Being open to new ideas

First printed in the Lincoln Sentinel in August, 2014

I moved to Lincoln in June to begin a new life and career as the Executive Director of the Lincoln County Economic Development Foundation (LCEDF) and thought it might be time to write an article for the newspaper and give you a few thoughts on economic development that I’ve been pondering as I settle into my new job.

One thought that I’ve been pondering is regarding the community’s openness to new ideas. As a newcomer in a leadership role, this is particularly relevant to me as I see bringing new ideas as a big part of my job. But it’s particularly relevant, and possibly more important, to what others have experienced who have tried bringing in new ideas. I have heard some great stories of local ‘kids’ growing up, going off to college, getting a good job somewhere and exploring the world… and then coming back here to build a life. I’ve heard people comment about how wonderful this is because these ‘kids’ will bring new energy, fresh perspective, and creative ideas back to their hometowns.

Of course this IS wonderful and something we NEED for our county to grow and thrive! But do we really WANT the new ideas that they bring with them? Do we really want to take a risk, to try something different, to do something a bit outside the box?

In my past experience, the communities that struggle the most with their economic and community development activities are the ones where people say they want new ideas but then when they get a new idea they respond with a ‘that will never work’ type of attitude. These are the same communities where people say they want new volunteers to take on the leadership role they’ve been doing for five, ten, twenty plus years but what they really want is to stay the boss and have a new volunteer do all the work.

So as I’ve been meeting new people and attending various organizations’ meetings in the different communities, I’ve been listening for people’s attitudes towards new ideas. I’m not just talking about city council or county commission or anything like that (as that’s easy for people to have an opinion about), I’m also talking about listening for YOUR attitude towards new ideas. Every single person in this county is part of the economy and community one way or another and every single person’s attitude matters. So is your attitude one of openness, encouragement and support or is it one of negativity, discouragement or ‘so-and-so tried that once and failed so don’t bother’?

Thus far, the response has been a mixed bag… which isn’t surprising. In my experience it usually is. But in the future, if we are going to succeed, we are going to need the overall attitude towards new ideas to continually be more and more positive. We need this so the ‘kids’ growing up and staying here or coming back know their energy, perspective and ideas are welcome and wanted.

On August 20th I will be the speaker at the Lincoln County Chamber of Commerce’s ‘What’s Up Luncheon’ and am looking forward to sharing the approach and ideas many communities have taken to support and grow their local economies and discussing how some of these might be adapted here in the county. I look forward to getting your feedback and hearing your own ideas so that all of us can work together towards an improved economy and community.

Please feel free to give me a call, stop by the office, or send me an email at any time. The LCEDF office is located in the county courthouse basement at 216 E. Lincoln Avenue in Lincoln, or call me at 785-524-8954, or email me at lcedfdirector@outlook.com.

Kelly Larson
Executive Director
Lincoln County Economic Development Foundation