Back in November of 2007, at an Elk Grove Chamber of Commerce Economic Development Conference, keynote speaker and author Jack Schultz yelled at the top of his lungs at Elk Grove City Council members Sophia Scherman and Pat Hume, “Are you listening?  Do you understand that small businesses in this city are suffering?

Throughout the speech, Schultz referred to his “7 ½ Keys to Success.” What is the key to any city’s success according to Schultz?  Small businesses and raising up strong leaders.

Now it is three years later and small businesses in Elk Grove are still suffering.  Many have closed, and more are closing every day.  Is anyone listening?  Elk Grove is not alone.  Are small businesses suffering in your city?

Four years ago, the Elk Grove City Council voted to spend $750,000 of taxpayer money over a five year period on then newly formed Economic Development Corporation.  Unfortunately, we still haven’t seen any results.  Could that money have been better spent in retaining the small businesses whose windows now show “vacancy” signs?  When does retention trump recruitment?

Schultz validated what many Elk Grove citizens have been screaming at the podium during council meetings for years to “embrace the concept of regionalism.”  Schultz was very blunt, saying if our leaders aren’t listening, get rid of them.  He asked the room, “Do you have a sense of place?”  Is Elk Grove living up to its potential?  The same could be asked by any resident at any city council meeting.  Is your city living up to its potential?

Schultz spoke of six women who turned one city into a Bavarian heaven thereby saving it from sure extinction.  Schultz called the leaders of that city who turned away from these six women as “PMSers” (Pale, Male & Stale) telling them they would fail and thought them “crazy.”

Over and over Schultz reinforced the “I Can” attitude, meaning that no matter what, we cannot allow ourselves to be “beaten down.”

Jack Schultz told a very crowded room what residents throughout California already know, reinforcing that we must get back on the right track, no matter the odds, with our vision and mission for our respective cities by helping small businesses by creating more viable alternative services and resources.  To this resident of the city of Elk Grove, that is true economic development.  We continually ask our leaders in Elk Grove?   Are we currently doing that?  Is your city on the right track with respect to your small businesses?

So when leaders say that we “can’t,” sooner and “not” later, there will be many people who say, “I CAN!”  And thankfully, we do not stand alone, as I am sure it is a common thread throughout California with residents who take an active role in their local governments.

November is around the corner, and if you believe there are PMSer’s on the ballot in your city who aren’t listening, vote them out!

Constance V. Conley
Elk Grove, CA