Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The Far Reaching Effects of our Deeds

Yesterday was a very interesting day. It started off with some unusual "tweets" about North Platte. For those of you not familiar with Twitter, what can I say - it does sound kind of silly. Anyway, I monitor any mentions of North Platte in the "twittersphere" so I can address any issues that are brought up, or express my appreciation if nice things were said.

It seems that the story about our local housing authority rejecting half a million dollars or so of stimulus money to rehab low-income housing has gained new legs on Twitter. The article that the posts were referencing was from the Wall Street Journal and dated in early May. There really isn't much I can do about something like that, so I opted to do nothing.

When I got to the office, my Executive Director showed me an e-mail that she had received. The terse missive told her that under no circumstances would this person ever visit North Platte because of the way we treat the poor. He claims to be a high-end RV'er (a very important target market for us), who had been planning to spend lots of money here during his visit. Not only that, but he belongs to a club with other very high-end RV'ers, and he is going to do all he can to see that none of them visit us either.

The message was a little short on details, so I'm not sure if he was referring to the WSJ story or not. Now, letters of complaint, while infrequent, are not unheard of in our office. Usually they have to do with a bad experience at one of our lodging properties, which we can deal with. On the flip side, we often get letters of compliment as well. The ED is working now to try to re-connect with the letter's author to try to glean more details and change his perception of North Platte.

This letter bothers me on several fronts. First, the actions of the Housing Authority in no way reflect North Platte's incredibly generous spirit. From the story of the World War II Canteen to the ongoing support of our food pantries, our Habitat for Humanity chapter that has built two dozen homes, our Lincoln Connection homeless shelter, and the "adopt-a-family" program that is in full swing now during the holiday season, North Platte is filled with good-hearted, generous people willing to roll up their sleeves, open their check books and help out where ever they see a need.

Second, typically the Travel and Tourism industry is staffed by low-income people. Many jobs are entry-level, so kids who are just starting out, working mothers, people with little education or those who are working on getting a better education, even retirees earning a few extra dollars, are a large percentage of those who are supported by the Travel and Tourism industry. According to a recent study, tourism in Lincoln County supports 1,470 jobs, with a payroll of $18.4 million. So when I refuse to visit a place because of the actions of some political leaders toward the poor, the dollars I'm keeping out of the tourism industry specifically targets the very people I'm claiming to be protesting on behalf of (please don't judge my grammar!).

I am all for protest to bring about change, and for the freedom we have to vote with our dollars. Some very meaningful change has been brought about in this world because of conscientious consumers. In some instances, though, it may not be the best course to take.

My life lesson for yesterday is that as leaders, we always have to be mindful of the effects of our actions, whether how they effect just our organization, or the wider community. Also, in this day and age of technology and instant communication, a local squabble won't necessarily stay local, and the perceptions it generates may last a very, very long time.

Thanks for stopping by. The coffee is always on.

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