Chris Hardie

Blog, Tech, Business and Community Building

economy

November 9, 2013

Hello, Bitcoin

Bitcoin, bitcoin coin, physical bitcoin, bitcoin photoWhen I first read about Bitcoin, the open source peer-to-peer digital currency, I thought it was just another in a long line of attempts to create an online alternative to the dollar that would probably not see wide adoption.

Then I watched "End of the Road: How Money Became Worthless," and started to understand more about fiat currency and the dangers that come with depending on it.  After a friend explained a little more about how Bitcoin works and how it was designed to transcend many of our current challenges with fiat money, I went back and took another look.

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September 10, 2012

Everything on the Internet is Free!

Brian Keith Whalen rocking out at the Starr Gennett Walk of FameAfter my post this past weekend about why I think paying for access to local news reporting is worth it, I checked out some of the reasons that people who were complaining about said fees were giving for not wanting to pay.  Chief among them was the argument that "if it's on the Internet, it should be free!"

I hadn't previously thought about how mainstream that line of thinking probably is right now.  But it makes sense.  The dominant business model for so many Internet resources over the last several years has been to give away access to tools, content or other things and then either sell advertising or sell a "premium" version (Wired magazine had a good story on this trend back in February of 2008 if you want to see how much it's taken hold even in that short time).

People are used to learning of some new service or app, putting in their e-mail address and picking a password (if that much), and they're off and running to use the shiny new thing.  Facebook, Gmail, Twitter, Google let users spend all day using up their resources at no charge.  You can download high quality web browsers and entire office software suites for free.  Pandora lets you listen to and discover great music all day long for free.  There are paid apps in mobile app stores, but the free or $0.99 ones get most of the attention.

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June 26, 2012

Shuman on alternative models of economic development

I have a guest editorial piece in today's Palladium-Item, End risky economic games.  I've also reproduced the edited version of the piece below.  I had originally hoped to title it "What can James Bond teach us about economic development?" but I decided that's not actually a question I want to know the answer to.  So instead the article focuses on two different labels for economic development models, coined by author Michael Shuman.

I first saw Shuman speak at a conference back in 2005.  He's an economist, attorney, speaker, author and entrepreneur, and he's written a number of books on the economic why and how for creating thriving, self-reliant communities.  In particular, he posed the labels of "TINA: There is no alternative" and "LOIS: Local Investment and Import Substituting" as shorthand names for the dominant economic development model of today (TINA) and an alternative model that he sees having great success and sustainability on paper and in practice (LOIS).

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November 28, 2011

The closing of Really Cool Foods

Groundbreaking for Really Cool FoodsIn 2007, organic prepared food producer Really Cool Foods announced that it would be building a multi-plant production complex in Cambridge City, Indiana and investing over $100 million in the area.  The announcement was met with great joy and significant incentives from state and local governments:

The Indiana Economic Development Corp. offered Really Cool Foods up to $3.05 million in performance-based tax credits, up to $165,000 in training grants and will provide Cambridge City officials with a $200,000 grant to assist in off-site infrastructure improvements needed for the project. Wayne County officials offered the company 50 acres of land, $165,000 in grants and a 10-year property tax abatement.

The facility opened in October of 2008 with 250 of the projected 1,000 jobs to start, and over the last few years the company has had numerous challenges reaching initially estimated milestones of investment and jobs created.

Today, the company told workers who showed up for their morning shift that the facility was closing, and in a press release sent after 9 AM, announced the company is shutting down.

A couple of initial thoughts and questions about this unfortunate announcement:

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November 15, 2011

Quantitative easing and structural unemployment

Globalization // Coming 2 a mystical cliffside near u - v.2That title really roped you in, huh?  Allow me to explain.

Earlier today I attended the Indiana University 2012 Business Outlook Panel in its visit to Richmond.  It's a group that "has presented national, state, and local economic forecasts for the coming year to business, political, and community leaders of Indiana" for the last 38 years.  I attended the same gathering back in 2005 and I have to say that today's commentary wasn't much different from what it was six years ago: "things are not great with the economy, but there are reasons to be cautiously optimistic."

As I noted in my reflections from the 2005 event, there were a couple of troubling ideas that permeated the remarks, especially from the panelists looking at global and national trends.

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September 14, 2011

Job creation at a human scale

ForgeIt's unfortunate that the act of finding or creating a job for someone has become a form of political currency.  Politicians around the country are clamoring about how many jobs they created with this program or that program, or boasting about how their job creation (or job loss) record compares to someone else's for a given time period, while many rightly ask if politicians can really even create jobs (answer: probably not).  When we set aside the political rhetoric, we remember that for most people, a job is not a statistic to be waved around in the media and that finding or creating a job is not the end of the story.

For most people, having a job is a means to other ends - making money to help provide for our families, a place where we go to be productive and feel a sense of accomplishment, a foundation on which to build a quality of life.  Most people don't want to live so they can work - they work so they can live.  And so it's disconcerting when politicians casually talk about job creation as the end in itself, without any concern for or follow-up on what that means for the people in a given community taking those jobs.

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August 24, 2011

On the 2012 City Budget Process

This entry is part 11 of 20 in the series 2011 City Council Campaign

a security guard, a stack of papersIt's been an interesting experience to watch the 2012 budgeting process for the City of Richmond, being performed by the very City Council that I aspire to join.  If I'm elected, I'll be a part of a city government that is operating under the budget that's now being considered, so it feels even more important than usual to understand how the City is deciding where and how to spend money.

As I watched various department heads present their requested budgets for the upcoming year, I observed a few things:

  • It's been taken as a given that there will be no changes in compensation for any city staff.   I'm not sure if this happens because it's made clear at the outset that requests for compensation increases will be rejected, or because the staff already know that to be true, but it's got to be a challenging experience for city workers who know that cost of living is increasing and their own pay is staying level.  I know that when the citizens of a community are feeling limited in their own financial situation, it can be an easy target to claim that this person or that person in government is making too much money, and I'm sure in some cases, those claims might be true.  But I would also hope that as a community we can recognize the value of having our city run by professionals who are compensated fairly and equitably for their work. - Read More -
August 21, 2011

Why THIS city election matters

This entry is part 10 of 20 in the series 2011 City Council Campaign

All elections matter in one way or another.  Every elected official, no matter how unglamorous their office might seem or how routine their work is, has an impact on the lives of citizens in their communities.  The City of Richmond has had many elections before and will have many to come, and they will all matter in some way.

But we can't let the shared pastime of grumbling about the machinations of politics and the wearing complexity of government trick us into forgetting that, right now, for the future of our city, this is the election that matters.

Why?

As I campaigned during the primary season and met with concerned voters, business owners and community leaders, and as I've observed the economic, social and cultural forces at work in our area, I've come to see that the next four years are going to be a critical time in the history of Richmond, Indiana:

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July 12, 2011

The U.S. debt ceiling: Sam needs an intervention

Don't Feed WildlifePoliticians in Washington D.C. sometimes make the issue of whether or not we raise the U.S. debt ceiling sound like an essential and complex challenge, one that only their particular brand of political maneuvering, posturing and compromise can rise to meet.  But from what I can tell, there's actually some fairly simple financial math involved, and the implications for the state of our nation are fairly straightforward.

But more importantly, the conversation about raising the debt ceiling is the wrong conversation to be having.

I'd like to present those observations, but instead of referring to "the U.S. Government" every time, I'll just refer to this guy "Sam."

Please tell me if I'm wrong or over-simplifying:

  • Sam consistently spends more money than he makes. This means that Sam will always be short on cash, and that his lifestyle is by definition unsustainable.
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July 10, 2011

Blight in Richmond

Burned Out BuildingThe Palladium-Item has an extensive look in today's paper at the issue of blight in Richmond, Indiana, including a companion article about how local residents can help address blight.

The article does a good job of summarizing the challenges of blight as amplified by rough economic times: property owners who might already struggle with maintenance and upkeep are even more at risk of letting a given structure or piece of land fall into disrepair when finances get tight and layoffs and foreclosures are looming.  With such a high percentage of Richmond's residences being rentals, there's possibility for further disconnect between the state of the property and the owner's involvement in it.

My impression from the article and from the conversations I've had with city leaders is that Richmond is generally doing what it can to respond to the impact of decaying properties.  But it can be discouraging to know that the process of getting a blighted property owner's attention is often drawn out over a long time and a lot of paperwork, not to mention expenditure of taxpayer dollars: wait for the property to be reported as blighted, flag it, mow it or repair it and bill the property owner, wait for the bill to go unpaid, place a lein on the property, and THEN there MIGHT be a financial incentive for some action.  This routine may bear the customary government trademarks of caution and glacial due process, but it doesn't recognize very well the shorter-term impacts (financial and social) of a property falling into disrepair, and the ripple effect it can have on other areas nearby.

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