Just as the Hawksbill Cabin yard is planted over with Hosta, the Alexandria yard is full of hydrangeas. Mary's even moved them from the front to the back to make the plantings more logical (and orderly, I'm sure - curator + master of urban design and all that).
The morning sun was hitting them just right to create a big impression.
Now I’ve moved on to the 2008 update of the plan, and in the midst of reviewing this document, I’ve learned more about the County’s pending purchase of some farm land with the intent to develop it for future, unspecified, industrial use.
Several elements of the plan are controversial, including: the intended transfer of the land to the Economic Development Authority (EDA), which effectively relinquishes the County’s responsibility as land owner; and questions about the negotiated purchase price of the land in relation to its assessed value and the current real estate market – the down payment of $1 million alone obligates each man, woman and child resident of the County to a $300 contribution, while the purchase price in excess of $7 million results in County debt equivalent to $2,100 per resident.
There is broad sentiment for getting more information out to residents about the purchase and the strategy behind it, there is also a petition designed to call attention to the matter – more details on the purchase can be found at http://www.pagecountywatch.org/id71.html , or by reading back copies of the Page News and Courier. Even though we are weekenders, we feel like we are stakeholders in these matters because of the property taxes we pay on the Hawksbill Cabin.
After reviewing the economic development plan, I have questions, and don’t seem to be easily able to find answers. The biggest in my mind is, why the rush to procure this land, especially in light of the economic burden this seems to place on Page County residents.
The only driver for the decision I have found is in the executive summary of the 2008 strategic plan, which says, “…the County needs ready-to-go sites complemented with the ability to process permits, licenses, etc. within short turnaround times” in order to attract companies that fit in with the rural character of the County and diversify the economic base.
To me, this is “cart-before-horsing” – among other things, the previous version of the plan called for an assessment to determine what kinds of businesses to target. Was there follow-up on these objectives and initiatives? Without them, I don’t think it’s prudent to land bank this property, betting it is a panacea to future economic development requirements; squirreling it away in a quasi-government EDA that may not have followed up on its own previous goals and objectives is another thing.
At least, this is my first impression about the controversy – but I’m going to do a couple of posts on the 2008 Strategic Plan in the next couple of days, comparing it with 2004, checking out unfinished business from the prior plan. I’ll be taking the perspective of a venture capitalist deciding whether or not I would invest in the plan – I hope that readers find the questions smart, hard, and to the point.
While I am not a voter in Page County, I am a concerned - property owning - stakeholder who wants to see the best thing done – and that means improving the economic conditions for everybody out there, with jobs and a good quality of life.
Tuesday, July 21, 2009
I'd never seen them before we found them in the yard, next to the old storage shed (you can see the original stone portion of the house in the background, the windows are along the back wall over the kitchen and dining room area). Since I found them, I keep an eye out for them, and I've seen them growing wild (more likely naturalized) up in Shenandoah National Park, and recently in a big arrangement in the DuPont Circle area of DC.
I took this photo on the day I was checking out the hostas (my Monday morning post), and as I came around the corner of the house there was a humming bird working them over. Apparently this plant is a favorite for them.
We certainly appreciate all the interest in Gracie’s progress – for the record, she’s pretty stabilized for the moment, getting about ½ liter of sub-q fluids every other day, along with all the other meds, and the special diet. I also hope that readers who find these entries on the web find some useful, or at least, reassuring information here on the Hawksbill Cabin blog.
One thing I wanted to be sure to highlight is a comment that reader “Linda” left a few weeks ago – it was reassuring and provided additional resources that readers may want to check out. A quote from her comment:
“I have been dealing with my dog's renal disease for three years. I was wondering if you had found the website http://www.dogaware.com/? It has a lot of good articles…”
I’ve spent some time on that site, and there is plenty of useful information here. To get right to the point on canine kidney failure though – follow this link: http://www.dogaware.com/kidney.html#protein .
As always, if you arrived at this page from a web search and want to read more about our experience with this condition, click on the label “canine renal” below.
Monday, July 20, 2009
Last year we had a bumper crop from the old Macintosh in the front yard - the deer had a feast that lastest more than 6 weeks. Dan said he didn't see many blossoms on his trees this spring, though, and I only remember maybe 25 percent as many on ours.
Spring weather must have knocked many of the blossoms off. But as I was walking around checking the hostas for a previous post, I looked up and the tree. We'll have a smaller crop this year for sure, but we will have apples.
I found out the hummingbirds also like them, having seen the birds working over the blossoms. I am pretty sure that the hostas are sustaining some carpenter bees, too. One final story, the guy who came out to clean our septic said that copperheads like to hide under them – so far, we haven’t seen any copperheads, I think because the black rat snakes eat them all.
- They grow from rhizomes or stolons (under grown connections to parent plants) – we have both happening in the yard;
- There are 3,000 registered and named varieties (I am sure we have at least a half dozen in the yard);
- Past names were the Corfu Lily, Day Lily, and Plantain Lily; and
- They are native to Japan, Korea, and China.
- They were first imported and grown in Europe in the late 1700’s. By the mid-1800’s hosta were growing in the United States.
- Also, as they forage in residential communities deer frequently find hostas among their favorites, especially those hostas with the fragrant flowered parents.
Friday, July 17, 2009
NASCAR this isn’t – it’s more of a minor league affair. But there is plenty of entertainment value to be had. The night I went, there were no less than six races on the “Fan Run Down:”
· INEX Legends (the two photos here) – 25 laps
· SVSRL Mini Cups – 25 laps
· UCARS – 30 laps
· Sportsman – 20 laps
· Street Stock – 30 laps
· Late Models – 75 laps
We’re going to have to work on the ball game, but the summer season is only two months long (it is well covered by this blog: http://allthingsvalleyleague.typepad.com/, and it’s over by August. The town of Luray really turns out for the games, and we want to check it out. Mary also tells me she wants to check out the races…that’s a new one on me, but I am game for going back.
Thursday, July 16, 2009
The book’s review of the Lands Run Falls hike begins with the admonishment, “[The falls] is not especially high, nor can you see the entire falls from the trail.” I have been using this book for more than five years – long enough to have been disappointed in one or two of the routes, and this is the first one I’ve read that understates an otherwise excellent short hike.
Here are some examples of past disappointments:
· the Ivy Creek route describes the destination as a lovely pool – although the trail progresses through interesting terrain, it never gets far from Skyline Drive, or the sound of motorcycles; and the enticing pool at the end practically drives up during the summer;
· the Mary’s Rock route, while it does mention the 1,210 feet of elevation gain does not do a good job describing the actual steepness of the ascent; and
· the Limberlost review could use an update – this is a very crowded route due to its accessibility to the Parks main developments, Skyland and Big Meadows.
I guess that three out of ten disappointments is a lot for this little book of 26 hikes, but on the whole I’ve been happy with the experiences we’ve had. The short Stonyman interpretive trail is well worth taking; of course, I love the Hawksbill Summit (our mountain, as I like to call it, since it overlooks the hollow where the cabin sits); and there is the Dark Hollow Falls that Mary and I have gone back to many times.
So, despite the foreshadowing of disappointment, I decided to take a chance on Lands Run Falls nonetheless. This trail follows a fire road, so it is well marked. Like many others in the Park, the trail descends from the trailhead, so the return route is an ascent, and while short, it is steep.
Despite all of this, the route treks down through a forest of mature oaks and chestnuts, tucked away in a hollow. I don’t remember taking a lot of trails like this one in the Park – the photo above is of a spectacular group of oaks that is a short way down the trail.
A second photo here is of a new blow down, which was probably less than a month old (there was a recent storm with an F1 tornado in Stanley – I assume this tree came down then). The tree must have blocked the fire road because of the clean up that had been done. The reason I took the photo, however, is because of the long vertical split in the trunk that happened when the tree came down – there was a lot of energy when this happened, as the split is more than 30 feet long, vertical along the trunk!
Just a few feet from the fallen tree, the sound of the falls can be heard, even though it is still a bit of a hike away. The sound accompanies you, and gets louder as you continue downhill around a switchback in the road. Finally, there is a little stream on the left, uphill, side of the trail, which passes through a culvert under the road.
There is a spur trail that follows the stream a hundred feet or so to the top of a little bluff, over grown with ferns and mosses, and with that wonderful canopy of oaks overhead. This is where the stream catapults itself over in a small but beautiful little waterfall.
As I stood on the bluff looking down at this beautiful site, I pondered the hike book’s review. It’s funny that the description there set me up for something altogether different than what I experienced.
After a quick look at the Heatwole guide, it is appropriate to post his review here too:
"The falls are a series of small cascades that descend a total of about 80 feet in a narrow gorge. Except in spring, when the snows are melting, there isn't much water. There is no point from which you can see all the cascades at once. To see the first one, cross the stream to its left bank and cautiously work your way down through the rocks. If you've become attuned to small and subtle pleasures, this place has a great deal of charm. The rocks are covered with mosses, lichen, and polypody. But the hillside is very steep. The ground is carpeted with needles of pine and hemlock, and sometimes dead leaves, so that the footing is treacherous and the descent must be classified as difficult. As I said, this trip is not for everyone. We have bigger falls that are easier to see. This is for the very few hikers who are willing to go to a lot of trouble to find solitude beside a small pool on a mountain stream."
Now, neither of the two hikes here, Lands Run Falls and Snead Farm, is rigorous in any sense of the word. If you’re after “extreme” or “adventure” there are plenty more to choose from in the Park or nearby (you can start by checking the “Day Hikes: Moderate” label, or by taking a look at http://www.hikingupward.com/).
But I will say this about the two hikes – I enjoyed both of them, a lot more than I expected. They helped me with the writer’s block I have been having on the proposal I’ve been working on. And, just as I turned to start my hike back to the trailhead at Lands Run Falls, the young family with their two dogs I’d seen earlier at Snead Farm turned onto the short spur to have a look at the pretty little waterfall.
This will be the first of two posts on the hikes, which I combined with a drive up to Front Royal (lunch at Spelunkers) and also to check on the used equipment for sale at the Front Royal Canoe company, an outfitter up in that area.
At first, I was only going to do the 1.4 mile Snead Farm hike, with the option of extending it to 3.2 miles by taking some side trails and fire roads. Part of the route was a bit over grown with summer brush; having plucked off my share of ticks already this year, rather than trekking through the long grass, I came back and regrouped, deciding instead to combine this one with Lands Run Falls, an easy 1.2 mile out-and-back.
The description of the Snead Farm hike begins with the note that this is a relatively new addition to the Park – the 200-acre plot was procured in 1962. As such, there are a couple of buildings still standing to take a look at once you reach the farmstead – the old barn and the root cellar. There is also a stone foundation from the old bunkhouse back there.
For some of the SNP hike posts, I also like to pull material from the old Heatwole guide to the Park (on the web at http://www.ajheatwole.com/guide/ ). Here is an excerpt from the guide about this little hike:
…the house has been torn down, but the barn is in fairly good condition. The small structure in back may have been a root cellar.
The road continues beyond the barn to the site of the Snead house, on the right, where a wall and steps still remain. As you might guess, the owners of this property were not typical mountaineers. Originally it belonged to the Garter family, who were farmers and fruit growers in comfortable circumstances. They owned extensive orchards; and the land now occupied by the Visitor Center was, in 1930, Carter's cornfield. This property is now called the Snead place, although Snead, a Rappahannock County judge, owned it for only a few years. The Park bought the 200-acre property in 1962, in order to develop and protect the Dickey Ridge water supply.”
Both the Snead Farm route and the Lands Run Falls route follow fire roads, so they definitely qualify as easy ones. Along the road into the farmstead, there are three forks in the road, so hikers have to be careful to take the right ones – left, right left, like the old military cadence. I did make a wrong turn, and found myself at a dead end. The grass was mowed there (there’s some electrical infrastructure in this area) into the shape of a cul-de-sac, and there was a campfire ring in the middle (with ubiquitous beer cans, I might add).
After pondering, “this can’t be it” for a moment, I backtracked to the last fork and sure enough had taken a wrong turn, adding about a half mile to my little walk.
At that fork, there is a little spring that has been stoned in, the water trickles under the road through a conduit. There is enough of a flow to make a pleasant spattering where it comes out – but I was destined to see a really nice, real waterfall, later this day. Also, there is the trace of an old stone wall that follows the old farm road, marking the way. Much of this stone is the igneous rock that you find in the Park, it’s piled in places in addition to the trace of the old wall.
Although the Park was crowded, I didn’t run into a lot of folks on this trail, except for a family with two young daughters and two dogs. This was a cheerful group out having a good time – I ran into them again at the Dickey’s Ridge Welcome Center, and again on the Lands Run Falls Hike.
I’d really like to come back and redo the Snead Farm hike in the fall, with the foliage down and some of the grasses having died off, so it would be easier to get a perspective of the place.
SNP Best Easy Day Hikes
Wednesday, July 15, 2009
Soon, one night not too long from now, we’ll have an appetizer of tomatoes and fresh mozzarella (I’ll pick it up from Whole Foods if we don’t find any fresh made in the markets), drizzled in olive oil and balsamic vinegar, with fresh basil leaves plucked right from this plant. We’ll pair that up with some “Big House Pink” if it is a warm evening, and dine al fresco in the back yard. What’s not to like?
Tuesday, July 14, 2009
In the spirit of the “Buy Fresh, Buy Local” campaign, a Virginia agricultural outreach program that aims to strengthen the local food and farm economy, connect buyers to local growers and processors, foster a growing relationship among all the stakeholders in the food chain, and find ways to communicate the positive impacts of local agriculture (you can find details here http://www.buylocalvirginia.org/ and here http://www.buylocalshenvalley.org/ ) – I wanted to highlight two of the Luray area farms.
- A Virginia's Finest Product
- No Antibiotics
- No Added Hormones or Steroids
- No Chemical Alteration of Any Kind
- Genetically Selected for Quality
- Corn Fed to Perfection
- Harvested to an age that optimizes taste and tenderness
- Processed by one of Virginia’s most trusted custom facilities under complete USDA inspection
While we enjoy a lot of the products we see out at the market, a second one I wanted to highlight today is Public House Produce, which is a family-owned and operated produce farm located one mile from downtown Luray, VA in the scenic Shenandoah Valley.
I took some photos of these folks before in a post last summer (http://hawksbillcabin.blogspot.com/2008/09/scarecrow-and-yellow-moon.html - title is a reference to "King Harvest" by the Band) Here are some facts about the farm they had on a sign at the market recently.
The CSA program at Public House was a new concept for me. Families can work with the farm to buy produce – if I have it correct, you buy a share of the crops coming in over the course of a season. Then there is a weekly harvest and you get fresh vegetables. Here are a couple of photos from their site of the shares for recent weeks.
The websites for these two farms are: http://www.skylinepremiummeats.com/
Monday, July 13, 2009
· Plan de vida: discover your purpose in life
· Downshift: take a break
· 80% rule: don’t overeat
· Plant power: choose greens (a dietary choice)
· Red wine: a glass a day
· Belong: stay social
· Beliefs: get ritualistic
· Your tribe: family matters
is the link to the Buettner book.
Friday, July 10, 2009
A second topic, one that links back to the series of posts I did on the 2004 strategic plan, has supported a spirited discussion in the county - the idea that an industrial park will attract jobs. The Page County Economic Development Authority has taken to writing full page articles defending a recent offer to purchase so land along Business 340 - the "traffic artery" that runs between Luray and Stanley, as well as going into some detail of what the EDA does.
They offered a justification based on five initiatives:
- Providing access to grants such as the one that supported renovation of the Mimslyn Hotel
- Supporting existing employers
- Supporting the Luray Caverns Airport Hangar expansion
- Supporting low interest loans to small businesses
- Attracting new business to the county
On this last one, they have made a reference to having "pad-ready" sites as a key to the initiative. They go on to mention, "in the last few years, we have worked with about a half-dozen new business prospects."
In response to this, I would like to hear more about the success rate with these prospects. Based on my understanding of the location, the access to resources and distribution networks, and the nature of the work force in the county, I am not convinced that the project will work. There is a 2008 update to the plan that I will download and read for further background, however.
On the other side of this issue, there is at least one District Supervisor candidate who is asking smart questions about the proposal (which by the way, is called Project Clover, and one aspect of the effort is the purchase of a 210-acre farm for $7.5 million), and former candidate Jim Turner (not me - the other one!) who is leading a petition effort to stop the purchase.
Alice Richmond is the candidate, she has a website www.pagecountywatch.org that is tracking the issues. There are legitimate questions about the purchase that haven't been addressed - about how the EDA works, how the decision was made, and since Page County taxpayers will underwrite the project with bond offerings - why there hasn't been more public involvement in the decision.
I like seeing the dialog - and what I hope comes out of this is a productive way forward. For now, I am skeptical of Project Clover. I'd like to see more metrics on the success of past EDA efforts, including the turnover on these "half-dozen" business development initiatives, an honest assessment of this land price (seems about 3x current market), and even the track record of the tech center, an EDA project that adjoins the Clover site.
Thursday, July 9, 2009
In the large company environment, one observes interesting social behaviors and politics everywhere. Everyone’s looking for some advantage to put them over on their peers and antagonists. That’s nothing new. But what we see right now is an economy and markets in turmoil, so I am beginning to see the internal competition that fosters these behaviors as wasteful – it doesn’t do anything to protect 45,000 jobs, and it doesn’t do anything o grow the next 4,500 jobs.
So when this month’s Fast Company magazine included an excerpt from “Strategy for Sustainability: A Business Manifesto” by Adam Werbach, I found some interesting insights about the economy of large businesses. Werbach examines Xerox, among others, for business practices that he then compares with facts drawn from ecological sciences biomechanics and biomimicry. Here is an extended quote from the article, while there is an Amazon link to the book at the end of this post.
“Nature’s 10 Simple Rules for Survival
“…scientists are decoding rules that can help form businesses as hardy and long lasting as a forest. After all, nature is far harsher than the market: If you are not sustainable, you die. No second chances and no bailouts. Businesses that are capable of dealing with the challenges of a changing world will be better able to respond and to lead.
"1. Diversify across generations.
2. Adapt to the changing environment.
3. Celebrate transparency. Every species knows which species will eat it and which will not.
4. Plan and execute systematically, not compartmentally. Every part of a plant contributes to its growth.
5. Form groups and protect the young. Most animals travel in flocks, gaggles, and prides. Packs offer strength and efficacy.
6. Integrate metrics. Nature brings the right information to the right place at the right time. When a tree needs water, the leaves curl; when there is rain, the curled leaves move more water to the root system.
7. Improve with each cycle. Evolution is a strategy for long-term survival.
8. Right-size regularly, rather than downsize occasionally. If an organism grows too big to support itself, it collapses; if it withers, it is eaten.
9. Foster longevity, not immediate gratification. Nature does not buy on credit and uses resources only to the level that they can be renewed.
10. Waste nothing, recycle everything. Some of the greatest opportunities of the 21st century will be turning waste – including inefficiency and under-utilization – into profit.”
It seems that to adapt this within a large company, you’ve got to be able to look deep into the organization at the small groups that make it up – it used to be said that the ultra-large Swedish-Swiss conglomerate ABB could measure the financial performance on business units as small as two people – but that makes these rules a useful strategy for small business as well.
I think I’ll buy the book: Strategy for Sustainability: A Business Manifesto
- a second indictment, for false statements during the investigation, has been filed
- the former sheriff will go to trial on the original 22 charges on September 16 in Harrisonburg
- the Presgraves' home in Page County is for sale
The first indictment on 22 counts was the product of a long and circuitous investigation. I suppose it is easy to understand that a false statements charge could be made. Still, I prefer to leave all of this as "alledged" crimes until the trial. They are accusations until he's had his day in court.
The paper does get a bit sensational in its description of the Presgrave house for sale, going as far as to list the address! It is newsworthy, at the end, as there is an allegation in the original set of charges that the former sheriff illegally used inmate labor for home improvements. Here is the listing, taken from the Weichert.com site:
MLS PA7049999: Distinctive 10+acre secluded country-style compound. 5,440 s/f, 3BRs/3.5BAs with large game/recreation room. MBR w/private balcony. Sprawling covered pavilion w/summer kitchen; 2 ponds w/fountains/decks; large event area w/outdoor grills and baths-perfect for weddings,etc.; separate guest quarters; 2 garages for up to 12 cars; extensive landscaping. Unique property! Dimensions approx.
The Hawksbill Cabin will continue to follow this story as it develops.
Wednesday, July 8, 2009
None of them went after it after it fell, and I hadn’t had enough coffee to be so adventurous, so I figured that some lucky raccoon would eventually get it. Later in the day, I was walking around the yard and saw two of the young birds down on the ground. They were both covering whatever they had with their wings, obviously eating something. It might have been the lost meal, or maybe another one. In any case, one of the birds had a larger piece, because the second finished up sooner and started running around on the ground in a circle.
I sat with my fingers crossed that we hadn’t lost one of the birds. It reminded me of a time a few years ago, when a young finch flew into one of the windows in Alexandria. My wife Mary called animal control, where she was told to just keep an eye on it and protect it from predators – birds don’t usually die from this, they are simply stunned and more likely die because they are attacked during the moment of their vulnerability. So I hoped that all we had in this case was a stunned hawk.
Sure enough, about a half hour later, the little one thrashed its way out onto a branch. Still weak and disoriented, it hopped from limb to limb, always descending. Eventually, it fell to the ground, lying very still – so I thought it had died. Then, a flutter – and then, it righted itself, eventually recovering enough to hop around the yard. And that’s how we left it when we got on the road back to Alexandria.
It probably won’t be long now until we don’t see any of the young hawks anymore. They had flown off by the beginning of August last year, and I estimate that in terms of development, this brood is a month ahead of last year’s. So maybe next week, we’ll only have one or two left, and soon after, everyone will be on their way. After that, we’ll probably only catch random sightings of one of them hunting in the woods behind the house.
Tuesday, July 7, 2009
Monday, July 6, 2009
First of all, judging from the bare earth in this photo, there are places in the pond that may have been as deep as eight feet! For a little stream like Beaver Run, that is pretty impressive.
I’ve mentioned that we are seeing deer and squirrels walking around where the pond was. The deer have even broken their old paths back in, you can see where the grass has been knocked down and the little hoof prints. So we return to normal.
We saw one of the little beavers in our yard, on our side of the street the other day, and a larger one, an adult, around the bend in the road. And there are still ducks on what’s left of the pond.
When I was a kid, we had a book with a cutaway view of the hutch and entryway. I could spend hours looking at that picture, imaging what it was like to come and go through the little portal. Now we’ve finally seen it.
Late last month, Gracie had another blood test to see how she’s doing. Her numbers indicate that she’s stable:
+creatinine at 3.5, down from 5 at the last test;
+BUN at 82, which is a little high but acceptable; and
+her calcium level is at 11.7, 1.2 for the ionized test.
This is all very good news. The vet said to do a retest in three months unless she seems to be declining. We have our fingers-crossed that she will meet this milestone.
Gracie remains alert and interested in her toys and walks. She gets a little sleepy from both the arthritis medicine and the blood pressure medication but is still willing to roll the fuzzy soccer ball for a little game of easy fetch. Meal times are still trying – she needs incentives in her food and she has a tendency to spit out the rice as she walks away from her bowl. Grains of rice can be found all over the house.
Mealtimes are time-consuming. She gets her pills first thing, then her food, but she can’t be fed too close to the time she has her pills because the AlternaGel she must receive shortly after eating to coat her stomach must be given at least an hour after she receives her meds. Warming the subQ fluids, then administering them to her takes another 20 minutes or so in the morning every other day. So, her morning meds-meal-and fluids routine can take about 90 minutes to complete. She needs a mid-day dose of AlternaGel with some food, again to coat her stomach and protect against ulcers. Evenings repeat the meds-meals-AlternaGel routine.