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Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Adversity Builds Character

By: Brian D. Anderson Sr.
President & CEO
Dalton-Whitfield Chamber of Commerce


Helen Keller once said, “Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, ambition inspired, and success achieved.” One doesn’t have to look too far to find news that is discouraging or sad. Events of daily living can be tragic in all walks of life. Consider recent headlines: Gulf Oil Spill, Teacher molestation trial, State Budget woes, etc. The daily adversity we all face does not discriminate. Each of us has struggles and adversity to some degree. If you don’t, count your blessings and prepare for the struggles that will come.

Some entities have a history of long term adversity: Job in the bible, Abraham Lincoln before becoming President and after, and even many sports teams. Consider the storied yet mediocre history of the New Orleans Saints. In 2005 Hurricane Katrina comes close to annihilating an entire city beyond repair, including the famed Superdome. Less than five years later, the Saints win the most coveted prize in American Sports – the Super Bowl.

If you read a little of the Saints history, Tom Benson, owner of the Saints, is more than just an NFL owner. He is a vested community leader in New Orleans. After Katrina, Mr. Benson and many others vowed that New Orleans would come back and he led the effort to do just that.

Did Katrina cause the Saints to win the Super Bowl after 25 years of competition? I would argue that Katrina put in motion the conditions and events that led to the Saints Super Bowl win. Keller said, “Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, ambition inspired, and success achieved.”

The last three years have certainly been trying for our community, our industry, our region, and our nation. But the adversity that has faced us has also strengthened us – at least locally. I would argue that the Greater Dalton Community has weathered the storms valiantly, and we are poised to get back in the win column.

Last week Dalton was listed as the 172nd on Forbes’ Best Small Place for Businesses and Careers. The ranking of #172 was computed based on three other rankings: #43 for cost of doing business, #177 for projected job growth, and #179 for education attainment. On this same list, eight other small Georgia communities ranked higher than we did: Athens (#26), Gainesville (#47), Warner-Robbins (#59), Valdosta (#79), Brunswick (#102), Hinesville (#122), Macon (#141), and Rome (#144). Albany ranked #179 just below us.

The cynic would view these rankings disappointingly. The optimist sees light at the end of the tunnel. We are at the bottom of a sustained and deep recessionary cycle (projected job growth). Our educational attainment is also at a low historical level that can only go up over time as more and more enter the workplace with higher educational credentials. Due to the efforts of our local government leaders, the cost of doing business is already low and is forecasted to remain so. Said differently, our community is one of the top 180 in the country and in the top 10 in Georgia.

The adversity that has faced us over the last three years has created the energy, the focus, and the ambition to recreate ourselves. We are poised to not only succeed in the short term, but the long term as well. Just as businesses are coming out of a terrible business recession, the pent up demand for new manufacturing facilities and our ability to accommodate them will be a recipe for success.

I am confident that we will see our place on the Forbes list improve year after year as we continue to work together and succeed together. Many have fought the good fight during these tough times. Remember the slogan “weebles wobble but they don’t fall down”? We are the weebles and we have wobbled, but we did not fall down! I continue to be bullish on Greater Dalton!

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