Meet John Doe: The effect of voter apathy on business
By Paul Gorski
Why should a business owner create a new business or expand an existing business in Rockford or the larger Winnebago County region?
That’s the question local leaders need to ask and be ready to answer. But it is tough to sell those answers if business developers review recent election turnout numbers. Local residents simply don’t show up in big numbers for local elections, and if local residents don’t vote for local officials managing local affairs, why should a business invest locally? If the community isn’t involved, why should an outsider get involved?
Your vote indicates an interest in the community, an investment in the community. Your vote also helps keep politicians on their toes, makes them listen. Your vote does make a difference, if only serving as an indication to the level of involvement by local residents.
I realize some of the “candidate speak” that you hear during elections doesn’t make much sense or ring true. During the recent Rockford mayoral race, we heard the equivalent of “we’re slowly getting better,” “we’re spending money on the wrong projects” and “let the free market take over.” I’m not quite sure how much “better” we are, and some of the spending is being done wisely, and no, I don’t think businesses will relocate here unless we market the region and make some infrastructure improvements. That doesn’t mean give up.
Make your local politicians explain their positions in simple terms. Not only request that they explain their positions, but ask them to explain their positions in relation to how their ideas fit with a larger, coordinated plan to solve the region’s problems. Don’t rely on local media outlets to keep them honest, do it yourself.
The current election cycle is over. While eagerly awaiting the next election, I encourage you to call and write your elected officials on any local topic that comes to mind, if only as a reminder to these officials that you are getting involved. Go to a city council, county board, school board or other public meeting, again, if only to demonstrate that you are paying attention.
Forcing your local leaders to pay attention to you will require them to develop consistent, coordinated messages, not only for residents, but for potential business investors, too.
Paul Gorski (http://www.paulgorski.com) is a Cherry Valley Township resident who also authors the Tech-Friendly column seen in this newspaper.
From the May 8-14, 2013, issue