Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Making friends and influencing people

     Making friends and influencing people are more difficult than they seem.

     Everyone knows from their playground days that making friends can be tough, but some actions—smiling, getting along with others and seeing things through their eyes—make it a lot easier. Whacking someone every time they walk by makes it a lot harder.

     Sun Valley-area residents know—because we repeat it to one another constantly—that the area is unique. Translation: The usual rules don’t apply. Why else would local groups undertake the following “unique” friending and influencing techniques?

     To generate local revenue, spend on foreign workers: Though this technique was largely abandoned by local businesses after the national jobs glut went bust along with the economy—and having a job, any job, became paramount—it recently spread to the Sun Valley Marketing Alliance. Funded by local sales-tax revenues from the cities of Ketchum and Sun Valley, the alliance wants the federal government to allow it to hire a foreign national as its chief marketing officer.

     Friends made: one, somewhere else.

     People influenced: hundreds of head-scratching taxpayers, the unemployed and unhappy members of national associations of marketing professionals.

     Question left unanswered: How did marketing become rocket science and why is the job so unique that Americans can’t qualify?

    Plan like the building and population boom is coming back fast: This technique worked for 40 years, so why should anything change—unemployed tradesmen, architects, engineers and developers notwithstanding?

     Undeterred by empty storefronts, a population decrease or that the chance of seeing new development is about the same as finding a polar bear in the Big Wood River, the city of Ketchum hired a new planner, who had worked in Aspen, Colo., to rewrite its 10-year-old plan.

     Then, it organized a trip for public officials to Aspen, which long ago eclipsed the Sun Valley area, to find out what Aspen’s done better.

     Friends made: one new city employee.

     People influenced: hundreds of unhappily stewing taxpayers, business owners and commercial landlords.

     Questions left unanswered: Why does Ketchum need a new plan when tweaking the old one might do? Why is a trip to Aspen required to learn that the building boom isn’t returning (see The Wall Street Journal) or that the lack of convenient air service, luxury hotels and millions of dollars for marketing will hamstring the area for generations?

                Isn’t making friends easy?

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