“Are you going to be part of the solution, or are you going to be part of the problem?”

I can’t remember the first time I heard that question, but I do recall the first time in adulthood when I made the conscious choice in how I answered. Would I complain like everyone else or would I do something different? I chose different.

I was just 24 or 25-years old, in an entry level position at a legal publisher. My co-workers began complaining about a frustration they had, a frustration I shared. Eventually several people were huddled together, all complaining about the same thing. That’s when it occurred to me that it was a fruitless conversation. Complaining to each other wasn’t going to fix anything.

Without hesitation I marched into my manager’s office, with a couple co-complainants in tow, to express our concerns. I have no recollection of what the problem or the solution was. However, I remember walking away knowing I was heard, knowing that change was imminent, and most important, that I just made a real difference.

With that in mind, I can’t just complain about Danville’s problems. It’s not my modus operandi to complain. My brain is pre-programmed to look for solutions.

I’m convinced that one solution to Danville’s problems is aggressive and multifaceted economic development strategies. It can start with things that don’t require economic incentives, like marketing support and program creation. In Oakland, Calif., where there’s a small business task force that works with city leadership, the city has a strategy to highlight local businesses and encourages big businesses to make impact purchases and buy from small businesses.

Another example is Techstars Startup Weekend, being hosted in Danville June 21-23 at Danville Area Community College and sponsored by The Trep School, the Small Business Development Center at DACC, Vermilion Advantage and Neuhoff Media. The event is an opportunity for those who have business ideas or a problem they want to solve to form teams that work on those ideas over a weekend, get mentorship and compete for prizes that will bring their businesses to fruition. Google employees will also be participating in this event as mentors.

My personal hope is that Startup Weekend becomes a spark to creating an ecosystem that supports the creation of brand new businesses. Why? Because federal statistics published on census.gov show that new and young businesses create nearly all net new jobs in the United States. Other studies argue that higher employment rates help reduce crime. In other words, new businesses create new jobs, and new jobs could possibly reduce crime.

Adding economic incentives to the pie, like the Small Business Incentive Program that exists in Champaign, can be the fuel necessary to turn a spark into a flame of revitalization for our city. The Champaign program, which started in 2016, provides matching grant funds of up to $7,500 for one-time services like legal, financial, marketing, and training expenses. As of February 2019, 65 Champaign businesses had taken advantage of the program and there was a wait list for many more.

Although Danville doesn’t have the same budget as Champaign, the city has more than $100,000 of federal funds earmarked for economic development. Ironically those funds have sat unused since 2016, the same year Champaign implemented its program.

At 25-ish I marched into my manager’s office with a possible solution. Some 20 years later I marched into city hall with a possible solution. Although I was heard, I can’t predict whether or not my proposal will be implemented. But I’m also not going to waste time complaining either. I choose to be part of the solution, because this isn’t just what I do, it’s who I am.

Tricia D. Teague is a speaker, founder of The Trep School, and trained coach with the Coaches Training Institute. She can be reached at tricia@thetrepschool.com. To schedule a free coaching session by going to www.thetrepschool.com/coaching

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