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Charity begins at home - Denese Richards

Stimulating the economy is a big topic these days, and a whole bunch of us in the social-services industry are salivating over the summer internship monies that are working their way through the belly of the bureaucratic governmental serpent.

One of my buddies, Elaine Abraham, made the observance that if the parking lots at the malls were any indication, we must be catapulting ourselves out of the economic downturn via turbo-retail spending practices.

Now, having touched on those two ideas, I've noticed there are still an awful lot of empty storefronts that dot the local landscape. It has got to be a drain on the landowner to have them stand empty, and I know that unmanned space lends itself to the devil's idiots.

I am in NO way a development authority expert, but I've been toying with an idea. I know that with the established employers in dire straits, people have been looking at other ways to support themselves. I'm especially interested in entrepreneurs. I love their drive and their vision; now, can we utilize them to help turn around our economy?

According to The Center for Ethics and Entrepreneurship (www.ethicsandentrepreneurship.org), in the U.S.A., an "average 2,356 people go into business for themselves every day. Their firms account for 78 percent of U.S. businesses and $951 billion in receipts."

People, that's not chump change! If you divided $951 billion by just 50 states, that comes to a whole lots of dollars per state.

The article went on to clarify the fastest-growing industries as: "Web search portals (41.2 percent), Internet service providers (16.6 percent), nail salons (18 percent), electronic shopping and mail-order houses (12 percent), recreational vehicle dealers (12.1 percent) and landscaping services (11.1 percent)."

The top five states in terms of growth in small businesses between 2004 and 2005 were the District of Columbia (9.6 percent), Nevada (7.7 percent), Florida (7.6 percent), Georgia (7.6 percent) and Utah (7.2 percent)."

What this tells me is that we are already positioned for a right smart bit of what's coming down the pike. So my grandiose scheme is this. What if the landowners and the entrepreneurs all get together. Say the landowners cut a deal for three or six months at the lowest amount they could take to break even. Say the entrepreneurs agree to a graduated rent that would increase in proportion to their ability to pay each successive month. Maybe, we even throw in some additional resources from the Small Business Development Center at Clayton State University and the South Metro Micro Enterprise initiative to help with business structure and long-term planning?

It may all sound like I've suddenly gone soft in the head, but I really would like to see our own economic recovery initiative start right here at home. Normally, when I hear the televised media say, "and in Henry County today ...," I cringe, bcause it's probably not going to be something good.

Being the statewide leader in a grassroots recovery program, however, would be something I'd rather hear instead. How about you?

Denese Rodgers is executive director of Connecting Henry, a social-services, networking, community organization in Henry County.