What do seesaws have to do with cities?

Published 9:29 am Monday, June 9, 2014

Do you remember playing on the seesaw on the school playground?

Obviously, my memories of that activity had dimmed, for when Sarah and Christopher lured me back to the playground with them, I was amazed at the sensitivity of this relatively simple playground equipment. Only a slight shift by a seesaw participant changes the participation of others; a sudden exit by a child can quickly leave a fellow rider on the ground.

In many ways, communities are like seesaws, argues author Jack Schultz, in Boomtown, USA: The 7-1/2 Keys to Big Success in Small Towns. As a chief executive officer of a company that for 17 years has developed industrial properties in small towns in the Midwest, Schultz has insight into what separates thriving smaller communities from less successful ones.

Schultz found that most thriving small towns are like Andalusia, cities that emerged as centers of agriculture and gradually changed.

Today, Schultz said, there is a trend of people leaving suburbs for small towns, primarily, for quality of life issues.

The Andalusia’s of the world can succeed by adopting his 7 ½ keys, which include:

1. Adopt a “can do” attitude;

2. Shape your vision;

3. Leverage your resources;

4. Raise up strong leaders;

5. Encourage an entrepreneurial approach;

6. Maintain local control;

7. Build your brand; and

7½. . Embrace the teeter-totter factor.

And here we are, grown-ups on the seesaw.

Andalusia Mayor Earl Johnson talked about this to Rotarians on Tuesday.

“This is very important,” he said. “Schultz said, ‘It takes only a small shift one way or the other to make a negative or positive impact on a community. A small shift can change a negative into a positive. But the opposite is equally true. A small shift can change a positive into a negative.”

And it is the towns that are aware of this unsteadiness that find themselves thriving; those that don’t, can quickly find themselves up in the air.

And that is the point at which the mayor ended his book report and started preaching.

“That last rule applies more than anything I could talk about to what’s going on in Andalusia today,” he said. “People who are constantly putting negative stuff in the community are hurting this community.

“All of the positive things you do every day can be crushed by a negative statements made,” he said. “We need to stress the positives and be aware of, but stay off the negatives. It’s time for the adults in Andalusia to stand up and say we’ve had enough negativeness.”