Textile Mill Abandoned

I visited an abandoned textile mill in North Carolina, recently.

The mill, shut decades ago, stands as a symbol of how our economy is in continual flux as it struggles to adapt within the global marketplace.

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Textile production and processing began in the Southeastern United States in the late 19th century. By 1923, more than 84,000 textile workers were employed at more than 350 mills across North Carolina.

 

By the 1950s, North Carolina had become the preeminent textile producing state, ranking #1 in virtually every industry category.

This one once processed cotton.
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The industry reached its peak in 1992 when textile production represented 16 percent of total manufacturing output, as compared to the U.S. average of just over two percent of total manufacturing in textiles.
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In 1996, there were 2,153 textile and apparel plants in North Carolina employing 233,715 people.
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But, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of people employed in textile manufacturing in the state from 2004 to 2011 fell by nearly 6,000.  Total employment today stands at around 80,000.
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Today, there are mills which have survived the changes through competitive pricing models and technological innovations.We can only hope that our economy continues to adjust and meet the needs of its people as it walks into 2016.
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GMOs: It’s about world domination, stupid

To date, no adverse health effects attributed to genetic engineering have been documented in the human population.” – National Academies of Sciences

Whether genetically-modified organisms (GMOs) are safe for human consumption is not the issue. Instead, the real concern is who grows our food, who protects it, who gets it, and when.

When I worked as a legislative aide in the Wisconsin State Legislature in the early 1990s, saving the family farm was both a big political message and effort. Large corporations, such as Dow, Monsanto, and BASF were beginning to take a great interest in this domestic resource. Back then, Bovine Growth Hormone (BGH) – a genetically-enhanced chemical used to increase milk production in cows – emerged as a big issue. It was expensive and only larger farm operations could afford it. Critics said it was unsafe. Private farmers said it was destroying their livelihoods.

The debate surrounding the merit and value of GMOs should focus less on how these foods can be harmful to human health and more on how a large, publicly-traded company can essentially make decisions over who receives food and for how much it will be sold.

Today, there are companies that own both the front and backend of a supply chain, giving them a level of control that may not benefit the common good. “Farming got much more specialized, focusing on tremendous production of one commodity, rather than growing all kinds of veggies and livestock,” a 2013 U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service report stated.

I watch with bated breath to see when folks let the science take a backseat for a moment and begin talking about the real why behind it all. Why are companies so interested in making food more available Well, they’re businesses.

Man-of-the-Cosmos, Neil DeGrassi Tyson recently said, “GMO producers ought to be able to make as much money as they can,“ while pointing out that we’ve been modifying food for thousands of years. His diatribe startled many of his followers. Among that group, he is an oracle and man of the people – a man to lead society to greater enlightenment.

But, Tyson is a scientist, not a businessperson. He’ll be the first to admit that, and this isn’t just about public health. Society needs to be aware of the global impact a company can have on food availability when decisions are based on the bottom line.

Take Monsanto, for example. This behemoth is a typical global corporation with its fingers in virtually every level of the supply chain of food production and distribution. It develops the seeds, grows the crop, protects them with patents and pesticides, and distributes the food. Both here and abroad, they’ve brought the supply chain full circle via a framework of farms that cultivate these seeds. It’s all protected under intellectual property law, and farms that use another variety of seed are penalized. That’s a good deal of control. In fact, some governments from around the world have been looking at it this way for years. And it has been coming to a head, recently, in countries, such as India:

courtesy: The Hindu
courtesy: The Hindu

“The ease with which a transgenic technology allows corporations to claim ownership rights over seeds makes it attractive to them to hype why the world needs GMOs and seek control over entire food chains — from production to marketing — jeopardising the livelihood security of farmers,” a farmers’ group wrote to the Indian government.

This now becomes a geopolitical issue over control of the food supply, and subsequent control over how populations view their governments and whether it has their interests at heart.

It’s here where we see the GMO food lobby, emerging markets, and rising political protests. So, the debate here is not whether GMOs are safe. They likely are. The debate is about feeding the world’s neediest, but doing it with tremendous caveats. You can’t put a label on that.

Green Planet Catering …Trickle Down Weather

A short video I did for a great Raleigh, NC-based sustainable small business. What happens when your sustainable farm/garden gets too much rain? Owner and Farm Manager Daniel Whittaker discusses the trickle down effect of 11.5″ of excess rain over the month of June in 2013. Massive challenges were overcome with proper planning and hard work. Although the company lost at least half its crops, the fall season is looking promising and the financial status of Green Planet has never been better.

NC student winners to show science research at Beijing conference

Congratulations to four students on their way to Beijing to show their research! I spent an afternoon with these impressive folks to get a preview of their trip.

The North Carolina International Science Challenge (NCISC) is a yearly North Carolina science competition for high school students. The selected students travel to Beijing, China to present their science research projects at the Beijing Youth Science Creation Competition the third week of March. 

It’s still about the website, stupid.

courtesy: wellplannedweb.com

Just read a useful blog post from Vinci Designs  which reminds small business, among others, about some good fundamentals on social marketing. Fundamentals – something that from time to time is forgotten the more we fall in love within the vagaries of the ‘social media tools’ at our disposal.  At the end of the day, any visitor to a mobile platform, a Facebook page or Twitter post needs a ‘call to action.’  Yes, many understand the need to interweave these, but the number of ‘likes’ or retweets does not a business presence make. The fundamentals remain that a web site should be the destination where visitors learn who you are, what you sell and and the core reasons why you exist. It is your office.  This is particularly important for small businesses. Your social media ring, I submit, still needs to serve your prime business objective: to engage customers. “If you build it, they will come.” But, they will only come if there is somewhere to go – a place that wholly represents how you are a responsible steward of your product or service.  After your chat at the proverbial “cocktail party” on the social platforms, your prospective clients will always want to drop by your home ‘office’ the next morning.

KidZNotes hosts Gala May 2 at Carolina Theatre in Durham

KidZNotes hosts its 2nd Annual Gala Wednesday, May 2 at the Carolina Theatre of Durham, NC. Join supporters for Salsa dancing, food, music and celebrate the work KidZNotes is doing to help turn Durham into a world-class city. Visit kidznotes.org for ticket information. 

Poole’s Diner in Raleigh a natural urban destination

I took a quick pic outside Poole’s Diner in Raleigh this week before a business meeting. Poole’s is one of Ashley Christensen‘s unique venues that takes eating to another level. Christensen competed last year against Bobby Flay on Iron Chef America (Thanks NewRaleigh.com). And oh, their beer and wine selection is extraordinary.  A true downtown hub.

Durham Mayor Bell: Same-sex marriage ban is bad for business

I tell clients Durham, North Carolina didn’t end up being one of the nation’s top 10 food destinations or become the home to the country’s 4th best-rated performing arts center by accident. It has required diverse groups to come together toward a common goal: Creating a world-class city representing equality for all. Durham Mayor William Bell says banning same-sex marriage isn’t just bad for the moral fabric of Durham, it’s bad for business. 

KidzNotes creates more than music for Durham kids

(Don’t often post a placement I earned for a client, but it’s a great organization. Originally published 12.18.11 in the Raleigh News & Observer)

photo: Liz Condo

BY ANNE BLYTHE

DURHAM The performance inside the Holton Resource and Career Center auditorium in east Durham late Saturday morning was billed as a “Winter Concert.”

But there was no “icy chill in the air,” as the chorus belted out in the song “Winter Fantasy.”

photo: Liz Condo

Nothing but warmth exuded from the stage as 110 young musicians in the making – from kindergarten through the fourth grade – shouted out holiday songs and sawed bows across the strings of violins and cellos that in many cases were almost as big as they were.

Parents beamed as they trained cell phone and video cameras toward the stage.

Pride swelled in grandparents, friends and teachers as the orchestra delighted them with unique renditions of such seasonal favorites as “Jingle Bells,” “Good King Wenceslas,” “Deck the Halls” and “Jolly Old Saint Nicholas.”

Occasionally, a particularly ornery string squeaked or squawked.

But the audience, teachers and volunteers cheering the children on could turn a deaf ear to a misplayed note or a few extra exuberant “ho, ho, hos” from the chorus.

KidZnotes' Katie Wyatt (photo: Liz Condo)

Katie Wyatt, the true conductor in chief of the program, stood to the side as performance conductors took their turns during the concert.Wyatt is the executive director of KidZNotes, a program for Durham school children who might otherwise be blocked from music by economic and social barriers.

The two-year-old program is modeled after the venerable El Sistema, an instructional system born in Venezuela nearly three and a half decades ago that since has unleashed hundreds of thousands of instrumentalists and choristers across the South American country.

The idea is to give the children access to instruments and hundreds of hours of instruction each year with hopes that they will become an orchestra that represents the community.

photo: Liz Condo

The community, then according to the ideal model, the utopian dream, nurtures the children in their musical endeavors and more.

“It takes all of us to raise a child together,” Wyatt said after the well-attended show.

And many financial backers.

It can cost $2,500 per child. The instruments are pricey and only sent home for good with children who demonstrate that they are ready for the responsibility of practicing and taking care of a violin, viola, cello, trumpet or flute. Each musician in the making receives 10 hours of free instruction a week — or 400 hours of after-school and weekend training.

“This is excellent,” said Arvilla Taylor, the grandmother of fourth-grader Donald Moore, an 8-year-old who rushed up for a big hug in between pieces so he could boast a bit about the top-notch score he just made on a math test, too.

“We prayed he would be the best,” Taylor said, “and look at him.”

Taylor left Philadelphia years ago when her children were young to move Donald’s mom and her siblings away from a neighborhood where drug dealers and others involved in illegal activities were the ones who commanded respect.

KidZNotes, Taylor said, has taught her grandson much more than musical notes.

photo: Liz Condo

Similar praise echoed throughout the auditorium – from adults and the young.

Erica Torres Villalba, 8, a viola player, and her sister, Esmeralda Torres Villalba, 6, a violin player, rated the performance as the audience pushed toward the exit doors.

“My favorite was ‘Jingle Bells,’ ” Erica said. “Everybody likes ‘Jingle Bells,'” Esmeralda chimed in.

“I like ‘Good King Wenceslas.’ ”

The girls agreed, though, on what instrument they wanted to play later in life.

“When I grow up I wish I could have a flute,” Erica said. “Then I could be a magician.”

Bianca Morten and Francina Everett, mother and grandmother of 8-year-old violinist Mikayla Hunt, chatted enthusiastically about the opportunities the program provided. In just a few months, Mikayla was making big plans – she hoped to move from the violin to more musical endeavors and possibly join the chorus.

Mikayla, who says “it’s pretty cool” because “you get to finger your notes,” acknowledged one downside of the program that she hopes will lead her to a “big orchestra” some day. She gets stage fright before a big show. “Nervous,” she said, her shoulders shuddering. But she has a secret for pushing beyond the edginess.

How does Mikayla settle her nerves?

“By smiling,” she said.

It must have been a contagious smile that spread well beyond the confines of one east Durham auditorium Saturday morning.

“Isn’t it amazing,” said Evan Howell, a volunteer and promoter of the program.