Archive | January, 2012

Innovation is the future

13 Jan

Yesterday I attended an event hosted by The Tomorrow Plan. I had never heard of the group but was invited by some YPC-types so I figured it would be good networking (and a chance to check out the recently renovated World Food Prize headquarters). The topic was ”what it means to live in a regional city” with speakerBill Fulton, former mayor of Ventura, Calif. who now works with Smart Growth America.

The hour-long presentation turned out to be very interesting and served as an affirmation of what my employer, StartupCity (as well as the entire tech community in Des Moines) is doing.

“The jobs that will drive your community into the future are not routine, ordinary jobs,” Fulton said. “The way you are going to compete is by encouraging people to bring creativity and innovation to everything they do everyday. The people who drive the new economy are not people who want to spend their weekends driving a lawnmower.” Hallelujah!

Fulton’s speech was focused on how changing demographics will affect city planning. Suburban sprawl is likely to become a thing of the past, he said, as Baby Boomers retire and seek walkable communities and as Millennials continue to favor urban dwelling over cookie-cutter lifestyles. Quality of place and sense of community will continue to be important to the next generation of workers. If a city is to survive and thrive in the next century, it must address those desires, not just in housing options but also in the types of jobs available.

Fulton’s discussion had me beaming with pride for the Des Moines tech community (StartupIowa, the businesses that make up Silicon Sixth AvenueSilicon Prairie NewsTechnology Association of Iowa, and so many more). We are creating exactly what Fulton has prescribed for the future growth—a sense of place.

While everyone I meet in the local startup scene is fiercely competitive (that’s one key element of the entrepreneurial spirit, after all), they are also incredibly encouraging of each other. Everyone is quick to offer advice, connect people, share resources, and promote each other. They are protective of this community that is being built—unwilling to let anyone plant a treacherous seed that could fracture the solidarity.

I strongly believe that the continued effort to create a solid tech startup scene in Des Moines will serve to make the city stronger and the kind of city that Fulton believes will grow in the future.

Unfortunately, the audience at the event yesterday was heavily weighted toward the public sector. To succeed in its mission, The Tomorrow Plan must involve the private sector as well. Clearly, we know how to make things happen!

To learn more about The Tomorrow Plan, attend its first public meeting on Jan. 31 from 6-7:30 pm at the Eastside Senior Center. Conveniently, the event starts immediately after the city’s first Startup Fair.

2012 Detox (slightly off topic)

9 Jan

Fair warning: I told you I’m not a total geek. And this is my least-geeky post yet. But I’ve had people ask me about it, so I’m going for it anyway.

Confession: I went off the rails at the end of 2011. I ate like it was my job and spent money like I was made of it. The holiday season has a way of doing that to me. So, like so many other Americans, I resolved to reign myself in on January 1st. I joined my friend Laurie in her quest for a No-Spend January, and I added some health goals to her financial fitness plan.

The plan is lofty, to be sure, but just the detox I need to re-boot my system. On the financial side, I cannot spend any money that isn’t necessary. Basically, that means I can buy groceries and gas but nothing else. No going out to eat, no bar tabs, no movies. On the health side, I am giving up alcohol (GASP!), sugar (BIGGER GASP!), soda, and fried foods, and choosing only whole grains.

The New Year didn’t exactly start as planned. January 1st brought with it the obligatory hangover and the overwhelming need for grease. So I caved and ordered Pizza Hut. Violated both my financial and health rules on Day 1. I convinced myself it was okay because it was Sunday—I would start the plan on a Monday. And I did. I’m happy to report that I’ve been (mostly) faithful to my rules since. My only violation was spending $5 to play pool with friends. And I kicked myself later that night when I remembered I can play for free at work.

It’s been one week and I’ve lost 1.5 pounds and (based on previous spending) saved about $400. I’ve also gained  some valuable insights:

  1. I waste a lot of money on really frivolous things (Do I really need another pair of shoes? Is that Groupon really too good to pass up? Will I really listen to that song that much if I download it?).
  2. Eating healthy is a choice and really not a difficult one (the horrible sugar cravings only last a few days, I swear).
  3. Having fun doesn’t require alcohol, bad food, or lots of money. Last Saturday, a few friends and I attended a cheese and meat tasting, hosted by The Cheese Shop, and hit the downtown riverwalk to take photos and soak up the sun. Free, healthy, and a great time.
  4. I’m a much better chef that I realized and I actually kind of enjoy cooking.
  5. According to this article, my plan will help me improve professionally. It could be the placebo effect, but I think it’s working. I’ve been more energized about my work and more productive in the last week than I have been in a long time.

Time will tell, of course, whether I stick with it and create some new healthy habits. I’ll report back at the end of the month and let you know. I hope to also share some tricks/tips with you in case you want to give No-Spend February a shot.