My View

Monday, January 10, 2005

Capitalism: Beyond Awaysis

In nature, there's a phenomenon known as symbiosis. That's when two species function to the mutual benefit of both. An example would be leeches that feed off a growth and heal the patient. In the Far East, I understand that they even have tiny fish that chew off dead or decaying skin.

Business adopted the idea of symbiosis in the 90s and called it synergy. When two mutually compatible businesses are placed next to each other, both benefit.

I really see a lot of synergy coming about with Project Awaysis. In fact, what I see is a combination of synergy with Darwinian survival. Those organisms that are best equipped to adapt to their environment are those that stand the best chance of survival. Those businesses that complement Project Awaysis are those that will profit the most.

Now if I had a store such as an outdoor sporting goods shop across from the proposed 80-unit motel, I would ask myself what I could do in order to reap the most benefit throughout the year. I might already be doing something like bicycle rentals, but then there's the winter sports to consider.

I might consider getting into cross-country ski rentals. I would draw up a map of area cross-country ski trails and put it in a brochure with a discount coupon. I would distribute that brochure at the motel across the street so guests could come over and rent cross country skis from me. If there was not a designated cross country ski trail, I would work with the city to see what could be done about designating one.

If I had a tortilla factory across from the motel, I would expand my business into an upscale Mexican restaurant with an upper level hacienda-style serving area with a view of the lake. I would also get a beer and wine license and put plenty of candles on the tables and make it so romantic that young couples would be crowding the door.

If I had a motel across the street, I wouldn't look at that other lodging facility as competition but rather as a draw that would help bring me more customers. After all, my rates would be substantially less than the place across the street, so the Big Boys would actually be doing my advertising for me.

If I had a set of older tourist cabins from Storm Lake's earlier tourist area, I would slap on a coat of brown paint and put in some fireplaces and rent the units out for a substantial premium during the summer. For the other nine months of the year, I'd rent them out to responsible college students.

If I had a sub sandwich business, I'd check with the city and health department to see what I needed to do to get a mobile cart to take my business to my customers on the beach. I know an Italian water ice vendor in Philadelphia who made six figures working three months a year before retiring at age 50.

And if I were a taxpayer, I would see the obvious advantage of voting in favor of the bond issue Feb. 8. If you've followed the news at all, you would know that the City of Storm Lake stands to gain $8 million in Vision Iowa money plus federal dollars.

Sixty percent of city voters have to agree to a $3.5-million bond issue to get that $8 million-plus. I don't care how stingy how you are. Anytime you can get that kind of return on your investment, that's pretty darned good.

Here's another way to look at it. If you can invest $1 and get $2 back within a year, wouldn't you consider that a pretty good investment? Doesn't 100 percent interest sound like a pretty good rate of return? That's exactly what you're getting with Project Awaysis.

If a minimum of sixty percent of voters does not approve the bond issue Feb. 8, the city gets nothing. The Vision Iowa funding depends in part on a local investment.

You can take it to the bank that the DNR would probably pull out on plans for the multi-million dollar marina revamping too. I would even question the continued assurance of any future federal dollars for lake dredging.

By agreeing to spend an average of less than $5 a month, Storm Lake homeowners have everything to gain from Project Awaysis. If they don't approve the bond issue, they have everything to lose: A waterpark, beach improvements, all or much of our proposed project could be lost.

A few years ago there was a bond election on the front burner for a new school at Rock Rapids. A retired farmer from Doon said something like, "That school was good enough for me when I was a kid. Why isn't it good enough now?"

Well, for one thing, this gentleman was in his eighties. That meant the school had been built more than sixty years before. HE had a new school. The school HE attended was not outdated and in violation of innumerable health and ADA codes. Also, the current student population had also doubled.

I agreed with the gentleman on one thing. Kids today should have the same thing he had - a new school with X number of square feet per student.

I totally despise group-think. I believe that if every person mulls this one through individually, there's only one logical conclusion. Project Awaysis is the most sound financial investment the City of Storm Lake will ever make. It's either adapt and grow or fail to adapt and die. You have the power to help make that decision Feb. 8.

The dinosaurs, by the way, failed to adapt. Perhaps they failed to appreciate the phenomenon of symbiosis?

* Mike Tidemann is the assistant editor of the Storm Lake Pilot-Tribune