Last week I was honoured to be the opening keynote speaker for over 2,200 mayors and elected officials from throughout the great state of Texas, for the 100th Annual Meeting of the Texas Municipal League.
A fascinating time and a wonderful opportunity to speak to a vast audience with a lot of divergent viewpoints about the opportunities of the future! (Actually, I spend a lot of time in Texas. This was my fourth keynote there in a little over six weeks…So much time there, that years ago, I wrote my book, What I Learned From Frogs in Texas: Saving Your Skin with Forward Thinking Innovation“)
Of course, coming so close to the recent US Presidential election, I knew it would be an interesting crowd, certainly from a political perspective.
With that spirit in mind, I suggested in my opening few minutes that those with a sense of “great leadership skills” would quickly move along the “7 Stages of Election Grief.” Those who focus on economic growth will quickly move beyond the shock and denial phase, and focus on growth and opportunity!
(I then suggested that folks in Colorado and Washington states might have moved along the curve really quickly to the happiness phase, given the recent votes approving legalized marijauna! That got a good laugh.)
But consider if you are a municipal politician in Texas right now — or anywhere else for that matter. It’s a pretty challenging time, with some pretty stark realities:
- drastic funding and budget cuts
- cancellation and complete gutting of programs
- greater pressure on environmental initiatives
- loss of momentum on key priorities
- public expectations out of line with capabilities
- growing public weariness with all levels of government
And so, in my keynote, I thought it critical to help them focus on the opportunities of the future rather than the challenges of the past and the difficulties of the current day. With that spirit in mind, I focused on just 3 simple trends:
- the acceleration of all things : as we enter in the world of smart cities, intelligent infrastructure, and so much more, there are tremendous opportunities for innovation at the municipal government level
- the next economic recovery : I outlined that in my view, this is happening right now, with a resurgence in US manufacturing and energy production. Check the linked blog posts below, and you’ll see my views
- the era of big bets : with these two trends, there are tremendous opportunities emerging right now for cities and towns to place themselves on the mainline of economic growth.
Bottom line? We are at a time similar to when the US transcontinental railroad was built, or the Interstate highway system of the 1950’s-60’s. Smart infrastructure, road trains, autonomous highways, a resurgence in manufacturing driven by robotic and other smart technologies.
Energy independence for the US which is leading to the belief, such as suggested by PriceWaterhouseCoopers, that estimates that high rates of shale gas recovery could result in a million new manufacturing jobs by 2025 in the US, and the fact that revived natural gas industry “has the potential to spark a manufacturing renaissance in the U.S., including billions in cost savings, a significant number of new jobs and a greater investment in U.S. plants.”
And so, as a mayor in Texas — you can choose to adopt a sense of optimism about the future, and be a part of the recovery.
The essence of my message? As echoed by Area Development Magazine some time ago (a publication which is focused on local economic development opportunities): ““It’s impossible to succeed at economic development and be a pessimist.”
My mantra on stage? Think growth!