A new group is trying to gain a fresh perspective on the economy in Catawba County with the hope it can determine how to build the economy of the future.
The Future Economy Council was developed in early March with the help of the Catawba County Chamber of Commerce with the intention of building a sustainable economy.
“We’ve definitely had some trying times in Catawba County and across the region in the last little while. Obviously, some of the things we’re doing are failing,” said council chairman Terry Bledsoe, who also serves as the chief information officer for Catawba County .
“It’s just a lot of the old rules we’ve been playing by are no longer effective,” he said.
The group includes people from a variety of backgrounds from business professionals to educators, librarians, fire departments and local municipalities. Together, they are looking at different issues in the economy, Bledsoe said.
“We’re looking at the whole system of it,” he said. “There’s not one piece you can look at and say this is why the economy is not good. You have to look at all the pieces.”
One of the issues the group is discussing is weak signals, which Bledsoe describes as events or trends that don’t seem like they will have a major impact on the economy at the time. For example, he noted the trend in the 1990s when companies began sending a large amount of trade and operations to China.
“It didn’t seem too harmful at the time,” Bledsoe said. “As we’ve seen over the last little while, it’s had a devastating impact on our economy.”
In turn, they will look for new trends and signs that show the economy is changing in a negative way. By identifying them ahead of time, Bledsoe said the hope is to allow the appropriate people time to react before any damage is done.
He said the group is also examining the growing importance for high-speed broadband capabilities and its role in the economy. Bledsoe said it is a necessary element in building the economy of the future, where people have greater mobility to work anywhere in the world, as well as more opportunities to enable and grow local businesses.
The Future Economy Council is still in its infancy, but it has potential.
“It will be something that grows continuously and goes in many different directions,” Bledsoe said.
He said the council will look beyond the trends of the past to develop new concepts and ideas to strengthen the local economy. The group intends to share its ideas with the public, the local government bodies and local business leaders through the county Chamber of Commerce.
Rick Smyre, an internationally recognized futurist, is serving as a mentor for the Future Economy Council. Bledsoe said he’s worked with many companies throughout the world.
The council is also sponsoring book discussions through the Catawba County and Hickory City libraries called the Catawba County Future Trends Dialogue Group. The book is called “The Age of the Unthinkable: Why the New World Disorder Surprises Us And What We Can Do About It” by Joshua Cooper Ramo.
For more information on the Future Economy Council contact Catawba County Chamber of Commerce President Danny Hearn at (828) 328-6111 or Terry Bledsoe at (828) 465-8497.
Box: The Future Economy Council meets at the Catawba County Chamber of Commerce at 8 a.m. on the third Tuesday or every month. Anyone interested is invited to attend. The meetings last about an hour and a half.
The book discussions will be held at the Catawba County Library Southwest Branch in Mountain View at 10 a.m. the second Friday of each month and at Patrick Beaver Memorial Library in Hickory at 7 p.m. the second Thursday of every month.