Tag Archives: news

Informaton from the Small Business Majority

This is a organization that was referred to me by friend & colleague, Paul Linzmeyer.  I looked through their website and found it to be a good source of information that is as free of bias as most I have seen.  I subscribed to the newsletter and today I bring you some snippets from the 9/23/10 issue. Yes, it is 2 weeks old … it was a busy month!!

The group is called the Small Business Majority and their tagline is:  Small Businesses Driving Practical Policy.  I don’t know about you, but I am more than ready for a return to reasonableness and calm, well-thought out conversation.  This group hits those notes for me.  I hope you find it of interest as well.

Please let me hear what you think!

Healthcare reform: six months later

Six months ago, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act was passed. A number of provisions take effect today (9/23), including new rules forbidding insurance companies from denying coverage to children under 19 with preexisting conditions, and the requirement that all insurance plans must provide free preventive care such as annual check-ups, mammograms and colonoscopies. Policies that already took effect this year include tax credits for small businesses, along with a reinsurance plan for seniors that will provide them with much-needed financial relief so early retirees can get affordable care.

Small Business Majority has spent the summer educating small business owners, organizations and policymakers about the new law, and moving into fall, plans on continuing an information campaign about this important and complex legislation. Most recently, Small Business Majority National Policy Director Terry Gardiner and National Outreach and Government Affairs Manager Rhett Buttle held a call for small business owners and organizations, where they answered questions on and explained the details of a form released by the IRS to help small businesses determine their tax credits for next year’s tax returns.

From their newsletter, links to articles of interest:

Tax credit bonanza for small businesses from CNN Money on 9/22/10

Lightening the Health Care Load for Small Businesses from The New York Times on 9/17/10

Report:  Massachusetts deprived of 40k green jobs from the Boston Business Journal on 9/14/10

What You Need to Know About the Small-Business Bill from Entrepreneur on 9/13/10 (yes, this bill has come up a lot lately!)

Tax credit for health premiums target small firms from The Chicago Tribune on 8/16/10

From their “Resources” section:

A report by the Commonwealth Fund, released on Sept. 2, found that the small business tax credits will reduce health insurance premiums, and the exchange, once implemented, will expand coverage for millions of workers employed by small businesses.

The Kaiser Family Foundation just revealed the impact of increasing healthcare costs on small business owners and their employees in a recent survey.

Want to learn about business in the De Pere Area?  Check out our Work Section

Consumer confidence is up, but test looms

Some at least quasi-good news…

Consumers expressed more confidence in the economy than they have since 2008, but that goodwill — a key to the recovery — will be tested in the next few months as government stimulus programs wind down.

The Conference Board said in a report released Tuesday that gains in its monthly survey of consumers largely reflected improvements in the labor market as more people said jobs were plentiful and business conditions were good in April. The group’s index of consumer confidence rose almost six points in April to 57.9, the highest level since September 2008. The jump was larger than some economists had expected, and they warned that many consumers remain considerably strained.

“If they have a job, most people think they’ll be able to hold onto it. But that’s the best you can say,” said Mark Zandi, chief economist for Moody’s Economy.com.

Consumers’ willingness to spend is key to how the economic recovery progresses this year. The U.S. economy has been expanding since last summer, with only middling growth in personal consumption but strong growth in federal government spending, exports and residential investment.

The nation’s gross domestic product is expected to have grown at a 3.3 percent annual rate in the first three months of the year, according to economists’ forecasts for figures that are to be released Friday. That would mark the third consecutive quarter of growth.

With federal stimulus spending beginning to taper off over the second half of the year, the fragile recovery in the housing markets showing signs of petering out and exports unlikely to create the same boost over the next nine months that they did over the past nine months, it will be up to American consumers to pick up the slack and drive a continued expansion.

In that sense, the factors weighing on consumers — continued downward pressure on wages because of high unemployment, fears of losing a job and the need to pay down debts — could weigh on the economic expansion more broadly.

Shoppers have opened their wallets in recent months, sending retail sales up 1.6 percent in March. Sales in discretionary categories such as home furnishings and clothing have improved, and several retailers have reported stronger results.

Macy’s raised its estimates for annual sales and profit Tuesday. The department store chain expects sales at established stores to grow 3 to 3.5 percent, up from 1 to 2 percent, this fiscal year. Earnings per share are predicted to be $1.75 to $1.80, up from $1.55 to $1.60.

Ford reported a $2.1 billion first-quarter profit Tuesday and said it expected a “solid profit” for 2010, a year sooner than it had previously forecast. In the first quarter of 2009, Ford lost $1.4 billion. It has not taken money from the federal government’s aid program for automakers.

But Wal-Mart chief executive Mike Duke said on Tuesday that the 150 million customers who shop his stores each week are still being hammered by the recession. In addition, higher gas prices are eating into household budgets, resulting in fewer shopping trips.

“Some would say there is a recovery taking place,” Duke said during a meeting with Washington Post editors and reporters. “The lower-income and middle-income customers . . . they still feel the pressure.”

In addition, he said that the weak housing market continued to hold back the recovery in states such as Florida and Nevada. During the boom years, many jobs in those states were fueled by a surge of construction that has since abated, drying up the demand for labor.

“It will take housing to create some of those jobs,” Duke said.

He said shoppers are still trading down in food purchases, and the company’s internal research shows that the percentage of mothers who report job security and availability as a top concern has risen 5 percent since January. The world’s largest retailer has responded to the pressures on its customers by keeping a laser-like focus on prices, most recently slashing prices on roughly 10,000 products across its stores.

“That’s just an area we will not give an inch on,” Duke said.

Link credit to the Washington Post

De Pere Chamber makes newspaper in Holland!

Translated from the local newspaper in Twello Holland

On March 16 j.l. in De Pere, Wisconsin, about 350 km north Chicago in the USA, the opening of a new place Ruitenberg establishment. The official opening was done by the Mayor of De Pere, Mayor Mike Walsh with Ms Cheryl Detrick, President the Chamber of Commerce, and Ad de Haas, Director of Ruitenberg Ingredients B.V.

During the reception, several items served, prepared with ingredients by Ruitenberg delivered, so the attendees a glimpse had the opportunities. The new facility is also a technological present, where product demonstrations can be given. Currently focusing Ruitenberg USA mainly on the meat industry by supplying ingredients for the production of sausages. The location offers the possibility for
extension products to the baking industry delivered. With the presence of the new facility in Wisconsin expects its Ruitenberg Sales in the U.S. to grow strongly over the coming years.

Ruitenberg Ingredients is a family owned company founded in 1938 and located at modern facilities in Twello, the Netherlands. Product developers, technologists and analysts work on new products and applications in a state-of-the-art technology center with a strong focus on supplying a versatile product range for specific applications in the meat, convenience, bakery and confectionery industry. The site is De Pere is the first US location for the company.

In case you are curious, the original language is below: Op 16 maart j.l. heeft in De Pere, Wisconsin, ca. 350 km ten noorden
van Chicago in de USA, de feestelijke opening plaats gevonden van een nieuwe
Ruitenberg vestiging. De officiële opening geschiedde door de burgemeester van
De Pere, Mayor Mike Walsh samen met mevrouw Cheryl Detrick, de voorzitter
van de kamer van Koophandel, en Ad de Haas, directeur van Ruitenberg Ingredients
Tijdens de receptie werden diverse producten geserveerd, bereid met ingrediënten
die door Ruitenberg geleverd worden, zodat de aanwezigen een voorproefje
kregen van de mogelijkheden. In de nieuwe vestiging is ook een technologiehal
aanwezig, waar productdemonstraties gegeven kunnen worden. Momenteel richt
Ruitenberg USA zich vooral op de vleesindustrie met de levering van ingrediënten
voor de productie van worsten. De locatie biedt echter de mogelijkheid voor
uitbreiding met producten die aan de bakkerij-industrie geleverd worden. Met de
aanwezigheid van de nieuwe vestiging in Wisconsin verwacht Ruitenberg haar
verkoop in de USA sterk te kunnen laten groeien de komende jaren.

Some good news for manufacturing

We’ve heard lots of bad news about manufacturing, how about some good?
According to several recent surveys, the U.S. manufacturing sector may be showing signs of a rebound.

The Institute for Supply Management (ISM) purchasing managers index checked in at 55.9 in December which was its highest mark since April 2006. Additionally, the quarterly Manufacturers Alliance/MAPI Survey on the Business Outlook came in at 57 compared to 38 in September 2009. Wharton finance professor Nicholas Souleles noted that the ISM data usually is a good indicator of improving times in the manufacturing sector. As manufacturing rebounds, expansion usually follows which translates into new jobs being created as employers are more confident about the economy.

Marshall Fisher, a professor of operations and information management at Wharton, cautions that the recovery is still far off because increases in manufacturing output are being measured against a low starting point. Fisher summed up the situation succinctly, “While orders may be expanding at the fastest pace in more than three years, that is just the rate of change. When you have things fall that far, you can uptick quite a bit but still be way behind where you have been.”

There are signs that manufacturing is improving outside of the United States as well. Data from Markit Economics shows that the manufacturing rate in December in Europe grew at its fastest rate in 21 months.

While manufacturing is important, Souleles stresses that services are also an important part of the U.S. economy. “We have lost a lot of jobs in manufacturing; over the long run, that’s a concern, but we don’t want to go too far the other way and say the increasing role of services is not of value….There’s nothing wrong with a country focusing on the areas in which it has a comparative advantage,” said Souleles.

“Flexing Its Muscle: Why Manufacturing is Bouncing Back.” Knowledge@Wharton. January 20, 2010

SNC Music theater 2010 summer season announced


De Pere: Artistic director Dudley Birder announced that St. Norbert College music theatre will expand its 2010 summer season by presenting three productions during the months of June and July.

“Forever Plaid,” a nostalgic and entertaining view of the 50s, and “Nunsense,” a vibrant romp that chronicles the zany antics of the Little Sisters of Hoboken, will share the Webb Theatre during the month of June.

The June musicals will be presented in repertoire fashion with each playing nine performances. “Forever Plaid” will run June 9-12, 21-22, 25, 27 (matinee) and 30.

“Nunsense” opens June 16 with performances on June 17-18, 20 (matinee), 23-24, 28-29 and July 1. “Forever Plaid” and “Nunsense” are currently in rehearsal.

The Walter Theatre will be the site of the July production of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat,” back by popular demand. Eight performances will be presented July 22-25 (matinee), 27-29 and 30.

Open auditions for “Joseph” have been scheduled as follows. Children’s auditions are scheduled for 5 p.m. on Sunday, March 14, and 4 p.m. on Monday, March 15.

Auditions for adults will be held May 25 and 26 at 7 p.m. Rehearsals will begin June 8. For further information call Dudley Birder at (920) 403-3116 or email him at dudley.birder@snc.edu.

Tickets for “Forever Plaid,” “Nunsense” and “Joseph” are now available at the St. Norbert College ticket office. Call (920) 403-3950 or purchase tickets online at tickets.snc.edu.

Haitian crisis update from Red Cross – Fri. pm.

I received this update from the American Red Cross, Northeast Wisconsin division, last evening.  I’m pasting the whole release here:


An outpouring of help and support

Oshkosh, WI… Friday, January 15, 2010 – Following Tuesday’s 7.3 magnitude earthquake that struck near Haiti’s capital, Port-au-Prince, an estimated 3 million people have been affected. Red Cross responders are working around the clock to meet the logistical challenges and ensure aid reaches the survivors. The following information is today’s update on the earthquake disaster relief work in Haiti by the American Red Cross and partners through the International Committee of the Red Cross.

In some parts of the earthquake-stricken area, 70 percent of the houses have been damaged. Thousands of survivors spent a third night out in the open without shelter. People are camping out at around 40 gathering points throughout the city, too scared to spend the night inside damaged buildings that could collapse at any moment. Priority needs are food, water, temporary shelter, medical services and emotional support.

The Red Cross now has dozens of disaster specialists in Haiti, assessing the damage, addressing urgent needs and establishing the foundation for a long-term recovery operation. Two planes carrying Red Cross humanitarian assistance are due to land this afternoon in Port-au-Prince, if they are not re-routed. The first one carries a field hospital and the second carries tarps, blankets, hygiene items, buckets, shelter supplies and kitchen sets.

A second plane, carrying 40 tons of supplies – mainly medical items – is en-route to Haiti. Included on this flight, sponsored by the International Committee of the Red Cross, are specialized kits to help treat the wounded, basic medicines and chlorine for water treatment.

The public response to the emergency in Haiti has been impressive and moving. In the first 48 hours after earthquake hit, the amount pledged to the American Red Cross was an incredible outpouring of support. More than half of the financial donations have come through online contributions, with a record amount pledged through mobile giving and strong support from corporations. Donations to the American Red Cross have exceeded the totals amount received in the first 48 hours following both Katrina and the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami.

The American Red Cross has already released $10 million for relief efforts in Haiti as an initial commitment with plans to add more. Future allocations will be made once more is known about the situation on the ground in Haiti and the type and location of greatest needs both in the short term and long term.

Due to the challenging conditions in Haiti from damaged or destroyed transportation and power systems, it is taking longer than Red Cross or other relief agencies had hoped. The airport tower is unreliable therefore many flights are being diverted and the cranes needed to unload boats have been damaged, rendering them inoperable. While the airport is operational for humanitarian flights, there is a huge backlog and the Red Cross is among the organizations waiting for clearance for local authorities. The port is not expected to open until January 18.

Many areas are accessible, but some roads are covered with debris, making travel within the capital city difficult. There is a near-total blackout in Port-au-Prince. Due to limited electricity, communications remain difficult with unreliable land and cellular lines, which are critically important to coordinate and direct a massive response such as this.

A few specially trained disaster responders from the American Red Cross have arrived in Port-au-Prince and are coordinating with local and international partners to overcome the logistical challenges and bring aid into the country. These individuals join the Red Cross staff already on the ground and 12 Red Cross teams that arrived from other countries yesterday. Among them are engineers, surgeons and family linking specialists. These teams will establish field hospitals, restore water and sanitation systems, distribute supplies and restore family links facilities. Yesterday, International Committee of the Red Cross workers in Port-au-Prince provided medical assistance to five major hospitals and clinics, as well as to smaller facilities set up by local doctors in areas with a high concentration of earthquake survivors.

The Red Cross provided blood and blood products to the US Naval Air Station in Jacksonville, Florida. That blood, requested by the US Navy, was shipped by the US Navy to their facilities at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba in support of medical evacuees from Haiti. In addition, the American Red Cross sent a shipment of blood products to the United Nations Mission in Haiti. At this point, no specific request has been made by the Haitian government for the American Red Cross to provide blood or blood products to support treatment of the victims of the earthquake in Haiti. The American Red Cross is meeting the blood needs of this tragedy through current supplies, and does not anticipate the need for a special blood donor appeal to support these efforts. As always, blood donors are encouraged to call 1-800-RED CROSS or visit us online at redcrossblood.org to give blood.

The International Committee of the Red Cross is also helping to reconnect separated families within the country. They have established a special Web site, enabling persons in Haiti and abroad to search for and register the names of relatives missing since the earthquake: http://www.icrc.org/familylinks. Within 48 hours of its launch, more than 13,800 visited the site looking for loved ones. About 1,100 people have registered on the site from Haiti to inform their loved ones that they are safe and well.

Given the massive needs and the extent of the damage seen so far, this disaster response will take considerable resources to help the people of Haiti recover. It may be many weeks or even months to understand the full extent of the damage, and we expect the recovery will take years. This is not unprecedented for the Red Cross. Five years after Indian Ocean tsunami, the Red Cross is still helping many communities restore what was lost.

At this time, what are needed most are financial contributions. People who want to help those affected by the Haitian earthquake can make a donation to the American Red Cross International Response Fund at redcross.org or by calling 1-800-RED-CROSS. An average of 91 cents of every dollar the American Red Cross spends is invested in humanitarian services and programs. Donors can designate their gifts to Haiti relief.

Families who have lost everything in an international disaster need immediate help just to make it through the first terrifying hours and days. A cooking set, toilet paper and a toothbrush, safe water and a blanket to keep warm – these simple items are essential as families struggle to survive. For $100, you can give one family a basic kit that will provide a month’s supplies.

The Red Cross is also receiving money through a third-party mobile fundraising effort in which mobile donors can text “Haiti” to 90999 to send a $10 donation to the Red Cross. The funds will go to support the Red Cross relief efforts in Haiti.

First Lady Michelle Obama also released a Public Service Announcement asking people to join her in supporting the Red Cross relief efforts in Haiti: “The images from Haiti are heart-breaking—homes, hospitals and schools destroyed; families searching for loved ones; parents trying to feed their children. But we can all do something. We can help the American Red Cross as it delivers the food, water and medicine that can save lives. Donate $10 by texting “HAITI” to 9-0-9-9-9. Visit redcross.org or call 1-800-RED-CROSS. Thanks for your help.”

While the Red Cross appreciates the heartfelt offers of goods and volunteer time, they are not recruiting volunteers or accepting household items for Haiti relief. They are only deploying Red Cross volunteers specially trained to manage international emergency operations. Things like clothes are not helpful right now because there is nowhere to store them, no one to sort them, and it would be difficult to transport the items to Haiti. One good way to turn clothes into cash is to have a garage sale and then donate the money to the relief efforts. If you would like to offer supplies or to travel to Haiti, please visit www.Interaction.org for a list of organizations accepting this type of support.

The American Red Cross has had a 15-person office in Haiti focused year-round on HIV/AIDS education, malaria prevention, measles vaccinations and disaster preparedness. They have had limited contact with the staff in Haiti, but do know that they are safe and responding to the survivors’ needs The local Haitian Red Cross has been meeting humanitarian needs in Haiti since 1932 and specializes in providing first aid, disaster preparedness education and ambulance services.

The Red Cross is the largest nonprofit organization with permanent presence in Haiti and plays an important coordination role among other humanitarian groups within the country. More than 97 million Red Cross volunteers worldwide – and hundreds of local responders from Haiti – give the Red Cross unusual expertise, scale and scope to manage catastrophic disasters from the moment they strike.

Return to vertical

An interesting article sent to me:

It’s déjà vu all over again for many of the world’s leading companies as vertical integration suddenly becomes fashionable again.

“It is back to the future” said Larry Ellison, the billionaire chief executive of Oracle Corporation, as he describes his firm’s expansion beyond its core software business. Ellison is leading the revival with his planned acquisition of Sun Microsystems which will make the firm a source for software, computers and computer components. Other companies that are becoming more vertically integrated through strategic acquisitions include steelmaker ArcelorMittal, PepsiCo Inc., General Motors Company and Boeing Company.

Vertical integration was widespread 100 years ago as companies sought to control all aspects of their operations –– from materials to manufacturing and distribution. Today’s move toward vertical integration represents a dramatic change from just a few years ago, when major corporations jettisoned non–core operations in an effort to increase efficiency and quality. In the 1980s, for example, steelmakers sold their mining operations. More recently, major auto makers spun–off their parts suppliers. As recently as two years ago, Oracle’s Ellison vowed to focus solely on software.

“The pendulum has shifted from disintegration to integration” summarizes Harold Sirkin with the Boston Consulting Group. Sirkin cites three factors for the change in strategy: unpredictable commodity prices, financial pressures at suppliers and the need for new sources of revenue. The recession, Sirkin notes, has accelerated the trend from specialization to integration.

Much of the impetus is being driven by manufacturing companies that want to control their supply chains and product quality. Case in point: Boeing which pioneered an extensive outsourcing strategy for production of its new Dreamliner aircraft. While Boeing insists that it is committed to outsourcing, it has been acquiring key Dreamliner suppliers over the past two years in response to quality problems. Last month, Boeing acquired the fuselage subassembly operations in Charleston SC from Global Aeronautica. Another example is General Motors which recently assumed a minority stake in Delphi Automotive LLP to maintain supply after originally shedding the parts supplier in 1999.

Vertical integration also can generate cost savings. By purchasing a major scrap–metal processor, steelmaker Nucor Corp. will be able to better control inventory, saving $100 million per year.

The trend is now becoming more commonplace in the technology industry. Leading tech firms are seeking to “vertically re–integrate,” after a long period of innovation and specialization according to one analyst. With its 2008 acquisition of a chip maker, Apple is moving back into the semiconductor business in an attempt to protect key technology from reaching its rivals. Hewlett–Packard and Dell Inc. have also made strategic acquisitions to control more of their market.

After years of promoting what he called the “horizontal computer industry,” Oracle’s Ellison is perhaps the leading proponent of vertical integration in the tech industry. Ultimately, he wants Oracle to become a one–stop shop for corporate customers who don’t like to deal with multiple vendors.

Both the Federal Trade Commission and the U.S. Justice Department closely scrutinize vertical acquisitions. Nonetheless, the economic development community should recognize that corporate strategy is shifting again in response to changing global economic conditions.


“Companies More Prone to Go ‘Vertical’,” by Ben Worthen, Cari Tuna, and Justin Scheck. The Wall Street Journal. December 1, 2009.

“Boeing cements its hold on Charleston 787 complex” by MarketWatch. As seen in the Seattle WA Times. December 22, 2009.

New volunteer Volunteer Coordinator

Nope, that isn’t an accidentally doubled word!  We have a new volunteer Volunteer Coordinator.

Dr. Beth Nasal, owner and veterinarian of Happy Tails Veterinary Clinic in De Pere, has been named Volunteer Coordinator by the De Pere Area Chamber of Commerce.  Dr. Nasal, also a board member of the De Pere Area Chamber, will coordinate the efforts of the many volunteers needed for Chamber committees, programs and events.  The Coordinator position, a volunteer position in itself, will serve as a contact point for people wanting to volunteer. In addition , Dr. Nasal will oversee the development of a volunteer database and survey process for matching needs with talents.

For more information on volunteer opportunities with the De Pere Area Chamber of Commerce, contact Dr. Beth Nasal at volunteers@deperechamber.org, or by contacting the Chamber office at 338-0000. The Chamber office is located inside the Chase Bank Building at 441 Main Avenue, De Pere.

For more information about Happy Tails Veterinary Clinic, visit www.happytailsclinic.com.

Eenie, Meanie, Mynee …

I can’t make up my mind today what I want to post about (and since I have three to chose from), I’m doing all three!!  Bonus for readers.


From Greg Linnemanstons at Weidert Group:  He posted on his blog today about David Ward’s presentation at the New North Summit on Tuesday.  Ward’s comments included:

  • The labor market is going to take years to “correct”, so we should get used to all the impacts of an underemployed workforce;
  • People are saving at a rate that is historically higher than at any time in recent history, even though in aggregate they’re earning a lot less;
  • Consumer confidence, and spending, is not coming back quickly or willingly
  • Even with the 2009 equity markets rebound, personal wealth is 20% below what it was in 2007, so anyone who was thinking about retirement plans is probably now thinking about delaying retirement
  • Finally, Dr Ward concluded that Americans need to accept that our standard of living has taken some permanent steps backward, with no short-term fixes identified.

And Greg concludes in his entry:

My friend (and client) Cheryl Perkins, a globally recognized champion of innovation, was quoted a few weeks ago in BusinessWeek, saying “Often open innovation starts with a burning platform.”

Well, our platform is certainly still burning, which according to Ms Perkins makes now a great opportunity to create new models and ways of thinking. Now is the time when we all need to decide what we want to do about it. Whether or not we embrace that metaphor as an urgent call to action will go a long way to determining whether the pain of this recession lingers interminably, or if we’re able to prove the economists wrong with the speed of our recover. With all due respect, Dr . Ward, I’m out to prove you wrong.

See, fascinating!

From Ravit Lichtenberg from Ustrategy.com

10 Ways Social Media Will Change In 2010

This time last year, I wrote about the 10 ways social media will change 2009, and while all predictions have materialized or are on their way, it has only become clear in recent months how significant of a change we’ve seen this year. 2009 will go down as the year in which the shroud of uncertainty was lifted off of social media and mainstream adoption began at the speed of light. Barack Obama’s campaign proved that social media can mobilize millions into action, and Iran’s election protests demonstrated its importance to the freedom of speech.

  1. Social Media Will Become a Single, Cohesive Experience Embedded In Our Activities and Technologies
  2. Social Media Innovation Will No Longer Be Limited By Technology
  3. Mobile Will Take Center Stage
  4. Expect an Intense Battle As People and Companies Look To Own Their Own Content
  5. Enterprises Will Shape the Next Generation of What We’ve Called “Social Media”
  6. ROI Will Be Measured — and It Will Matter
  7. Finally: Real, Cool and Very Bizarre Online-Offline Integration
  8. Many “Old” Skills Will Be Needed Again
  9. Women Will Rule Social Media
  10. Social Media Will Move Into New Domains

I can’t wait to look back to see if this list is right, but, I think yes!

Third, and on a *completely* different vein:

I heard an interview with David Dobbs on WPR this morning on the way to the office regarding an article in The Atlantic entitled The Science of Success about a theory called, “The Orchid Gene.”

The summary is:

Most of us have genes that make us as hardy as dandelions: able to take root and survive almost anywhere. A few of us, however, are more like the orchid: fragile and fickle, but capable of blooming spectacularly if given greenhouse care. So holds a provocative new theory of genetics, which asserts that the very genes that give us the most trouble as a species, causing behaviors that are self-destructive and antisocial, also underlie humankind’s phenomenal adaptability and evolutionary success. With a bad environment and poor parenting, orchid children can end up depressed, drug-addicted, or in jail—but with the right environment and good parenting, they can grow up to be society’s most creative, successful, and happy people.

This was very interesting to me, first because I find genetics deeply fascinating, but more so because I’ve always wondered at nature versus nurture.  At many times in my journey as a parent, I was convinced it was all nature and no nurture; but as my daughter firmly enters adulthood, I again believe it is some kind of mix of the two.

Nearly every time I’ve seen media coverage of a horrific crime, I wondered, “what must his/her Mom be thinking and feeling?”  As a Mom, I know I would be running every moment of my child’s life through  my head, every interaction, every argument, every thing I ever said or did and asking myself what did I do wrong or not do right?  What signs did I miss?  How did my child make this horrible turn and I didn’t do anything to stop it or turn it before it was too late?    My husband says it is “a Mom thing” to think and worry that way.  He might be right.

I suppose articles like this make me see the glass as half full, that even if my kids got some genetic flotsum maybe my trying my very best to be as good a Mom as I can be might turn the tide for them.  Maybe it is a Mom thing, but I’m good with that!!

Some Friday quotes and a link or two…

I’ve run across some snippets here and there that were fascinating:

In keeping with our wind sector in Northeastern Wisconsin, this article about a new solar technology that goes well with wind “farms” from Live With Jay in Kansas City:

At all levels of government and at most dinner tables, the high cost of energy and the options possible from the renewable sources of solar and wind are familiar conversations.  The change in recent years, however, is those conversations have become increasingly the focus of policy and action, not just topics conjecture and speculation.


“Innovation is not necessarily discovering new things, but discovering how to use old things in a new way.”
Here’s an interesting perspective on innovation from Amitabha Kumar, director of research and development at CalStar Products Inc. His firm is using green technology to make ordinary products like bricks and cement. CalStar is opening a factory to make bricks from fly ash, a byproduct of burning coal. The process uses 85% less energy than traditional brick manufacturing and reduces carbide–dioxide emissions by 85% as well. The green products building market is expected to grow from $45 billion in 2008 to between $96 billion and $140 billion by 2013, according to McGraw–Hill Construction.  From the Wall Street Journal November 4, 2009

“The really dynamic times in our history are times when you have lots of ordinary people who think they have a chance to make a difference.”
Sparked by a renewed interest in hands–on work, tinkering is becoming increasing popular for many individuals and students at colleges and universities, as noted by Naomi Lamoreaux, an economic historian at the University of California, Although tinkering has a long history in the U.S., several trends are propelling tinkering into the forefront. Materials that were once too expensive are now readily available to would–be inventors. Low cost computers and the Internet are catalysts as well. Colleges and universities are encouraging students to tinker and experiment by making facilities and equipment available to them. The demand for tinkering has spawned a for–profit business, TechShop in Menlo Park CA, where members pay a monthly fee to use equipment for projects as if they were members of a local gym. TechShop has also opened facilities in Durham NC and Beaverton OR.  From Wall Street Journal November 13, 2009

“I do not see it as a flash in the pan. I think it is an opportunity for some ongoing business.”
Richard Whiting, chief executive of Patriot Coal Corporation, believes the potential to sell coal mined in the U.S. to fuel China’s steel mills has long–term market potential. Coal producers in the Eastern U.S. are seeing increasing business because of China’s growing demand for the material. Consol Energy Inc. is shipping 400,000 tons of metallurgical coal directly to China for the first time in five years. Patriot Coal Corporation expects to ship hundreds of thousands of tons of coal to China over the next year. Two challenges, however, are the shipping rates and time needed to reach a Chinese port from a mine in the Appalachian Mountains.   Wall Street Journal, November 4, 2009