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Jazz Movements

Part of what makes jazz seem so complex is its many movements. Melodies or taglines, rarely stay in the same key.

That alone is a major differential between jazz and pop, country, r&b, rock, and gospel. For the most part, songs in these genres are played and sang in one key.

Jazz's many movements and creative use of a number of scales are part of the reason why it is often considered the highest form of music.

Jazz requires an understanding of scales, modes, and intervals, along with discipline and diligence.

It is probably better if heard. As we are on the tail end of the Christmas season, what better example than the "Christmas Song."

If you are near an instrument try picking up on how many times this song changes keys. You do not have to be near an instrument or musically inclined to hear the changes. The ear naturally discerns the note changes.



Music Spotlight Tuesday: Kirk Franklin and the Family- Christmas

Merry Christmas Eve Eve!

It is only fitting to spotlight a Christmas album. None better comes to mind than gospel music trailblazer Kirk Franklin's Kirk Franklin and the Family Christmas.

Before I go any further, you must have this album!

Released in 1995, this album contains elements of jazz, classical, blues, and some Caribbean flares.

There are originals like "Now Behold the Lamb" (led by a then, unknown Tamela Mann), "Jesus is the Reason for the Season," "They Need to Know," "There's No Christmas without You," and "Thank You for Your Child." All which sing praises to God for sending His son to earth for the sins of the world.

Franklin also puts new harmonies and melodies to classics like "Silent Night," and "O Come, All Ye Faithful." In fact, you will not hear another version of "Silent Night" like this anywhere else!

The entire album will have you dancing, shouting, and crying within a complet…

Hobbit 3: The Battle of the Five Armies

I saw the Hobbit 3: The Battle of the Five Armies Friday at the movies.

I have not seen the first two Hobbit movies. I have never read any of the original books. I do not like sci-fi or fantasy-type films. Prior to watching the movie, I had never heard of "Smaug," "Bilbo," or "Laketown."

But, I am a fan of war tales, war movies, and displays of courage.

Factor my interest of war-time courage with the action shown on the trailers and I concluded I should give the movie a chance. I'm glad I did.

It is a really good movie! The plot, the artwork, the acting, the graphics, the sound effects, and the music create an action-packed mix from beginning to end.

As a born-again Christian, I do not endorse the movie's reliance on other spiritual forces. But, other than that, I encourage you to go see it. There is no cursing. It is family-friendly. It is a film anyone can relate to.

To everyone involved in making this movie: producers, directors, technicians, c…

Retail: The Jobs

Retail is big. Especially this time of year.

Retail is a large part of the US and global economy. Retailers create jobs, generate tax revenues, circulate local dollars, and increase quality of life..

For most people, the type of retail jobs we see are those in the store. But we often  do not consider the many other jobs retail supports.

Retail, indirectly, creates and supports manufacturing and warehouse and distribution operations. That is the process of creating and shipping finished goods to the stores. This includes jobs such truck drivers, plant managers, equipment operators, human resources departments, accountants, and all other necessary occupations to operate industrial facilities. Jobs we never interact with before making our purchases.

For every item of clothing we buy from retailers, we should also consider the many others who helped bring the product to the shelf. In fact, it is also interesting to take a look at the "Made In" label on most products.

It takes a …

Music Spotlight Tuesday: Young Noah- Time

This is the very first post in what will be Music Spotlight Tuesdays on Pianomics. It is not a review. It is a post to bring positive attention to a recording artists' work, regardless of genre or the album's release date.

Since this is Music Spotlight Tuesday's debut posting, it is only fitting that I spotlight a debut album. This particular artist happens to be very special to me because he is one of my closest friends and my brother.

Time by rapper Young Noah was originally released earlier this year in August. Bias aside, Time is not a typical hip-hop album. The production is varied with mixes, styles, and rhythms of numerous genres, just like Young Noah's flow. You can hear it not even halfway through the first song, "Closer Now," where a metal guitar solo is rhythmically placed between heavy-knocking 808's.

The lyrics are scriptural laced with Young Noah's real life experiences. Within the 11 tracks, anyone can relate to the personal authenticity…

Studying Jazz: Grind On

The best way to learn something is to study it.
It is common sense, but studying is much easier said than done.
I am now in my fourth year of studying jazz piano. Yet, I have only played one (1) jazz gig so far. Yep, just one.
That's four years of study and only one gig to date. Just like an Olympian.
However, that is ok. Like anything else in life, success does not happen overnight. Oftentimes it takes years.
It took me some time to wrap my mind around it. I play gospel, hymns, and contemporary Christian music at church, where every song is based on one key. Whereas in jazz, songs have numerous keys and multiple movements within those keys.
However, all of the playing helps. 
Going into 2015, I intend not only continue studying, but to go deeper into jazz studies. That means, more practice. But additionally, I want to get out and play more.
So, this one is for all of my fellow jazz musicians, jazz heads, music students, and Olympians: Keep Grinding. Success is not far!

Ferguson: Evidence of Spiritual Starvation

Yesterday in church, my Bishop preached about God's solution to the unrest facing our country (Trayvon Martin, Ferguson- Joseph Brown, NYC-Eric Garner). I would like to share a brief summary with you.

Bishop's concern was very simple: "In all of this mess, where is the church?"

Matthew 14:13-22 is the story of Jesus feeding the 5,000 with 5 loaves and 2 fish.

Faced more than 5,000 hungry people, the disciples, symbolic of the church, said "Send the multitudes away, that they may go into the villages and buy themselves food." (v.15).

Jesus replies, "Bring them here to Me." (v. 18).

Jesus then took all the food nearby, 5 loaves of bread and 2 fish, and blessed it, broke it, then distributed it. As a result, more than 5,000 people were fed, not counting women and children.

This passage reveals our nation's current condition and the solution for it.

The church's previous response has been "Send them away. They are not like us. Their needs…

Development Agreements

A Development Agreement is a contractual agreement between a municipality (city, county, or village) and the owner of real property as it relates to the development and redevelopment of the property.

The agreement specifies the standards and approvals that govern development of the property.

The scope could cover land development (engineering, platting, infrastructure) or vertical improvements (buildings, renovations).

Land owners seek such benefits as stability and reimbursements from Development Agreements.

Municipalities seek economic development benefits, job creation, quality development, and public infrastructure from Development Agreements.

Development Agreements have been proven most successful for the development or redevelopment of large tracts of land.


2014 Black Friday Analysis

This year, Black Friday sales dropped 11% to $50.9B from last year's $57.4B based on a preliminary survey released yesterday by the National Retail Federation.

Sales dipped despite many stores opening earlier than ever on Thanksgiving Day.
Online sales also dipped. Based on the same survey from the National Retail Federation, online shoppers spent an average of $380.95 over the four-day weekend. 6.4% less than the average $407.02 spent last year.
The Black Friday sales' underachievement is traceable to two key factors, among many others.
1. Ferguson, Missouri. The shooting death of unarmed teenager Michael Brown sent the nation in uproar. Logically and systematically, people protested the case's outcome by boycotting Black Friday shopping. Some of those lost dollars may be made up as the holiday season goes on. But for now, the national sentiment is anti-establishment.
2. Gratitude. Thanksgiving, despite its origins, is a time we set aside to give thanks. Shopping, especia…

Ohioan Heritage

Riding to Ohio for Thanksgiving. I have lots of family in the cities of Columbus, Dayton, and Cincinnati. 
The 7 hour drive to reach Cincinnati, crossing the Mason-Dixon Line, transcending from south to north makes me wonder: how did we get here?
My father's mother was Ida Marie Hassler-Thomas. She had a brother (Samuel Franklin Hassler Jr.) move to Columbus and a sister (Mary Hassler-Reynolds) move to Dayton in the 1940's and 1950's.
Chasing the promise of better opportunity for African-Americans, they left their Murray County, GA roots.
Uncle Sam and Aunt Mary married and had children who had children and today, the family is still growing. 
Going to see my extended family brings us here. We are a big, close-knit family.
As we ride on I-71 in the pitch black skies, I wonder what my ancestors' northern migration must have been like.
It was probably unpleasant, uncomfortable, and bittersweet. But they persevered. They trusted God all the way. 
Through the generations, they pas…

I Will Trust

Thrilled to have Fred Hammond's latest album, I Will Trust. It is classic Fred: encouraging, uplifting, inspirational, melodic, and full of praise.

Fred Hammond is consistent. Since his days with Commissioned back in the 1980's, he has produced excellent material. I Will Trust does not deviate.

These are songs that are possessive and/or minister straight to the heart of the Father. Songs like "All the Way,"  "His Perfect Love," and "I Will Trust" vary from upbeat to slow and intimate.

Do not debate purchasing this album. Get it!

THIS AND THAT:

A huge congratulations to Mr. Antoine Simmons and Mrs. Karen Nelson. Yesterday, they were elected as President and 1st Vice President of the Whitfield County, GA Chapter of the NAACP, respectively. Both of them also go to my church. It is an honor to serve and worship with them. Even before they were elected, they were and have always been a blessing to the church and my hometown community in Dalton and north…

Climate Change

President Obama's renewed focus on climate change should have interesting implications on economic development, urban planning, and conservation.

Tougher pollution standards are popular across the globe. 
However, coal-related industries carry immense economic benefit. 
The issue then becomes more about sustainable economic development.
Here is the dilemma: one on end you want job creation; you understand coal-related businesses employ thousands of people; you also understand the emission of fossil fuels (such as coal) are a large contributor to the drastic climate changes happening now. What do you do?
As an economic developer and city planner with a hint of environmentalist, the forthcoming discussions and debates about climate change will be very interesting to watch.

A balanced solution has not emerged, yet.


Take This Bible Verse with You

Everything you need for the day is included in this one, short, powerful verse.

2 Timothy 1:7: "For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind."
We are assured that...
Fear does not come from God, therefore we can rightfully reject it. Even the tiniest hint of fear can and should be rejected. Do not entertain fear. Fear is a dream killer. Fear has kept millions from fulfilling their potential.
God has given us power. Power, authority, strength, force, and fight. Our power is supernatural, but only when we depend on God. Man's own power is limited and finite. God's power has no limits.
God has given us love. The ability to love the hard-headed and the unlovable. We are called to love everyone. In the workplace, at school, family, in the community- we are to show the love of Christ to everyone.
God has given us a sound mind. That is competency and intelligence. That is the ability to solve problems, to focus, to be disciplined, …

For His Glory Part 2

Well, today I led praise and worship, then we had our 2nd annual Thanksgiving Musical at church.

WHAT A DAY!

Both instances were wonderful. I give the Lord thanks for using an unholy man as myself to glorify His Holy name. I gave it everything, and yes, I am still beyond tired. Fortunately, it's a little past nine. I am about to be KO'd.

But, just wanted to share two critical lessons learned while it is still today.

1. Praise and worship is personal. It is not about others. It is not about whose watching you at church. It is not about what wrong we've done.
2. Praise and worship is sacrificial. Sometimes it is hard to obey the God or open our mouths in thanks, but that gives our offerings to the Lord all the more value. Sacrifices yield true heartfelt meaning.

Good night.


For His Glory

"Tired" does not even begin to describe how I feel right now.
Sleepy, drained, concerned, and barely able to hash out this post.
But, tomorrow is our big Thanksgiving Musical at the church. It is becoming a hallmark annual program at the church and in the community.
Additionally, I have to lead praise and worship in the morning. Not complaints though.
God's joy is my strength. Plus, what's a sacrifice if you're not giving it your all?
Christ gave it all for me. I give it all for Him.
Here's to tomorrow! 
Soli Deo Gloria

No Shame in My Frugality

Of course, when I do advocate spending money and dining out, and whenever doing so, I encourage you to buy local.

But, to be economical, dining in saves money.

This was my grocery list at Kroger yesterday: 3 packs of assorted frozen vegetables, frozen chicken, strawberries, bananas, milk (2% and lactose-free), chewy granola bars, and paper towels. My grand total: $32.32.

Even with my Kroger card, but compared to dining out, I saved lots of money. A meal for one at Applebee's, O'Charleys, Chili's, or wait for it... Red Lobster, cost somewhere north of $32.32.

I can make multiple meals with the items I bought yesterday. In fact I am eating one of those meals right now. Since yesterday, I have already eaten three times from the items I bought.

The lesson here is simple: Dining in, eating your groceries, cooking (or microwaving) your own food saves you lots of, lots of, lots of money.

#FrugalNation


Receive the Good News

Genesis 45:27 (NKJV)- "But when they told him all the words which Joseph had said to them, and when he saw the carts which Joseph had sent to carry him, the spirit of Jacob their father revived."

Genesis 45:28 (NKJV)- "Then Israel said, 'It is enough, Joseph my son is still alive. I will go and see him before I die.'"

God changed Jacob's name to Israel (Gen. 32:28). Jacob = Israel.

In Genesis 45:27, Jacob's spirit was revived.

This was the same Jacob who wrestled with God face-to-face. Now we see him in a state of doubt and hopelessness. He'd grown old and his land was famished.

Then he finds out his beloved son, Joseph, is alive and well. Joseph's other brothers sold him away to slavery and Jacob hadn't been seen for many years.

When he first hears the news, Jacob doubts (Gen. 45:26), but after seeing all the donkeys, grain, bread, and food from Egypt, Jacob believes them (Gen. 45:23).

Upon hearing the good news, Jacob is revived.

The s…

No Sewer, No Development

I learned this the hard way.

Two days ago I was recruiting a business to town and led them to a visible, fairly large tract of land that met their site needs. Only to find that the property has no sewer.

Fortunately, I talked to our City Engineer who informed me that plans were underway to extend sewer to the property.

The lesson here is simple: no sewer, no development.

Fortunately, too, the prospective business is still very interested in bringing their business to town even though matters may briefly be on hold until easements are acquired and the City approves the sewer extension plans.

To find out if sewer exists on undeveloped or underdeveloped property, call the City or County Engineering or Land Use Department. Typically, they can provide that information.

It is just like "Call Before You Dig." Except, in these instances, "Make Sure There is Sewer Before You Invest."


Job Creation for All

It's election night in America.

Having watched debates in North Carolina, Florida, and Georgia, every senate and governor candidate shares a common goal: Create Jobs.

Their respective plans to create those jobs varies, but the end goal is the same.

As an economic developer and city planner, I certainly applaud any candidate desiring to create jobs and aiming to make their jurisdictions better places for entrepreneurship, employment, and investment.

Although the popular media thrives on division and negative campaigning; in truth, we are more alike than different.

Surf the campaign websites of the numerous candidates across the nation. Look specifically at their plans for the economy. At the foundation there is not much difference. Every candidate wants more jobs.

Once the elections are over, I hope we reconcile our differences and work together to improve our economy. For everyone.

After all, job creation is a team sport. As I have to constantly remind myself, "economic devel…

Research, Research, and Yes, Research

These past few weeks have been consumed with research, research, and more research.

Effective economic development relies on data. The quantitative facts help tell a community's story. Just the facts, no opinions.

In my years of research, I have come to find these three sources as the MOST reliable for finding community data. Fortunately, all three are free!

If you ever find yourself in need of data to run reports, for marketing purposes, or to find trends, I highly recommend the following three. They are ranked for wealth of information, not user-friendliness.

Census.gov- The most reliable and most thorough source out there, period.Bls.gov- Bureau of Labor Statistics, also very reliable and daily updated.City or Local Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR)- City or County CAFR's are often overlooked gems of historical economic, financial, and demographic data. There are many others too such as your state's Department of Revenue and your state's Department of Tran…

Thank You

I was at Ingles today buying a few groceries after work. I went through the self-checkout lane. After purchasing my items, the screen read bright letters "THANK YOU."

"Thank You." Two words can go a very long way.

It is an expression of gratitude. Most of the time, it costs almost nothing, but it's a deposit of everything.

A simple "thanks" goes further than saying nothing at all. If attitude is everything, then an attitude of gratitude is everything x 100.

"Thank You" is a bridge-builder. There are no limits to where manners and appreciation for others can take you.

In fact, it is so important that we're teaching my nephew at an early age.

Enjoy the Video.



Leadership is...

Leadership is costly.

Yes, there is the constant decision-making element. Yes, there are the time demands. Yes, there are days when the "to-do" list doesn't get done to put out immediate fires.

Leadership is demanding.

That, too, is the nature of it. Leaders, at times, have to do what others won't. Leadership is dirty work. It is. There is no armor shining. No time for it. The greatest leaders serve with humility.

Leadership is servanthood.

Leadership is all about others. Oftentimes serving to the point of exhaustion. Leadership is taxing, testing, and tiring. It is not for the faint of heart.

But, at the end of day, leadership is worth it.

To see the lives of others are improved. To see a goal accomplished that makes others better off. To build trust, relationships, and build confidence in others is worth the mental back-and-forth that goes in the decision-making process.

Leadership is a blessing.


The Voices of Lee

The Voices of Lee landed in Dalton, GA today.

They were our special guests at Community Fellowship Church. And they were beyond amazing!!!

This is the same group of singers that sang at the President's Inauguration in 2012 and all over the world.

We were blessed to witness a display of tonal accuracy, open and closed voicings, high and low pitches, and 8-voice harmonies all singing gloriously about Christ.

They sang passionately about His glory and His grace.

I was fortunate to accompany them on the piano during an intimate moment of worship.

The church, the community, and many visitors joined us for this beautiful gathering to magnify God.

I can only imagine what Heaven may sound like. I certainly heard angelic voices today.

Clink the link to watch some of my footage of them.

Music with Compassion

The music program of the church can be an effective tool to help meet people's needs.

Music, like its Creator, transcends age, sex, and status. The choir, especially, is about the only ministry where teens, seniors, singles, widows, and the married join in a united effort. As opposed to other church functions that tend to be segmented: youth ministry, singles ministry, married couples fellowship, etc.
With none of these barriers to entry, us music minsters should welcome those with interest to participate.
The music department is also the only place where newcomers can contribute immediately. 
Taking the come-all nature of music, it is critical that we ministers of music serve with compassion.
We must welcome the hurting, the sick, the confused. 
Leading with compassion must be our intent.

Where Does Planning Come From?

Where did city, urban, and regional planning come from???
The American Planning Association points planning's origins to 5 root causes:
Aesthetics Roots and the City Beautiful Movement- The City Beautiful Movement began in the 1800's and it is exactly what its name suggests. In the 1800's, cities and towns were not built with aesthetics in mind. Most thought how a city looked was not the role of government. The City Beautiful Movement traces its beginnings to the Chicago World's Fair of 1893 when a large portion of the fairgrounds were transformed into a "White City" showcasing architecture and landscaping. That thought process transferred to a macro level sparking citizens to ask why that same concept couldn't be applied, citywide.Civil Engineering and Public Health Concerns- During the industrial era, American cities were filthy and crowded. Water was contaminated and sewage was not treated leading to numerous water-borne and insect-bred diseases. Instal…

Post-Colonial Sanitation Needs Helped Establish Planning

Much of planning and zoning as we know today was birthed out of the need for urban sanitation.

In the 19th century, sewer and waste water treatment were non-existent. Additionally, urban areas experienced unhealthy population densities and overcrowding was everywhere. That made the way for water-borne diseases like cholera and typhoid fever to be major killers. In addition to insect-borne illnesses like malaria.

The solution: a water carriage sewer system.

To build a comprehensive sewer system for a city requires large-scale planning. Since such system operates by gravity, a survey of the topography of the city must be considered in the layout of streets. Future growth needs, mapping houses and largely dense areas, and traffic flows are also needed.

All of this requires planning.

Not saying that post-colonial era sanitation needs were the sole impetus for city planning, but it certainly led us to recognize the need.


Leading Praise and Worship

There is nothing like leading others in praise and worship.
Taking others into a place of intimacy with God where we all praise and speak highly of our God and King.
Helping usher in God's presence before the preached word comes forth.
It is not a ritual. It is not ceremonious. It is not just another part of service. 
Praise and worship is a privilege. God's people realize their inferiority before the Superior One.
I do not claim to be the greatest pianist or vocalist in the world, but it is a privilege to use what God has given me to make melodies and songs all speaking highly of Him.
Then, to look into the crowd and see hands and voices lifted. It is a blessing.

Leadership and Humility

Leadership is humble servanthood. A leader serves others. Humility puts others above yourself. Humility is not pride or arrogance.
Humility is inferiority before Christ. 
An arogant, conceited, know-it-all attitude is not leadership. It is foolery. An arrogant "leader" is his/her own demise.
Leaders respect the intelligence, experiences, and opinions of others. Leadership is not saying "yes" to every recommendation, suggestion, or idea. It is a gently firm respect and high regard for others. 
Leadership is steering others toward a goal. 
These qualities are noticeable and cultivated over time. Leadership does not come by position. Leadership is not developed overnight.
Leadership is only for the humble, the diligent, the servants. 
The way up is down... "For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted."- Luke 14:11.
"When pride comes, then comes shame; But with the humble is wisdom."- Proverbs 11:2

Data Drives Decisions

A large part of economic development is marketing. In other words: helping businesses understand why they should invest in your community. Why should they relocate their corporate office in your town? Why should they hire 50 people in your city? Why should they open a regional office or a large plant in your area?
Economic developers answer those questions for their respective communities. 
And, as is true for any marketing, you need supporting data. Without data, everything is mere opinion. Baseless and unfounded.
Let the numbers tell the story.
Key data on demographics, labor force, education, the marketplace, and types of businesses should be available and visible.
From my meetings with corporate executives, site selectors, and real estate executives this one fact rings true: Data Drives Decisions.

The Heart of Gospel. The Art of Jazz. Part 1

Gospel music is effective for its message. Jazz is effective for its music. The quintessential song is birthed when the heart of gospel and the art of jazz blend.

When produced together, both remain true to their form: 100% Gospel and 100% Jazz.

Gospel + Jazz is arguably the most beautiful combination in all of music. And, quite frankly, the resulting sound is unique and not recorded enough.

But, to illustrate what happens when the two marry, below are 5 songs I strongly recommend you listen to. They are listed in alphabetical order based on the artist's first name.

"Carry On"- Babbie Mason http://youtu.be/eCVPE-5dMvI"Daniel and the Dangerous Dudes"- Carman https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ViWTTeLgdqM"Biggest, Greatest Thing"- Mary Mary https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2qsSVQ-sIRs"I've Got Life"- Take 6 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=da-fOAyMPz4"Never Alone"- Yolanda Adams https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sH0rdm7DCic


Planning in the Bible

More than we realize, the Bible shows planning taking place all the time.

From the various city and country names to the landmarks and birth and death places, God's Holy Word shows that planning and zoning has been around longer than we think.
For example, after the passing of his wife Sarah, Abraham purchases property in Canaan to give her a proper burial. (Genesis 23:2-4).
After negotiating with the sons of Heth, Abraham buys the cave of Machpelah (Genesis 23:17-18). 
Once in Abraham's possession, Abraham only uses the property as a burial place (Genesis 19-20). And, for no other purpose. The area was designated or zoned as a cemetery. 

Red Doors

During my stay in Savannah last week, I took a tour of the First African Baptist Church, the first church established by African-Americans in North America. 
Interestingly, the doors are painted red. Based on research by the tour guide and Savannah professor, Dr. Jamal Toure, the red doors represent African ownership. Red doors also represent a sanctuary, a place of worship.
Doubly interesting, in Exodus 12:7, the Lord instructed Moses and Aaron to tell the children of Israel to paint their doorposts red during the very first the Passover (Exodus 12:1-12). On that particular night, the Lord said "I will pass through the land of Egypt on that night, and will strike all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgement; I am the Lord." Exodus 12:12. 
There is a connection here. There are no consequences with God. He does everything on purpose. 
The red doors yield evidence to the fact that Georgia's earliest …

Family History

Today, one of the matriarchs of my family passed on.

Her mother, who passed in 1996, wrote my family history- A History of the Willis Family of Wilkes County, GA.

Today's passing brings with it the loss of information, history, and stories that are now irretrievable.

Last week while in Savannah, I took the African-American History Tour hosted by Dr. Jamal Toure (who I will put in a shameless plug for, if you're ever in Savannah, take his tour, you won't regret it).

I was fortunate to have a one-on-one conversation with Dr. Toure, apart from the tour. Our dialogue centered around knowing the importance of family history because the family story is your story. In Dr. Toure's words "With every funeral, we lose a piece of our history."

The passing of my cousin really brings it home. There is no telling how much family history her historian mother shared with her. Stories, ancestor's names, encounters, and struggles that we may not have the privilege of hearin…

1st Time for Savannah

I spent Wednesday-Friday in Savannah at the Georgia Economic Developers Association Annual Conference. It was GEDA's 51st annual conference, my 1st one attending, and my 1st time in Savannah.

From beginning to end, the conference was amazing. I didn't want it to end. In fact, I stayed another night in Savannah on my own dime.

Savannah, Georgia's oldest city, is quite the place. James Oglethorpe's original development plans still remain: the grid-like design, the numerous squares, and open spaces.

Yes, James Oglethorpe's city planning from 1733 are still evident today. Therefore, he is not only the founder of Georgia, but also Georgia's first city's planner and economic developer.

I'll return with more about the economic, historic, and social elements contained within the living history book that is Savannah, Georgia.

Shout Out to Lecrae. Last week he became the first Christian rapper to reach #1 on the Billboard 200 and appeared on the Tonight Show with…

Take 6

I am a huge Take 6 fan. They, along with Commissioned, are my favorite singing group of all-time.

Apart from their phenomenal music, here is one special reason.

My sister, Tabitha, passed in the summer of 2009. Up until that point, I was not very close to my mother's family. But at Tab's passing, my moma's family drew really close to us. And we to them, like never before.

Moma's mother is one of eleven children raised on a farm in Wilkes County, Georgia. Among those eleven were 6 boys and 5 girls.

The six Andrews men are my great-uncles: James "Mule," Mack, Leroy, Moses "Mose," Allen, and Dennis. Uncle Mule died the same year I was born. I never got to meet him. But the other five are some of the nicest, supportive, wise, funniest, and loving men I could ever ask for in uncles. Since 2009, all five of them have been special parts of my life.

I am thankful.

Take 6 is a group of six men. I have six great uncles. Every time I listen to Take 6 I think o…

Praise & Worship Observations

Only musicians know...

1. I have strong dislike to see people sitting during praise and worship. God inhabits the praises of his people (Psalms 22:3). We begin Sunday morning church service with praise, worship, music, and dancing. Yet some people just sit in their seats and watch. Church is not a concert. Church is interactive. Spiritual battles are won in praise and sacrifice, not sitting and spectating.

2. I don't speak much before church. It's not me being rude or anti-social, it's focus. I am focused. Focused on God and my responsibilities as a musician to kill my flesh and ego and allow the Holy Spirit to take control. I desire a pure flow from my heart and mind to my hands, through the piano, and into the ears, hearts, and minds of the listeners. People need to hear from God, not me.

3. When it's not time to play, I don't. Church is not a venue for me to solo and show off my latest and greatest tricks. There is a time and place for that. But, for the most pa…

The Broader Implications of the Georgia-Clemson Game

Today's 2014 football season opener between Georgia and Clemson is major.

This rivalry, dating back to to the 1800's, is now rare. Throughout the 1970's, 80's, and 90's, the Georgia-Clemson game was a near surety on each team's schedule. Matchups between the two schools were not nearly as frequent in the early 2000's. That's what makes this game a gem. Neither school knows the next time they may play each other.

Another reason, Clemson recruits Georgia athletes. In fact, Clemson University is only a few miles from the Georgia line. Therefore, it's almost a brother against brother rivalry. Players on both teams played together or against one another growing up in either Georgia or South Carolina.

Another reason, this is the first season of the College Football Playoffs. The winner of today's game will increase their playoff chances.

Lastly, I have decided to pursue a master's degree in Urban and Regional Planning. The winner of today's ga…

Sustainable Joy

Philippians 3:1- "... rejoice in the Lord..."
Philippians 4:4- "Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice."

Here's the bottom line: Nothing in this world offers sustaining, non-stop, renewable joy. Only Christ can.

Happiness is based on happenings, stemming from happenstance. Based on circumstances, happiness goes up and down.

Money, fame, cars, clothes- absolutely none of them offer sustainable joy. Nor do they offer peace, healing, salvation, healing, or hope, for that matter. Only Christ can. That's why we're told to rejoice in the Lord.

Actor Robin Williams had it all. He was among Hollywood's elite and a household name. Yet, last week he hanged himself with a belt. From afar, I can only imagine that none of his stuff could give him the peace or joy he really needed.

I am not against money, fame, cars, or clothes, and I am a fan of Mr. William's extraordinary talents. However, the message here is that we can everything, but have …

Observation: Basic, Yet Powerful

In his 1984 book, What They Don't Teach You at Harvard Business School, Mark H. McCormack gives a seven step plan for watching and reaching people.

Interestingly, the first three of Mr. McCormack's seven steps are all about observation.

Here is a synopsis of those first three steps from Mr. McCormack.

1. Listen Aggressively. Don't only listen to what people are saying, but how they say it.

2. Observe Aggressively. Body language and dress are oftentimes context clues.

3. Talk Less. You learn more, hear more, see more, and make fewer blunders when you talk less.

James 1:19 sums it up: "So then, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath."

Basic, yet powerful!




US-Africa Leaders Summit's Importance

This week President Barack Obama hosted a three-day US-Africa Leaders Summit, the first of its kind and the largest gathering of African heads of state by an American President.

The Summit lasted August 4 (Monday)-6 (Wednesday). Its focus was on trade, investment, and strengthening ties between the US and Africa- one of the world's fastest growing regions.

During the Summit, the President announced $14B in new private sector investments supporting a variety of industries, creating thousands of jobs, and opening up new opportunities for future collaboration.

President Obama is the first US President of African descent. His father, Barack Obama Sr., was a Kenyan economist. Given his close African heritage, it seems only right that President Barack Obama, the 44th President of the United States, monumentally lay the groundwork towards stronger relations with Africa.

As an economist, economic developer, voting US citizen, and African-American, I am proud our President capitalized on t…

19th Century and the Urban Creation

The 19th century in the US was all about urbanization. And in great thanks to the Industrial Revolution.
Agricultural machinery made farmers more productive causing would-be farmers and field workers to head for other employment opportunities, mostly in cities.
Enterprises moved from cottages to factories. Large factories required workers. Workers created the need for nearby housing which then created the need for consumer goods and services. This led to the growth of department stores. Departments stores, then, also needed workers to stock the shelves. Education and entertainment also grew in demand as cities grew.
Immigration and nearby water were also attributable to the rise of 19th century cities. Water transportation was cheap, travel by horse and trolley were expensive, and trains had not yet realized their expansionary potential.
So, yes, US urbanization is a by-product of the Industrial Revolution. The 20th century witnessed the decentralization of these urban areas, mostly d…

Columbus, OH and Atlanta, GA

Columbus, Ohio, (population: 822,553) and Atlanta, Georgia, (population: 447,841) have many similarities.

Both are homes to phenomenal universities, The Ohio State University and Georgia Tech, respectively. Yet, both cities have managed not to become typical "college towns." Meaning, these large colleges are not the dominant, or in some cases the only, economic drivers in the community.

That's no easy feat. Ohio State currently has about 63,900 students while Georgia Tech claims roughly 14,500.

The fact that these institutions are not the primary economic powerhouses reflects strong local leadership and planning, solid economic diversification and vitality, and a desirable place where education is only one of many community assets.

Both cities are landlocked. Both cities are their respective State Capitals. And both cities remain atop the places to live, visit, and do business in the United States.

That's admirable. Well done Columbus and well done Atlanta!


Ohio's Farms and Agriculture

Wednesday I attended the Ohio State Fair. Had a great time by the way, but what stood out most is Ohio's vibrant and proud agricultural tradition. 
Ohio is home to such giant urban centers as Columbus (where I am currently vacationing), Cincinnati, Cleveland, Dayton, Akron, and Toledo. However, agriculture remains a vital economic driver in the Buckeye State. 
The landscape is flat. Rivers flow. Rail runs through the state and The Ohio State University has a highly-demanded agricultural program. 
I am amazed to see such rural pride, scenery, and economic impact of farming and agriculture that is here in Ohio.
Pictures below is a butter cow at the Ohio State Fair. Yes, a butter cow.


A Study: Romans 3 Pt. 2

Last post laid the ground work for this post. Romans 3 is packed with truths and fundamental wisdom every one needs to know. It drives home one simple fact: God's saving grace comes through Christ's death and resurrection.

Before going any further, I recommend you read the previous post.

Romans 3:25 "propitiation" means to satisfy or appease. "Forebearance" means to hold back.

One of the Hebrew names of God is Jehovah describing God's nature as a righteous judge. As the righteous judge, He must punish sin.

In Romans 3:25, we read of God's forebearance passing over the sins of the world. In other words, God held back His wrath from those who sin. Instead of destroying everyone the moment they sin, God graciously holds back His judgement.

Why?

To save sinners (which is all of mankind based on Romans 3:23) from the eternal punishment they deserve for their sins and to lead everyone back to Him (Romans 2:4).

Christ's sacrifice satisfied the offended…

A Study: Romans 3 Pt. 1

Truth for everyone is found in Romans 3.

There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, circumcised or uncircumcised because "all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Rom. 3:22). Jesus is our redeemer (Rom. 3:24) and God-sent propitiation (Rom. 3:25). 
Because of Jesus, we are justified (Rom. 3:24). God sent Jesus to be man's redeemer and propitiation because of God's own grace (Rom. 3:24) "to demonstrate His righteousness" (Rom. 3:25) and to justify those who put "their faith in Jesus" (Rom. 3:26).
To redeem is to repurchase.
We'll connect the dots to all of these terms and definitions in the next post, but for now, familiarization with these phrases in context of the Scripture gives the setting for understanding Christ's sacrifice and God's grace.

Money & Shout Outs

I have wormed my way into is The Millionaire Next Door by Thomas J. Stanley Ph.D. and William D. Danko Ph.D. This book dives deeply into the psychology, habits, and financial discipline of millionaires. I am halfway through chapter two and here are a few observations I'd like to share:
Most millionaires set financial goals and build the discipline to accomplish each.Most millionaires aren't big spenders. In fact, wealth has absolutely nothing to do with materialism nor consumer spending goods and services.Most millionaires budget, tightly. That's because they have cultivated good financial offense and defense...Financial offense is income generation. Most affluent households have incomes higher than the US average which was, at the time the book was written (1996), $30,000. Financial defense is being frugal. Most non-millionaires and high-earning, low net worth Americans are on a non-stop earn-spend cycle. Saving, budgeting, wisely investing, and being frugal are four weapo…

Cars and Air

Car and air quality, what's the connection?

More cars = more air pollution.

Every community has its respective traffic issues, whether real or perceived. And in most cases, the solution is widen existing lanes or add new ones. Although this is logical, there is a method to the madness.

Whenever considering transportation projects, communities should always consider air quality standards. These standards could significantly limit transportation enhancements. More and more communities are waking up to the importance of sustainability, climate change, and walkability.

Planners and economic developers are really beginning to realize there are other means to fix transportation problems and not all of them involve roadway expansion. Sidewalks, bike trails, railroads, and airports are also means of travel. Sidewalks and bike trails in particular do not emit any kind of chemicals into the environment.




Keep This Is In Mind For Economic Development Budget Planning

Perhaps the most important kind of planning any economic developer could undertake in a given year is not land use planning, not long-range planning, not master planning, but BUDGET planning.

No budget, no project. Budgets- the allotted funds set aside for given activities- are the financial foundation of most economic development projects. In fact, any type of land disturbance, consultant work, or infrastructure-related projects all require money. Budgeted money.

Budgets are a direct reflection of the fiscal year's priorities.

Having just finished up planning my department's FY15 Projected Budget, I can testify that preparing the budget is no easy task. It requires a focus into the short-term and long-term needs of the community coupled with good timing.

If you are preparing a budget for your economic development organization, keep these three matters in mind:


Put the community's needs above your organization's goals. After all, we are here to serve our communities. Th…

Christ's Saving Power

Came across these simple truths while studying Matthew 14:22-33 this morning. I encourage to read these scriptures before reading any further. You may find it a bit confusing to follow without first reading the text in God's Holy Word.

Jesus immediately responds to all of Peter's requests. "Can I walk too?", "I'm drowning, save me." All you have to do is ask (Luke 16:24). Jesus replies to our heartfelt requests.Jesus did not let Peter drown. Peter did not die. Jesus saved his life. You may fall or feel your life is in a drowning state, but Jesus will pick you up. Ask Him.The natural circumstance of stormy weather was no match for Jesus. Jesus defies all logic, nature, and other governing laws of the universe. Nothing is impossible for Him (Luke 1:37).Peter did the right thing: he saw he was sinking and called Jesus. Jesus replies, immediately.Faith in Jesus is, and always will be, the key to victory. In verse 30 Jesus says "O ye of little of faith, …

Insights

Insight gives you the ability to predict the future. This intuitiveness is important especially when dealing with people. On this subject matter, Mark H. McCormack says it best in his 1984 book What they Don't Teach at Harvard Business School:
"A person's true nature, true self, cannot change with situations. It is totally consistent. The better you know that person, the more you can get beneath the facades, the more accurately you can predict how he or she is likely to react or respond in almost any business situation." Insight is critical not just in dealing with people, but when managing projects. Begin with the end in mind. Have a concrete vision of what the project is to accomplish and why it is a worthwhile investment of your time. As Proverbs 29:18 states:
"Where there is no vision, the people perish..."
Our work and business lives are all about managing people and projects. Without these two in sync, our effectiveness is limited. When we aren't …

Greenways, Walks, and Lessons

I just started reading Greenways by Charles Flink and Robert M. Searns. As the title implies, it is about greenways. As the book defines it: "A greenway is a linear open space established along either a natural corridor, such a s riverfront, stream valley, or ridgeline, or overland along a railroad right-of-way converted to recreational use, a canal, scenic road, or other route. It is any natural or landscaped course for pedestrian or bicycle passage. An open-space connector linking parks, nature reserves, cultural features, or historic sites with each other and with populated areas. Locally, certain strip or linear parks designated as parkway or greenbelt."
Greenways are important to any area's desirability to live and recreate. Greenways make a great combination with walkability. As baby boomers and millenials desire more walkable, pedestrian-friendly communities, greeenways enhance the foot-walking, bike-riding, stroll-pushing infrastructure that these two massive dem…

3 Takeaways from 3 Takeaways

I am going to let the thoughts run rapid this time. But so as not to let things get too hectic, I will provide a format: 1. 3 takeaways from Walkable City by Jeff Speck, AICP 2. 3 takeaways from Don't Waste Your Life by John Piper 3. Three takeaways and occurrences from me.

3 Takeaways from Walkable City. The General Theory of Walkabability explains the four components of a favorable walk. A favorable walk must be:UsefulSafeComfortableInterestingThe economic advantage of walkable places can be identified by three key factors:Urban living is more attractive to young creativesThose preferring an urban lifestyle will grow for the next few decadesWould-be gas and car maintenance money can be spent elsewhere, locallyMillenials, my generation, represent the biggest population bubble in 50 years. 64% of college-educated millenials choose where they want to live first, then look for a job. 3 Takeaways from Don't Waste Your Life. People talk about God in vague ways. But to have God is to…

Credit Ratings and Economic Development

Like private entities, city and county governments undergo credit rating reviews. Here's what a credit rating review is and it's just as important for cities as it is for private companies.
A credit rating review is an evaluation of the repayment ability of an individual or firm of a bond.
A bond is a written or signed promise to pay a specified sum of money on a certain date for example, contracts and loan agreements are bonds.
The actual credit rating (or score) is based on credit history, present financial conditions, and projected future conditions.
Credit is rated by credit rating agencies. The two largest credit rating agencies are Standard & Poor's and Moody's
Credit rating agencies (CRA) evaluate the financial conditions of issuers (another word for "users") of debt and assigns them a rating reflecting the CRA's assessment of the issuer's ability to make the debt repayment.
Potential investors, families and businesses in the case of citi…