Friday, February 12, 2016

Triggering Personal Change

Right now my partner and I are half way through a month-long “wine fast.”

It’s also, coincidentally, the anniversary of when we also added twice a week strength training to our exercise regime a year ago under the guidance of an excellent personal trainer.

We’re what is called moderate drinkers, according to dietary guidelines, sticking exclusively to red wine.

A recent study conducted over two decades found that moderate drinkers were more than 40% less likely to die within that timeframe.

Drinking red wine doesn’t mean you will live longer -- nor does weight training or taking a daily brisk walk -- but the latter two may mean you may die a whole lot better.

Studies have shown though, that fasting from alcohol for even a month (we chose February for a reason that should be obvious) has health benefits such as lowering liver fat by as much as 20% as well as cholesteral and blood sugar by an average of 16.

Alcohol (and obesity) can cause your liver to process fat differently.

I wouldn’t be surprised if we cut back from two glasses to one at dinner in March even though my liver tested normal before this wine fast.

Either way, my doctor will probably be as happy when I have my annual physical in March, as he has been with the fact that exercise over the last several years has normalized my triglyceride levels.

For anyone who reads regularly, you’re probably wondering how I can be descended from five generations of Mormons, dating to back to that faith’s first 30 members and drink alcohol, or for that matter coffee.

For the last forty years I have mostly been Mormon in culture only.  But you might be surprised to know that abstinence from alcohol or coffee or tea hasn’t always been associated with being a Mormon.

Living what is called the “Word of Wisdom” did not become a litmus test for members of that faith until the 1920s, nearly a hundred years from when it was first revealed during a time when similar dietary concerns were commonplace.

In fact, coffee and wine were provisions on the vanguard wagon train west in 1847, which included three off my ancestors.  Others who followed over the next ten or so years even planted vineyards.

I’ve already written about the tobacco chewing prowess of one of my pioneer ancestors.  One of my grandfathers on the other side, who was born in 1888,  still drank coffee and beer while I was growing up.

He’s either smiling or shaking his head as I write that drinking coffee and red wine have now been found to actually have health properties.

With all due respect, the most prevalent dietary vice among Mormons is definitely sugar.

But I digress.

I average 3 miles a day of brisk walking now, and that includes at least a 2-miler even after weight training.

So what brought about this change regarding exercise?  I grew up playing all kinds of sports but as an adult I was better known for a quarter-pounder a day with fries, often twice a day.

It isn’t the Fitbit I wear.  I’ve had one since they came out but wearing it didn’t increase my exercise.

The first sign of a thin layer of film in one of the carotid arteries in my neck was a wakeup.

Having a partner who shifted gears with me has also been a major influence.

Unlike some in a recent study here in Durham, tracking activity on a wearable has not made it a chore.  In fact, using a Fitbit to track various daily goals has made it fun and measurable.

Measurability is a key to motivation, at least for me.

It is also educational.  I’ve never thought much about “active steps.”

It is now a proven metric by several sources and studies that getting at least 10,000 steps each day is good for you.  The average American gets 5,100.

Just as important, or even more important for me, is the metric called “active minutes.”

The CDC recommends about 30 per day but defines them in increments of 10.  So Fitbit awards active minutes after 10 minutes of continuous moderate-to-intense activity such as walking at a brisk pace.

Moseying or sauntering doesn’t count and I shoot for at least 100 a day, hoping to get my heart rate, during walks, up into the cardio or even peak zone for at least 30 minutes each day.

Some weeks now I average about 150 “active minues” a day.

Coupled with this was avoiding sugar as much as possible and using another app to zero in on and then maintain my caloric balance.

I’m a few months from turning 68.  For people over the age of 65, the CDC recommends two and a half hours of moderate-intensity activity a week, about a two mile brisk walk at my pace.

Also recommended is strength training two or more days a week covering all of the major muscle groups.

So we’re doing more than okay by those standards.

Some people live their last 20, 30 or even 40 years sick, in poor health, with limited mobility and with a variety of ailments that impede their quality of life.

We’re hoping (and there is research to back it up) that by staying strong, active and healthy, although we may not live more years, we will be ale to add quality to all those years in front of us.

We’ll see.  What started as an interest in losing weight, improving tests and toning some muscles has turned into a complete life style change.

And we couldn’t be happier.

Monday, February 01, 2016

The Incredible Market So Many DMOs Overlook

People were amazed when it first became apparent in the late 1990s, that Durham, North Carolina drew a higher percentage of visitors through the jointly owned Raleigh-Durham International Airport than any other city in its vast service area.

Studies a few years earlier had also confirmed that the vast majority of these visitors as well as overall visitation to Durham were point-to-point, meaning that the “Bull City” was their ultimate destination and they were not just passing through nor only tacking it on as a stopover.

Many DMOs and even more state and local officials obsess with airports as gateways, but on average, nationwide, including places such as Durham, more than 85% of domestic person-trips taken, including the overwhelming majority of those taken for business including conferences, are done as road trips.

Fully half are instate.

This isn’t counting visitors from within a 50 miles radius, although studies show that Southerners are inclined to travel as far as 244 miles round trip for a day trip, or up to 122 miles each way.

This is the sweet spot that many Destination marketers miss, especially small, emerging destinations where it should be the strategic focus.

It is useful to focus on Gen X and Baby Boomers because more than half of Millennials feel they don’t have the time for even a day trip, and even then it is primilary a foodie trip (35%.)

So studies of road-trippers focus on people who are 45+ years old where the incidence for leisure road trips is between 85% and 89% although it is people in their 60s who are the most active road-trippers.

Only a third of road-trippers fully plan their trips in advance and only half try new new destinations.  But while for men driving it is the destination that matters, women are more given to relaxation and rejuvenation.

An exception may be road-trippers who use vacation rentals, where half of women drivers put the “pedal to the metal” while 29% of male drivers are open to the “long and leisurely” route.

Outside of trips for year-end holidays, road trips potential overall is evenly spread from May through October. 

Making road-trippers unlikely to being “intercepted” enroute is that 72% stick only to the main roads - while 5% take scenic routes and 23% take a combination.

Billboards are especially useless for this purpose because 73% of road-trippers now use GPS including 43% who have in-dash systems.  Google is the other preferred app for pit stops along the way.

It is more likely that a destination can appeal to the 30% of road-trippers who look beyond the ultimate destination by reaching them online as they search popular end-desintations, more so on the outbound leg than the return.

Cities or towns town are the most popular destinations, followed by a friend or family members home.  Cities in the South are twice as popular as beaches and seven times more popular as mountains.

Only 2% take cross country road trips such as you have read about on this blog and only 1% starts off with no particular destination in mind.

For those who are open to stop-overs, a destination might appeal to 29% for a park or beach for a little over three hours.  The same percentage is open to stopping in a city or town along the way for up to 4 hours.

Local culture falls next in popularity with museums appealing to 15%, winery tours (8%), concerts/theater (5%) and sporting events (3%.)

But remember, even in these instances, any stops in route are more likely outbound than on the return and 4-in-10 make absolutely no stops enroute.

For nearly three-quarters, road trips are their favorite way to travel and 87% make them three times a year. 

DMOs for unfamiliar destinations are best advised to focus on nearby cities for demand and then for day trips and short weekends until that demand can justify additional capacity.

Any advertising done by a DMO trying to encourage stops enroute or in an an attempt to draw day trips or short weekend road trips from residents of nearby cities needs to be online, not on billboards, with a focus on search results.

Remember 3-in-4 use GPS and more and more move that direction each year.  They are more and more likely to be annoyed by roadside blight.

So a priority must be ensuring the regular submission of indepth GPS data for streets and highways as well as continually prodding and assisting all tourism related businesses, organizations and events to secure and “own” their online/GPS “real estate.”

Many states, including North Carolina, still seem to perpetuate the illusion that road trips are serial in nature and/or that visitors to a destination can be lured into driving to other communities for things easily found where they are visiting.

In part, this is why so many communities still engage in predatory marketing.

But that model hasn’t been aligned with consumer behavior for 50-70 years, if ever.  Travelers via all modes very rarely venture more than seven miles even within their primary destination.

DMO marketing doesn’t have to be “rocket science” but hubris, including that among local officials as well as misinformation from other DMOs, can make it a lot more difficult.

Focusing on instate road-trippers may lack sex appeal but it is a very lucrative strategy for destinations of any size.

Monday, January 25, 2016

The Southern Roots of a Fifth Generation Idahoan

As a fifth-generation Idaho native dating back to its first permanent settlement (other than Native Americans, of course), I didn’t learn of my deep Southern roots until one day in the early 1950s.

When I first remember her telling me about this part of my heritage, I was a preschooler helping my paternal grandmother Adah tend to family graves in the tiny hill-top cemetery, above our ranch house with a view of the Tetons.

It was a bit of “commons” carved into that ancestral ranch stretching for 270 degrees around that hill.  By then my grandparents had turned the place over to my parents when my Dad, their only son, came back from chasing down Nazis as they fled into the Alps.

Because of my insatiable curiosity, my dad gave me the nickname “windy,” but I have long wished that I had asked my grandmother far more questions such as the location of the 12 x 12 homestead shack where she and grandpa first lived.

It was before they moved into the ranch house down below the cemetery where a bend of the road cuts across Snow Creek.  This is where my dad was born and where my parents first brought me and my two sisters home.

I wish I had been more curious about the abandoned house at the end of the meadow where my great-grandparents had lived and ranched and died, leaving it for me as a favorite place to explore and reflect.

I’ve carried the smells of sagebrush, my horse Gypsy, a fresh mown meadow and rain on a dirt road wherever I’ve lived since.

But it would be more than five decades after my grandmother’s revelation before I would find my Carolina roots, both North and South, dating back three hundred years and before the permanent settlement of either.

By 1860 when those roots first crossed up into Idaho Territory, and during their previous twelve years since crossing the Rockies, they had already helped create at least three other settlements including Fort Union and Fort Mendon.

My second great grandmother, Amanda Sarah Graham, had been born in 1843 near DeKalb in Kemper County Mississippi.

Her father Tom famously protected settlements from Grizzly Bears until he was mauled to death by one.  He also was also a farmer, carpenter and butcher, as well as a saw mill operator where he fashioned ox bows and handles for pitchforks, rakes and hoes.

He was heralded for reportedly being able to spit tobacco across his cabin and through a latch hole. 

For much of his life he had also been a third or fourth generation slaveholder.

Only 3% of first generation Mormon settlers were from the South and after crossing the Rockies, Tom freed slaves by the names of Isaac Green Flake, Aunt Hannah and Robert.

He set them up with land of their own outside Fort Union (rendered in the image above), at the mouth of Little Cottonwood Canyon, named not for the land of cotton but for a type of poplar tree long-common along streams even in the arid west.

Cottonwoods later became known as “Mormon trees” because they mark where settlements were created along the Meridian of my DNA, stretching from the Salt River to my native Henry’s Fork.

Fort Union was in a ravine down the canyon from where Alta and Snowbird ski resorts are today.

Leaving instructions for his children to help their former slaves with the transition to freedom whenever asked, my Southerner third great grandfather headed further north along the Rockies.

During the migration west, Tom’s wife, my third great grandmother Sarah Ann, had died along the journey during childbirth near what became Winterset, Iowa two years later and now known for the Bridges of Madison County and as the birthplace of actor John Wayne.

My Graham great (3) grandparents had once owned plantations along both sides of the Tombigbee River.

The first was on three parcels above the Sipsey River, a free-flowing Alabama swamp, 50,000 acres of wetland Cypress, Cottonwood, Hardwood and Pine forests.

Today, this area is known for canoe and hiking trails, as well as game and tree preserves, but in the 1830s it was settled by all sides of Tom and Sarah Ann’s families including the Grahams, Bradfords, McCrorys and Gilmores.

They had fought, at times side by side in the same regiment, during the Revolutionary War and Tom’s father in the War of 1812, as well.

The McCrory’s who were Scotts-Irish immigrants, left North Carolina for Tennessee after the Revolutionary War with Andrew Jackson, a family friend.

Near Nashville is where my great (3) grandmother Sarah Ann was born.

Her soon-to-be husband Tom was born in the Kershaw District of South Carolina but my fifth great grandmother was at least second generation North Carolinian on both sides.  Still they are not my earliest roots from here.

McCrory’s then migrated to western Alabama, probably down a military road through Mudtown, now Birmingham, while the Grahams and Bradfords preceded them by a few years, probably migrating down through what is now Greenville and Athens around the southern Appalachians and across through Mudtown.

There is no evidence that McCrorys ever held slaves but both my Graham and Bradford ancestors did generations before.

These migrations from the Carolinas were motivated by more than wanderlust.  One reason was the political tensions following the Revolutionary War.

Even victorious, my patriot southern ancestors were in the minority.

A majority of North Carolinians and even more South Carolinians were either ambivalent about the Revolution or loyalists to the British Crown, known as “conservatives” following the war.  They wanted a return to those values.

Another reason for their migration was soil depletion in the upper South.  Landowners, especially plantations, viewed the soil back then as something to be cleared and planted in staple crops such as cotton, tobacco and even corn and wheat, until no longer useful.

Slavery and public land policies made it cheaper to move on to new lands than to manure and rehabilitate depleted soils.

Rare today in the Carolinas are clear waterways such as Mayo Lake where we have a place.  Even here, when rains come after upstream harvests the “sheet” erosion overwhelms the ability of wetlands to filter the runoff, resulting in a temporary turbid invasion.

Southeasterners, especially it seems elected officials, who dismiss or undermine water quality standards have come to believe the waters in North Carolina are naturally muddy.

But southern soil historians such as Dr. Paul Sutter note that “a little more than a century of cotton culture…transformed the ecology, hydrology, and geomorphology of southern watershed in way that may last for thousands of years.”

On April 6, 1842, my third great grandparents Graham along with Tom’s mother, Jane, followed Mormon missionaries down into the Sipsey River to be baptized into the 12-year old, distinctly American restorationist Christian church.

In early 1846, after briefly owning plantations across the Tombigbee in Mississippi, the Grahams and their young daughter, Amanda Sarah, along with her older siblings and their three slaves loaded up wagons and headed cross state and up the Mississippi River past Saint Louis to where Mormons were already fleeing west.

Tom went ahead after his wife died crossing Iowa and then returned to bring his children across the Plains and over the Rockies.

When she crossed over the Rockies, my second great grandmother, Amanda Sarah, was about the age I was when my grandmother revealed my southern roots that day while tending graves in sight of the Tetons.

It was also the age my grandmother had been when she had briefly lived with and cared for her grandmother Amanda following a Trolley accident during a visit from Idaho to Salt Lake.

When I travel through these places of my roots and along the routes my ancestors took, I don’t romanticize as much as it probably seems to some readers.

I leave the traces in this blog as testimony to descendants through my two grandsons that the values found in our gene pool are complex and varied - a merger of many different backgrounds.

I often wonder, when judging my slaveholding Southern ancestors what we may hold common today that will be similarly revolting through the lens of future generations.

I suspect they will look back at our short-sighted “utility” economy and the havoc it is wreaking for future generations with similar disgust.

On a future visit, I plan to take my grandsons to visit the grave of Isaac Green Flake, one of the slaves freed by my southern ancestors, who was also from North Carolina, where I have lived for nearly three decades now.

Mr. Green Flake. who also elected to be baptized Mormon before the trek west, was born in eastern Anson County, North Carolina just east of Charlotte and just north of where my third great grandfather Tom was born in South Carolina in 1807.

But when their parents were born, there had been no such distinction between the Carolinas.

After Mr. Flake was given his freedom and land of his own, he worked for a time as a carriage driver for Brigham Young before also heading up into southeastern Idaho where his son had homesteaded Grays Lake near the mountains east of Blackfoot.

He also stayed in touch with the children of my Southern ancestors.

But he asked to be buried down at the old Fort Union cemetery in the shadow of the mountains he had crossed 60 years earlier and where he at last had become free.

Monday, January 04, 2016

Bear River Mountain Reflection

On the return leg of one of my cross-country road-trips a few years ago, Mugs, my English Bulldog, and I made a brief stop high up on a bench that runs along the western slopes of the Bear River Mountains.

I had never been there but the tiny town three and a half miles below of Richmond in upper Cache Valley, Utah lies along what I call the Meridian of my DNA.

That’s because the scores of settlements my ancestors helped found over just the six decades beginning in 1847, stretching from southcentral Arizona to my native Yellowstone-Teton nook of Idaho, all fall a degree or so along the 111th Meridian West.

By highway, it is US Route 89 as it zig zags its way from the banks of the Salt River to the banks of the Henry’s Fork of the Snake River, and all but the southern tip along the Rockies that comes closest to each of these ancestral settlements.

In retirement I try to take in a cross-section on road trips out west from my home in Durham, North Carolina.  The first of these ancestral settlements was founded more than a hundred years before I came along.

Back five generations, all of my ancestors had all become Mormons including four lines who were among the very first who crossed the Rockies and descended down into the Great Salt Lake Valley, then a part of Mexico.

By the Civil War, they had been joined by 12 other lines of great-great grandparents.

Many lines of ancestors on both sides of my family tree crossed paths on arrival before fanning out, some to the south and others to the north, to open up Cache Valley below where I stood that crystal clear winter morning.

This included a few who ventured another six miles north from where I stood to establish the first permanent settlement in what would soon be Idaho Territory.

I overlooked where my Bowman ancestors settled in 1860 after crossing over the Rockies in 1856 to Wight’s Fort where my great grandfather was born in 1859 in what is now West Jordan.

This is south of Big Cottonwood Creek and the area where different than Salt Lake, settlers were living out the land they worked and near today where I’ve watched my grandsons play in a basketball league. 

In Richmond they were given a plot along the Northside of the fort and, as customary, about 17 or so acres to the east to farm or use, and about that many acres up on the bench for grazing.

For a few years, it would be too dangerous to live or leave livestock outside the fort at night because of Shoshone Peoples native to that area and Grizzly Bears.

But Mormons also believed strongly in the commons and worked together there to quickly build a meeting house/school house and dig irrigation canals.

Unlike my great grandfather Hyrum Edward who was the first in six generations of horsemen continued today by my niece, my great-great grandfather, Hyrum Webster, was more of an entrepreneur.

He ran freight to the settlement and built a molasses factory below the bench where I stood before also building a sawmill there on Cherry Creek as well as manufacturing brick at one time.

He also had the first horse-powered and then steam grain threshers in the area to harvest grains from throughout the valley. 

In the beginning the family lived in a log home with a dirt floor and a dirt roof and my great grandfather and his siblings wore burlap wrappings for shoes in those early years, always working side by side in these enterprises. 

Today people build homes along the bench for spectacular views across the valley and Richmond below.

This is where my great grandfather once raised and bred horses and where higher up behind the bench toward Cherry Peak, my grandfather Ernest Melvin first herded cattle as a boy.

Today that area has become Utah’s 15th ski resort.

By the time my great-grandparents married in 1881 and started a family it was clear there would not be land available in Cache Valley for their children.  Nor were the small acreage plots there optimal for livestock growing.

Nor was even the 160 acres per settler that could be homesteaded further north in Idaho which was nearly ten times the amount allotted settlers in upper Cache Valley. 

In his report three years earlier to Congress, John Wesley Powell had recommended 2,560 acres per settler for livestock growing in semi-arid areas, based on defined watershed boundaries.

Judging by the ranch where I was born and spent my early years, which had been cobbled together from homesteads and contiguous land purchases, Powell was right.

I believe my newlywed great grandparents Bowman were ready to head north in 1881 but two things held them back.

Even though Margaret Rita’s mother had just passed, my great-great grandfather Kent lived nearby.

Hyrum Edward’s mother Hannah who went by Annie, was estranged from his father, and needed her first son’s support until she passed three years later.

There would have been a lot of excitement about the far reaches of the Upper Snake River Valley in Idaho.  A federal land office had just opened at Oxford just across the border in Idaho.

In the 1870s, contrary to the asessment of explorer John C. Fremont, it was discovered that the Yellowstone-Teton nook of Idaho was ideal for settlement.

My newlywed great grandparents had watched the first settlers head north as far as the terminus of the Henry’s Fork.

Great swaths of waist high bluegrass had been found growing along the banks of that north fork of the Snake, punctuated further up the river by sagebrush, indicating the soil was excellent. 

But this part of the west was still very much wild.

While Yellowstone had been made a national park less than a decade earlier, only three years before my great grandparents married, Cavalry troopers were fighting running battles in pursuit of Chief Joseph and bands of Nez Perce as they fled across the nook.

Outlaw gangs, a third of whom were from Mormon stock, were rustling cattle and robbing banks up and down the valleys of Idaho, Wyoming and Utah just east and would for another decade or more.

But I think something else made my grandparents hesitate.

My great great great grandfather Bowman was one of the 3 or 4 percent of Mormon males asked to take more than one wife, similar to that practiced in the Old Testament.

He had married one of two plural wives when my great grandfather was eight years old.  My great-great grandmother did’t want anything to do with it and separated.

As most did, he apparently maintained the households in different towns.  In 1870, nearly 30% of the population of Richmond came from polygamous families which varied greatly by community.

However, even though monogamous, the practice is estimated to have touched the lives of a majority of Mormons in some way.  The practice was waning at the time my great grandparents married and was even more extremely rare in that second generation.

It was rarer still across the border in Idaho where, as the percentage of the population who were Mormons reached 17%, less than 1% there were engaged in polygamy.

But as my great grandparents contemplated the move to Idaho, the US Congress debated the Edmunds Act to disenfranchise Mormons and an anti-Mormon arm of the Republican Party in Idaho was taking control of the legislature.

Mormons were predominantly Democrats so the move had more to do with partisan politics and dominating the constitutional convention leading up to statehood in 1890.

Seeing that the strategy was working, an anti-Mormon wing of Democrats joined forces to throw their fellow Democrats under the bus by wording the constitution to effectively disenfranchise all Mormons.

They also deparately hoped to acheive statehood before Congress learned in the 1890 census that this reduced the population necessary to qualify for statehood.  It was an unsettling time in Idaho or to contemplate a move there.

After losing in the Supreme Court, in 1890 Mormon leaders issued a manifesto disavowing polygamy in practice or teachings, two years after my grandfather Bowman was born.

Two years later the right for Mormons to vote was restored in Idaho just as my great-great grandfather died.  But that clause wasn’t removed from the Idaho constitution until 1968 I believe.

Today, 24% of Idaho is Mormon by religion and probably more by culture.  Ironically, like the state, nearly all are Republican.

In 1907, my great grandfather rode up into the far reaches of the Henry’s Fork and purchased a 360 acre ranch where his sons, including my grandfather, could homestead adjacent land.

The family left the bench above Richmond that year with their belongings and equipment loaded into three iron-wheeled wagons each pulled by four teams of horses.

Following was my great grandparents horse drawn white-top buggy and a little side-spring black top buggy, along with 100 cattle my grandfather, brother and cousins drove on horseback during the 15 day, 200 mile trip.

Richmond was undergoing something of a growth spurt at the time before going into decline by 1920 only to rebound to about 2,500 by ther time I stood looking down from that bench along the Bear River Mountains.

Soon after settling along the Henry’s Fork, four and a half miles west of the newly established village of Ashton, these Bowman ancestors too had become Republicans.

They were drawn to progressivism and the western and rancher/farmer-friendly policies of President Teddy Roosevelt, including water reclamation.

My great grandmother died in 1918 during the Great Influenza Epidemic and was buried in the small cemetery (Ora) carved into our ranch.  My great grandfather passed away in 1936, twelve years before I would be born.

By then my grandparents had consolidated 1,100 acres of ranchland along with a similar amount of range that was operated by my parents after my dad returned from WWII.

I visited and played around the headstones of my great grandparents in that cemetery while growing up, stopping often to gaze at the Tetons rising across the Henry’s Fork.

My great grandfather’s HB brands, a variation for horses and cattle, were also a constant reminder as was that buggy which I found abandoned in a grove while herding cattle. 

I haven’t been back since 1976 when my grandmother died, nor have I been a practicing Mormon since before that time.  But transcending religion, it is a culture that literally runs through my veins.

Until the day I die, it will lead me to research the lives of my ancestors and the places and times in which they lived.  More than flesh, bones and DNA, each has contributed to who I am.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Six Million Businesses and Shrinking

There are only 6 million active businesses in America.  Another 20 million are in name only according to Gallup.


They report that “Of the 6 million, 3.8 million have four or fewer employees,” otherwise known as micro businesses.

According to another study, most micro businesses never want to grow to more than 10 employees, which would place them among the one million businesses today with between 5 to 9 employees.

That means there are “only 2 million small, medium and large businesses in the United States,” including about 1,000 companies in the “big business” category with 10,000 or more employees.

For sources of “dark money” and undue, often opaque influence among lawmakers look to the larger employers, something shown in an investigative piece just re-published in Pacific Standard.

For job creation, however, look to those first two groups, especially micro businesses.

So how do we foster more of these concerns that generate the vast majority of new jobs?

Buy local, obviously.

Some experts point to enforcing regulations evenly along with simplifying some.  Most, however, point to making credit more available.

The rub is that over the last 15 years, small business loan volume is down 14% and loans made to micro businesses are down a third.

What happened?  One indication is that since 2008 alone, one in four “local banks” have simply vanished.

When I graduated from high school in 1966, more than 7 out of every 10 banks were small, single-office local banks, totally more than 10,000 nationwide.

Branch banking had become the norm by the time I moved to Durham, NC in 1989.

Today, there are half as many commercial banks overall as there were when I graduated from college in 1972 and fewer than 1,000 single-office or truly local banks in the entire country.

Even so, small banks and credit unions make most of the loans to small businesses, including micro businesses.  There are just fewer and fewer of them.

Contrary to lobbyists, the decline of small, local banks isn’t due to regulatory reform after the great recession.  Click here to download an excellent review of the reasons.


Far more compelling is that this problem began with policy changes more than a decade earlier.

In 1995, small banks and credit unions held 27% of bank market share compared to the 17% held by giant banks.

Today, giant banks control 59% of bank market share, more than five times as much as small banks and credit unions, and just four mega banks control most of that.

Now, the four largest banks alone control 42% of all banking, yet they make a very small share of loans to job creating local businesses.  Nor do they play nice with one another.

These four mega-banks alone control nearly four times the amount of banking as all of the remaining small banks and credit unions put together.

In the four years leading up to the great recession about 300 commercial banks disappeared each year but we were creating nearly half as many.

The vanish-rate continues, but we’re creating only 6 new banks a year on average according to the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, the source delving into much of these data.

Good policies and lending by small - usually stand-alone local banks -fueled the growth of America’s middle class in the 1960s and 1970s before anti-government rhetoric and deregulation began to hollow it out.

It is likely no coincidence that today this powerful segment of households is rapidly shrinking or that the deaths of businesses now outnumbers the births of new businesses.

As a moderate Independent, fiscally and socially, I find analysis intriguing that shows that nine out of the last ten recessions occurred under Republican presidents while Democratic presidents created nearly twice as many jobs per year.

Of course, this illustrates how intricate and complex economic development is but that the underlying principles always come back to main street as well as the political courage to resist powerful special interests.


It is also ironic that conservative states such as North Carolina where I live regulate cities and local governments from practicing the most basic tenant of economic development – buying local.