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Showing posts from 2016

Jobs and Opportunity

"Any strategy to reduce intergenerational poverty has to be centered on work, not welfare- not only because work provides independence and income but also because work provides order, structure, dignity, and opportunities for growth in people's lives."
"Still we can assume that with lawful work available for young men now in the drug trade, crime in many communities would drop; that as a consequence more employers would locate businesses in these neighborhoods and a self-sustaining economy would begin to take root... over the course of ten or fifteen years norms would begin to change, young men and women would begin to imagine a future for themselves, marriage rates would rise, and children would have a more stable world in which to grow up."
- Both of these excerpts are taken from The Audacity of Hope by President Barack Obama

Not that I agree with everything President Obama has done as our Nation's Leader, but there is much merit to his statements here.

Job…

The Coming Jobs War Completed

I just finished reading The Coming Jobs War by Jim Clifton.

The root of the content is economics, and how the competition for good jobs will determine international power and commerce in the future.

I recommend public and private sector leaders, and aspiring leaders, read this book.

A few key notes from the book that stood out to me:

The combination of cities, educational institutions, and leaders (private and public) fuel job creation.High school dropout and graduation rates are the fate of the nation. Leaders must do whatever is necessary to keep students in school.Engaged and high-energy workplaces result in engaged and high-energy employees that produce superior results. This leads to more customers, more jobs, more startups, and more economic energy.Jobs grow where new customers appear. Businesses need to be customer-friendly and have deep customer insight to grow their enterprises and create jobs.Where there are small and medium-sized businesses, there are jobs and bright futures…

The Studio

I'd like to share exactly what's in my music studio to provide an idea of some of the capabilities packaged in this tiny space and hope it encourages you.

2 computersThe laptop is where the music is created. This is all done in Propellerheads Reason 9.0.The desktop is solely for mixing and post-production work. This is done using a combination ofACID Pro 7.0Adobe Audition 3.0Amazing Slow DownerPropellerheads RecycleSony Sound Forge 10.0WavePad Sound Editor2 Platinum KRK Rokit 5 G3 Sound Monitors- some of the clearest speakers on the planet.AKAI MPD26- just like the classic AKAI MPC's only it's completely MIDI-driven.Focusright Scarlett Solo- the interface that connects hardware instruments to Reason.Korg 03R/W- an analog synth-filled module featuring sounds that are tough to mimic digitally.Kurzweil MicroPiano- one of the best sound modules ever. The piano and string variations sound strikingly authentic and distinct.M-Audio KeyStation 49ES- a lightweight and travel-fri…

Stewardship and Responsibility

"What is my reward then? That when I preach the gospel, I may present the gospel of Christ without charge, that I may not abuse my authority in the gospel."- 1 Corinthians 9:18


Scripture speaks of responsibility and authority to govern your sphere of influence with integrity. 
Everything God has given you stewardship of: time, mind, body, finances, and relationships, should be handled with responsibility and within His sovereign boundaries clearly depicted in Scripture.
I gather five points here: Use your authority wisely. It matters and it pleases God.Lead people who depend on you to greater understanding and growth. Not to yourself.Don't use authority for your own benefit.Your authority is not for you, but to ultimately show forth God's glory on earth. God-honoring leadership steers people to healing and improvement. Self-driven leadership results in abuse of power, confusion, and hurt. Leaders, do not abuse your authority. Take the domain God has given you to exerc…

Thank You For Your Child

"LORD, we thank you for your child, born in a manger meek and mild. Unto us this day born the King of Israel... 
Hallelujah born is the King, Hallelujah His praises we sing."
The chief reason we celebrate Christmas is Jesus' birth and the incredible gift God gave mankind to make salvation free and available to all who believe.

No, Jesus was not born on Christmas. But, that does not discount how God's Only Son came to earth to save us all. 

Christ is mankind's only hope. Because He later died a brutal death that bore our sins and later resurrected with all power, we celebrate. The salvation story begins with His birth. This song captures the essence of that message. Lord We Thank You For Your Child!







Trump, Pence Take Action for Economic Development

Regardless of where you stood on the most recent Presidential Election, it should be nonetheless interesting that President-Elect Donald Trump's first action, outside of administration picks, is helping keep jobs in the US by talking directly with the CEO of United Technologies Corp.

United Technologies Corp. is the parent company of Carrier, the air conditioner and furnace manufacturer.

Why did Trump talk with the CEO of United Technologies Corp.? United Technologies Corp. was intending to eliminate 2,100 jobs spread across Indiana and move them to Mexico.

Knowing this, Mr. Trump and Vice President-Elect and Indiana Governor Mike Pence held meetings with United Technologies' leadership that, no doubt, influenced the manufacturer's decision.

Like any Governor who wants to (and should) retain jobs in their state, Mr. Pence and Mr. Trump, likely in partnership with the Indiana Economic Development Corporation, put together a package that includes $7 million in tax breaks. As…

2016 MAC Annual Meeting

Today I attended the 157th Metro Atlanta Chamber Annual Meeting.

The Metro Atlanta Chamber (MAC) has an incredible way of bringing together the region's best and brightest for the purpose of promoting and strengthening progress and opportunity in metro Atlanta.

I am honored to be a part of the MAC story, which began as intern in 2012 and now as an economic development partner.

What makes this annual meeting different is:

- It's the last one for MAC residing at its current headquarters in Centennial Olympic Park. MAC will be moving into its new location on Peachtree to start the new year.

- MAC revealed its new logo today. A brand new Phoenix that also represents all 29 counties that MAC serves.

Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed gave a moving keynote speech. He spoke of Ambassador Andrew Young and Billy Payne's ability to unify and secure the Centennial Olympic Games in Atlanta.

Atlanta is one of only six U.S. cities to ever host the Olympics. Mayor Reed highlighted the cooperation …

Music to God and He Alone

It's been a real blessing to minister musically four times last weekend.
From Methany Thorton's single release concert for "Fighter", to our regularly-scheduled two Sunday morning services at church, to the 4th Annual CFC Thanksgiving Concert. God is good.
Psalms 100:1 "Make a joyful shout to the LORD, all you lands!"
I believe there is victory when we shout and sing to the Lord in full faith and confidence that God not only hears us, but will respond, knowing exactly what we need.
Psalm 100:4 "Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, and into His courts with praise. Be thankful to Him, and bless His name."
That does not sound like a quiet setting to me. That sounds like a victorious shout of victory. Similar to the one commanded Joshua to do at the Walls of Jericho (Joshua 6:16-21).
We should have no shame in our praise. There should be no shyness in our dance, our clap, our shout, nor our singing.
If it were singing or creating music to please people, …

How I Practice

I have two exciting musical engagements coming up this weekend.
The first is the Single Release Concert for Methany Thornton's new single "Fighter" at House of Liberty Church on Saturday in Cartersville, GA. The second is the 4th Annual Community Fellowship Church Thanksgiving Musical at  Community Fellowship Church in Dalton, GA on Sunday. 
As I head into the musical weekend ahead, the thought came to me about my practice patterns. Here is some insight, I'd like to share with you- especially my fellow musicians.
There are primary ways that I learn and practice music: Kevin "KC" Conley, owner of Pretty Simple Music, is in my opinion the best at teaching pianists, at any level, the tools of the trade, especially for gospel, r&b, and pop styles. In addition to a number of videos available on YouTube, he has several videos available on his website. All of his products are excellent! Jason L. Smith is a jazz aficionado. He is highly gi…

The Election is Over. What Now?

The election is over. Mr. Donald Trump will be our Nation's 45th President.

I've talked with several friends and family since the results. Opinions are mixed between fears and cheers... Mostly fears.

Regardless of who you voted for, or your political persuasion, or your belief, it is time that we all unite. I know, that's tough. This was a passionate election cycle. But, the best we can do now is unite.

A house divided cannot stand.

The election is over. No more presenting problems without also presenting a solution.

True, everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but, cruelty and senselessness helps no one.

I write this out of love.

The Office of President of the United States is the toughest job in the world. If there is anything our Nation's leaders need, it's prayer. Pray for President Obama and President-Elect Trump.

The election is over.

Seeking God's wisdom reveals a time-tested truth and where I arrive at my stance:

Pray for our leaders (2 Timothy 2:1-…

Prayer: Sincere and Simple

"So He said to them, "When you pray, say: Our Father in heaven, Hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done On earth as it is in heaven. Give us day by day our daily bread. And forgive us our sins, For we also forgive everyone who is indebted to us. And do not lead us into temptation, But deliver us from the evil one." - Luke 11:2-4
If you were ever looking for a window into Jesus' prayer life, this is it.

Just like His entire life on earth, His prayer is not what is expected, but what is needed. Christ's prayer is not what we think we want to hear.

The Pharisees and other religious leaders in Jesus' day prayed long, impressive, big-worded prayers. Jesus' prayer is profound, but simple. It is real, sincere, and full of faith in God.

"Our Father in heaven, Hallowed be Your name"- He ackowledges God's presence and supremacy"Your kingdom come"- He asks for God's ways, will, and nearness"Give us day by day our d…

Don't Overlook Business Retention

As important as business attraction is, communities cannot overlook the importance of business retention. Retaining, or keeping local businesses, is one of the most effective and cost-efficient ways to keep communities vibrant and healthy.

For most communities 65%-85% of all job creation comes from existing businesses. Existing companies:

already supply local jobsalready contribute to the tax basealready enhance the local quality of lifealready generate economic activity 
From my experience, it seems as though business retention is one of the most unpopular facets of economic development that consistently yields the most effective results. No doubt, business attraction is important. But, existing businesses churn out the activity that keeps economies and communities strong, competitive, and vibrant. That's why their needs should be a top priority for any locale hoping to remain a desirable place to live, work, and do business.

The success and longevity of existing businesses is one…

ARC State of the Region: The Journey Continues

This morning the Atlanta Regional Commission (ARC) held its 2016 State of the Region Breakfast. It was a way to celebrate and recognize the achievements, people, and projects shaping Metro Atlanta's past, present, and future.

ARC is metro Atlanta's regional planning agency. From a sole planning standpoint it oversees coordination and administration of state and federal programming in the 10-county metro region. From a water conservation standpoint, ARC's footprint swells to over 20 metro counties.

ARC works within the metro area to ensure sound and quality growth in the areas of transportation, natural resources, aging and health, livability, workforce development, leadership development, and economic development.

Attending the State of the Region this morning was a unique experience held at the Georgia World Congress Center between the Georgia Dome and the under-construction Mercedes Benz Stadium. The room was filled with much Atlanta history, development leaders, elected…

Dr. Forman's Retirement

Dr. Maury Forman, my favorite author on economic development, announced his retirement earlier this year.

A veteran of the field, he served for 26 years in the State of Washington's Department of Commerce.

His body of work has had an invaluable impact on my understanding of the profession and the process of economic development.

I was first introduced to Dr. Forman's literature as an intern at the Metro Atlanta Chamber in 2012 when my boss at the time, Larry Williams, gave me a stack of around six or seven big, educational-looking books. The books typically had an author or two, but the one name they all had in common: Maury Forman.

As it turns out, Larry and Dr. Forman worked together at the State of Washington Department of Commerce. Larry's unselfish gifts to me opened the door to the simplistic yet information-intensive works of Dr. Maury Forman. As a result, I gained an understanding of economic development that I don't think I could have ever learned in a classro…

2 Corinthians 9:8 Carved Up

"And God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work." - 2 Corinthians 9:8
And God is able- There is nothing too hard for God (Jeremiah 32:27, Luke 18:27). You have to believe it.to make ALL grace- Not some, but all grace. That is all of God's unmerited favor and goodness (Ephesians 2:8-9) that He is making...abound toward you- Insert your name at "you."always having- Righteousness, peace, love, joy, patience, kindness, peace, salvation, healing, are wherever God is. So when He is with us so are all of His attributes. They are inseparable. all sufficiency- God's provision guarantees an abundance of what you need and what you are going to need (2 Corinthians 12:9). Whether that's during the school day, the work day, the test, the trying times, in obstacle and in opportunity, God- the Manufacturer of our Hearts- knows what we need and supplies it, sufficiently.…

Kingdom Man Round 2

I'm reading Kingdom Man by Tony Evans for the second time this year. This is nothing I typically do, but the book has already had a profound impact on my life and walk with the Lord that I chose to give it a rare Round 2 for the year.

Kingdom Man is not an average read, it is a call to action.

Looking to God's Word, Kingdom Man ignites a response to be more responsible, more courageous, more accountable, more loving, more watchful, and wholeheartedly dedicated to Christ.

The book builds on Scriptures to show what a Kingdom Man looks like, how he conducts himself, what God says about men, and why biblical manhood is in dire necessity today.

Evans consistently writes about rightful alignment in God's Word throughout the book. This passage struck a chord in me and I hope it does the same for you, especially for the fellas:

"Men, we serve in a kingdom. God is our King. Christ is our head, our leader. And He has asked us to stand fast. He has asked us to give our undivided …

Improvisation

I found this excerpt highlighted in Jazz Piano: A History by Billy Taylor. I must've highlighted it several months ago. Taylor gives a very solid understanding of improvisation.

"In jazz improvisation the melody is usually, but not always, stated. Then the pianist begins to play around the melody, often spontaneously creating a new melody from the basic harmonics or embroidering the original melody until its shape is changed. "

"Melodic invention, therefore, is one of the most important aspects of the jazz pianists craft. Every jazz pianist must learn to spontaneously create melodies which are original or representative of his or her musical ideas."

The deeper you study music, the piano in particular, you realize improvisation extracts from the chorus or melody in a song and amends it using a number of tools and techniques.

One of my personal all-time favorite improvisational pianists is Teddy Wilson. Listen to his original and effective improv solo on the classic …

I'm Learning

"I'm Learning through Your loving, how I become more trusting
I'm Learning through your sharing, how I can be a little more caring
I'm Learning Lord by Your guiding, the essence of life is really giving
Oh the closer I get to You, You reveal to me more and more"
- The Chorus of "I'm Learning" by Commissioned The more we get to know Christ, the more His love changes us. Growing in Christ is a non-stop learning process. Our thoughts and behaviors change as we start to understand His sacrificial and unconditional love for us. It is a journey of ups and downs, but no matter where we are, Christ stands fortified and lovingly teaches us His way. Perhaps no song better describes this constant growth like "I'm Learning" by Commissioned.


The Farewell Rooftop Reception

Last Thursday evening I attended the Metro Atlanta Chamber's (MAC) Farewell Rooftop Reception. 

It was a gathering of former and current employees and friends to celebrate one last time on the ever-so-cherished J.B. Fuqua Rooftop, where views of the Atlanta skyline and an overlook of Centennial Olympic Park provide a breath-taking setting. The room was filled with lots of history, laughter, and people who helped shape Atlanta and the metro area into the international destination it is today.

The Farewell Reception was spawned by last year's decision for MAC to sell its building to the Georgia World Congress Center Authority to expand Centennial Olympic Park. The building will be demolished to provide more greenspace in the area. MAC will move to a new location on Peachtree.

I am saddened to see the building go. MAC- the organization, the people, and the building welcomed me into its family as an intern in 2012. It's been family ever since and the building itself will alway…

Thoughts on Praise

This is to my fellow praise & worship leaders, ministers of music, choir directors, musicians, and those who use their musical gifts to glorify God.

Listen to your overseer. They are shepherds and watchmen of God's people. They are also the ones giving the preached word. If they request a song, sing it. Their request should take precedent over what you've prepared.If you're teaching a song, know the material-- thoroughly. How you introduce a song sets the tone for how the song will be delivered. If you want the vocalists to project confidence, teach with confidence. If you want negligence and sloppiness, teach it that way. Give every rehearsal, every service, every occasion 100%. Nothing less.Appreciate those you do ministry with. Anytime you praise you make spiritual war. Praise is a weapon. Appreciate the sacrifices and gifts of those you fight with.Don't allow the tiniest of problems to diminish your music.When the Spirit flows, forget the program. Salvation, hea…

Setting the Tone

As I finish preparing to play piano and minister in music at church tomorrow, I find myself always being very intentional about creating an environment around me that inspires originality, creativity, and worship. This atmosphere is most easily set with, naturally, music.

What and who I listen to varies, but the one goal is the music must be unique, true, and liberating. Any musician will tell you that creativity is not limited to one specific genre. Neither is great music restricted to "sacred" or "secular." If the heart is in the right place, those good intentions will manifest.

At the same time, because I am preparing to play in the LORD's house, I am sensitive to what I put in my ears. What goes in, eventually comes out. I want a pure flow from God to musically communicate to His people.

I typically don't share what gets me going on Saturdays, but, I believe these artists and their music is worth sharing.

Feel free to click the links and explore the art…

Random Thoughts

First of all, I think it's pretty coincidental that I wrote a post with this very same title on this day last year. That was not planned.

Anyways, random thoughts...


Economic developers, be accessible to the businesses you serve. Whether physically or electronically, be nearby. You never know when your help will be needed and you want to be ready to respond in the most effective way. In leadership, you won't make everyone happy. In most groups there are conflicting opinions. As long as everyone knows the vision and mission, disagreements can be worked through.In leadership, do not be afraid to make mistakes. Everyone does. In leadership, never forget that people matter most.A pure heart and right motivations have dramatic impacts on everything else.I'm digging three producers right now: Keith Thomas, Quincy Jones, and Michael Brooks.I'm so glad that the National Museum of African American History and Culture is open. Good night.

Instinct in Ignition

Between the wee hours of Friday morning and today, my creative juices have stirred, my mind intrigued, and passions reignited.

The first sparked came after finishing the seventh chapter of Instinct by Bishop T.D. Jakes. That was followed by this fire-kindling video by Antonio Neal that I shared with several friends. I hope it inspires you, too.

This morning we had Leadership Orientation at church. The gathering was loaded with pertinent information for Community Fellowship Church leaders to align ourselves with the Lord and the mission of the church.

Lastly, today I did something I haven't done since college: I created and tracked an entire song in one session. It took around 4.5 hours of brain-frying studio work, but worth it. Additionally, I'm looking forward to more as I praise and worship the Lord in music tomorrow.

For you, dear reader, remove any blocks, thoughts, notions, and perceived tendencies that keep you from creating like you know you can and should. The world ne…

GEDA Annual Conference 2016

I'm writing from the beautiful and historic city of Savannah, GA at the Georgia Economic Developers Association (GEDA) Annual Conference.

This conference, my third now, has become a hallmark of my year, both as a professional and a person as I get to reflect on the year and catch up with colleagues around the State.

It always take me back to my internship at the Metro Atlanta Chamber in the summer of 2012 when I first heard about GEDA. I recall not being able to afford membership dues. Fast forward to last year's annual conference when I was selected as a speaker at one of the breakout sessions.

Persistence and dedication can take you anywhere.

As for the conference itself, there's been some great presentations and panel discussions about workforce development, education, entrepreneurship (which went in depth about growth trends in makerspace labs, innovation, and crowdfunding), and an update of economic development accomplishments across the State by Georgia Department of…

Smooth Jazz

The sounds of contemporary or smooth jazz has really captured my musical attention as of recent.

At first I only thought of smooth jazz as nothing more than instrumental r&b. That is until I gave the genre further listening.

What kind of music changes sequences and melodies so frequently that sometimes only the chorus is reminiscent of the beginning? -- Without the use of an orchestra.

Jazz is the answer.

A beginning-to-present study of jazz clearly depicts the music's evolution to bluesy and electronically-driven smooth jazz destination of where we are today.

A few artists have emerged as some of my favorites already: George Duke, Wayman Tisdale, Norman Brown, Boney James, Dave Koz, Jeff Lorber, and Jonathan Fritzen.

There are also others like Ramsey Lewis, Ben Tankard, Jonathan Butler, and Take 6 who blend other genres into their sound whether its gospel, r&b, or straight ahead jazz.

But, no matter how it comes, smooth jazz has this head of mine bouncing with flavorful m…

The Radical Piano

As I have stated before, I am back in the studio. Back to recording music. Back to spending many hours in the lab churning musical ideas into connected realities.

Ever since I purchased Reason 9 in July, it has been fun experimenting and creating with this high-tech software. The team at Propellerheads makes it easy to be musical.

One of the rack extensions available in Reason 9 is the Radical Piano. It does not come standard with Reason. As a Reason user since 2003, the Radical Piano is the very first rack extension I have ever purchased. It is worth every penny!

Radical Piano allows you to customize your own piano sound- however you like. Sounds and outcomes are infinite.

The Radical Piano helps highlight the power and transcendence of the piano in any genre music and with any sound. It will definitely be heard in much of my new material.

This video shares information about the Radical Piano rack extension.




Metro Atlanta FDI

Today I attended a luncheon at the Metro Atlanta Chamber (MAC) centered around the Metro Atlanta Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) Plan.

The Metro Atlanta FDI Plan comes in partnership with MAC's participation in the Global Cities Initiative (GCI) along with the Brookings Institution and JPMorgan Chase.

The Atlanta Metro Export Plan (MEP) is one of the avenues by which regional, civic, business, and political leaders are engaged to help build strategies and relationships to raise awareness of the plan and grow area businesses. It also features grants funded by JPMorgan Chase for businesses exporting internationally.

At its core, the plan is rooted in job creation and business growth- both core components for economic development.

Click this link to learn more.



Globalization and Protectionism

Our world is connected. Technologically, economically, financially, socially, politically, militarily, and however else, more bridges and partnerships exist now internationally than in any other time in history.

From a jobs and opportunity standpoint, we cannot stop globalization. In the U.S. especially, we are deeply integrated with the rest of the world. Thanks in large part to technological advancement, the world is flat.
Like anything else, there are pros and cons to globalization. The limitations of globalization give birth to the argument of protectionism- how much of the U.S. economy should be off-limits to trade, international commerce, and preservation of American jobs? How "free" is free trade?
Concerns of protectionism are what make current policies like the Trans-Pacific Partnership, NAFTA, and CAFTA cause such a stir domestically.
I am not a protectionist, but I do believe we have to ensure that U.S. entrepreneurs and workers, patent rights, fair trade governanc…

New Music in the Works, Keep the Faith

It's official: I am back in the studio.

It's been a very long time coming.

Equipment breakdowns, discouragement, and temptation to give up and leave music production to the professionals.

That day has come to an end.

Even as I type this I am listening to a song under construction. It's very exciting to be back at it. I won't share all the details yet, but my re-introduction to the world of recorded music will hopefully capture my growth as a musician, student, and listener.

Dear reader, I want to leave you with this: No matter how dark, hopeless, or twisted your situation may be, God can enlighten you, restore your hope, and make what's crooked, straight.

The music I am listening to during the very writing of this post is a testament to God's ability to change any circumstance as long we place our trust in Him.

I appreciate all that God has given me to create a unique sound that gives Him glory.

Remember, waiting time is not wasted time. "They that wait on…

ALS Ice Bucket Challenge

Last Tuesday, the Rotary Club of Canton took the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge to raise awareness for ALS. This came after we donated $1,000 to the ALS Association of Georgia.

This is what living really is: serving others by giving what you have been blessed with. Whether that's time, talent, or treasure- our world is better when we give out of love, kindness, and sincerity.

Take a look at the video of my Club taking the Challenge.

Our Challenge was also highlighted in the Rotary District 6910 Newsletter.

Most importantly, donate to the cause. Given that I'm in Georgia, I recommend the ALS Association of Georgia, but any of the ALS Association's chapters will do. 
Together, we can fight and conquer ALS.


The Big 2-7

I turned 27 today!

This post is a big "Thank You" to everyone for all of the Happy Birthday hugs, kisses, phone calls, text messages, voice messages, Facebook posts, tweets, and gifts. A guy sure is blessed to be surrounded by so much love. It truly means the world. From the bottom of my heart- Thank You!


Service is Responsibility

Service- giving to others, is the response to a known need.

When you take initiative to respond to an evident issue or problem, you automatically transition into a position of service.

Service is when we take our resources, our abilities, our experiences, our passions, and all else within our capacity to solve problems for a cause or for an individual(s).

When we serve, we remove focus from ourselves and place it on others. This enriches their lives and ours and ultimately improves our world.

Service can be thankless, unsung, and downright unappreciated. But, yet is a wellspring of fulfillment and gratitude that receiving cannot match.

To serve is to respond to a problem. To respond to a problem is to serve.



Everyone you know has a need. Your resources, love, and care could be the answer.

NYC Chronicles: The Food

NYC is Food Heaven!

Great restaurants are literally everywhere. For six days in The City That Never Sleeps, my parents and I did not eat one bad meal.

Make no mistake about it, we've got excellent restaurants in the South. But, not nearly the diversity, volume, and cultural authenticity of NYC- all in one place.

From Restaurant Row to Chinatown, from Little Italy to Times Square, from Ray's Pizza to the Westway Diner, food was serious business for the three of us and for NYC's culinary scene.

Here are my top five favorite restaurants (in alphabetical order):

5 Napkin Burger
Dallas BBQ
Mother Burger
The Red Flame Diner
The Westway Diner

To truly experience NYC, you have to taste the place!



Yes, the majority of these are breakfast platters. This guy loves his breakfast!

NYC Chronicles: The Churches

As a blood-bought, born again, and redeemed Christian, I took a special interest in the churches of NYC.

Their architecture, their locations, their histories, their abilities to "draw all peoples" (John 12:32). People of varying ethnicities, languages, and cultures were stopping by these churches to take in their elaborate decor and experience. Their physical looks alone evoke a sense of reverence.

I will never forget driving by the Abyssinian Baptist Church on Sunday morning and seeing the unending line of people (many tourists among them) waiting to get inside for one of the church services. Or, the high occupancy of pews inside the Trinity Church (yes, from National Treasure). There remains widespread amazement of the strength, resilience, and strong ties to American history of St. Paul's Chapel. The Times Square Church sits literally in Times Square.

Interestingly enough, the doors of the Abyssinian Baptist Church and the Mother African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Zion…

NYC Chronicles: Funding Infrastructure

The sheer volume of NYC's infrastructure is in and of itself, fascinating.

Roads, bridges, airports, waterways, those wide and inviting sidewalks on Times Square, streetlights, mass transit, and railroads that collectively support one of the world's largest cities must be funded somehow.

I can imagine NYC has no shortage of tax revenue streams- my parents and I were certainly contributors last week.

It is only a wonder as to what the real fiscal needs are to maintain such a large and in-demand infrastructure system. I know it is not cheap.

It seems to me that high personal incomes (anyone who can afford to rent an apartment in Manhattan is not poor), a solid stream of business investment, and tourism dollars create a combined solid tax base.

Strikingly enough, in 1975 NYC almost went bankrupt.

I do not believe The City that Never Sleeps has such tax revenue shortages today. In six days in The Big Apple, all I saw was economic vibrancy unmatched by any locale that I have ever se…

NYC Chronicles: Economic Development at a Glance

Upon visiting, you cannot help but notice NYC's vibrant economy. It is layered and, from looks on the surface, stable.

As one of our tour guides put it, NYC's leading industries are FIRE: Finance, Insurance, and Real Estate. 
As a guess, having done no prior research, I would add Healthcare, Media Production, Entertainment, Fashion, and Tourism to this list.
NYC daily reaps the benefits of a diverse local economy.
As a critical component of the Big Apple's development, the City's infrastructure must also be noted. 
NYC's robust transportation systems enable growth: the Brooklyn Bridge, the Washington Bridge, the Queensboro Bridge, the RFK Airport, the LaGuardia Airport, the Hudson River, the East River, the New York City Subway, and the nonstop work of road repairs throughout the City. 
Combined, these infrastructure assets and investments contribute to an environment conducive for commerce on a macro level.
I am sure I sound like a cheerleader for NYC, but this is …

NYC Chronicles: The Introduction

My parents and I arrived back from our week-long NYC vacation this morning.

We had a blast! Just the three of us in The Big Apple.

NYC is a fascinating city. It is like no other place on earth. It's vibrant, lively, moving, crowded, packed, interesting, historical, free, bright, and HUGE!

We ate, laughed, ate, walked, ate, prayed, ate, explored, ate, shopped, ate, relaxed, and oh yeah- ate.

I will share my experiences, thoughts, and observations in subsequent posts. But before any further posts about The City That Never Sleeps, I'll leave with this statement of both fact and opinion:

If You Haven't Been to NYC Yet, Make it a Priority to Go. The City is Incredible.



The Important Industry of Tourism

Today, cities and towns are developing and promoting their tourism industries as critical parts of their economic development strategies. And, rightfully, they should.

Tourism is not just the week-long family vacation. Tourism happens anytime some one from outside of your community spends money in your community.

When these visitors "import" cash into your community, they are officially supporting local tourism.

The more money a visitor spends in your community, the less you, the local resident, have to pay for better streets, roads, parks, law enforcement, and other public amenities you may enjoy.

Tourism has a tremendous economic impact on communities. Tourism:

Supports local businesses, which creates and supplies jobsDiversifies the economy, so the community is not dependent on one or two industriesCreates a multiplier effect to support other complementary and non-tourism related industriesIncreases the tax base to pay for public services and amenitiesCreates business oppo…

A Short Course on Economic Development

Please enjoy this video by my favorite economic development author, Maury Forman.

As an intern at the Metro Atlanta Chamber back in 2012, I was given most of his library of economic development books and I still hold them close even to this day.

You will find he has a great foundational understanding of economic development.

Enjoy!



John 16:33 Breakdown

"These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world." John 16:33
A quick Scripture breakdown. I hope this encourages you.

"These things I have spoken." Jesus says "Pay attention!" If the Lord does not have our attention, we are bound to miss something."... in Me you may have peace." Jesus is our peace. Real peace is not when the storm ceases. Real peace is when you have peace in your storm. If anything other than God is our "peace," it will eventually fail. Money, work, people, acceptance, all these are not sustainable sources of peace. They are up and down. Not so with Jesus. He is always the same. He never changes and neither does the comfort, peace, and mental clarity that He offers. "... you will have tribulation;" No one is exempt from tough times. In fact, Jesus is guaranteeing it. He Himself traveled a rocky road whil…

July 4th: Commemorating American Independence

Happy 4th of July! I hope you and your family have enjoyed this day, as has mine.

Lots of food, fun, and fireworks later, I gave some thought to the meaning of July 4th.

After independence was won from the British, the newly-found United States of America faced several pressing issues. There were some things America had going good, and some things that were not-so-good.

Good:
An entire continent abounding in vegetation and far from European interferenceA youthful population of about 4 million, and half of it around 16 years old or youngerLots of opportunity for property ownershipCommitment to the ideals of independenceNearly unanimous consensus that the first chief would be George Washington Not-So-Good: A republican government on the scale of United States had never been establishedGovernmental authority was stigmatized, frowned on, and could potentially be overthrownNo common history or common experience as a nation, other than the war itselfExponential growth of the African slave p…

Changing of the Guard

It is only with humility that I announce, as of yesterday, that I am President of the Rotary Club of Canton.

Yes, I am excited. Yes, I am humbled. Yes, I am grateful. And yes, I understand that this comes with tremendous responsibility. But, no risk, no reward.

I am wholeheartedly committed to the ideals of Rotary and I am looking forward to serving in this capacity.

It is primed to be a wonderful year as the Rotary Club of Canton will celebrate 80 years and the Rotary International Convention will be held in Atlanta. Adding to that excitement is the prospect of polio being completely eradicated from the face of the earth this Rotary year.

The Rotary International theme is "Rotary Serving Humanity" and I am excited to roll up my sleeves with my Rotary family and help others in need. Both, in the community and around the world.




The Consuming Fire

I preached Saturday. Here is a quick summary of the message.

God is a consuming fire (Deuteronomy 4:24). We do not hear this much in our churches today. We hear that God is loving, patient, kind, and merciful. It is true that God is all of these incredible attributes, but He is also a consuming fire. This makes people uncomfortable.

Fire burns, illuminates, purifies, and heats up everything around it. The same is true about God. Any encounter with Him never leaves the heart nor the mind the same.

The moment we accept Christ as our Lord and Savior, we get the consuming fire. The reception is made possible by Jesus. Jesus, in his death, burial, and resurrection, qualifies us for God's righteousness, love, forgiveness, peace, grace, and fire.

Not hell fire, but pure fire.

The consuming fire of God for those who are in Christ is not a tragic fire of condemnation. The Fire of God is that of purification, a holy zeal, and passion for righteousness. The Fire of God ignites us to do right…

Brexit

Great Britain voted to break away from the European Union today in a historic referendum. As a result, Prime Minister David Cameron announced his resignation as the nation's leader.

Over 17.4 million Britons voted to exit the European Union, while 16.1 million voted to remain.

Part of the impetus of the succession vote was the fact that the European Union's (EU) decision-making authority rests in Brussels, not London. Another reason for leaving was the high number of immigrants moving into the UK from poorer EU nations.

The vote to leave the EU sent global financial markets into a tizzy.

Many of the longer-term impacts of the decision will be felt in trade and commerce. Britain will lose automatic access to European markets. Additionally, Britain is no longer obligated to let any EU citizen live and work in its borders.

New trade agreements will have to made. Britain relies heavily on the European common market.

Britain's Treasury and Central Bank believes the exit from ac…

Disciplined Freedom

Jazz is both about freedom and discipline in musical expression. It is very much disciplined freedom.

The freedom is in the interpretation of any singer, musician, and composer who brings their own touch to a piece.

The discipline is in the technique employed to yield the sound expressing mood, emotion, and interpretation.

I believe both of these elements are overlooked in church.

Freedom and discipline are replaced with noise and volume to cover musical deficiencies. Please take this as an observatory note. I am not discrediting or criticizing any one singer or musician. We who sing and play gospel or contemporary music are all guilty.

But, when you step out of your comfort zone by trying something different, you inevitably grow. That is exactly what happened at choir rehearsal yesterday.

In yesterday's rehearsal, we took the first 15 minutes to do nothing but breathing exercises and vocal warm-ups. 7 total. These were minutes we would have typically used to work on a new song, w…