DeKalb’s Business Friendliness

I am rapidly developing a crush on Larry Kujovich, a member of the group of financial consultants hired by the City of DeKalb.

Still working on taking in the whole of the April 13 workshop video, I swooned this time during a discussion of image-building as part of economic development strategy.

Use terms like “image building” and “branding” and I reflexively roll my eyes because such exercises are futile when the desired image and reality reside in different zip codes. But I quickly regained focus when Mr. Kujovich said this:

[I]f you survey potential businesses, would they consider DeKalb business friendly? I don’t know the answer to that question. We have heard anecdotal evidence; some say that DeKalb is one of the most business-unfriendly cities they’ve ever encountered. Well, if that’s the case, economic development will be a challenge. So, it’s something that perhaps could be addressed.

The response? The group immediately changed the subject. And I do mean immediately. They spent not one second entertaining the possible need for self-examination.

Not only that, but less than five minutes later the chair, former mayor Povlsen, closed the meeting with this:

I’m disappointed that the public wasn’t here. Yeah, um, we move forward with good ideas, and I guess they’re only here when they wanna criticize.

DeKalb, of course, will get nowhere until city leadership understands the role that respectful behavior plays in image-building. Courtesy is part of it, but it’s also about practicing an everyday, fundamental fairness in customer service and business dealings. In my opinion — based upon my own collection of anecdotes and experiences — DeKalb is seen as a place where the Chosen get special treatment while the rest are subject to whims, moods and petty power plays. (Here’s an example.)

Anyway, Mr. Kujovich put it out there. Maybe someone will pick it up.