Had a great evening yesterday with Jeremy Hiebert here in Kelowna. Grabbed a couple of pints of Guiness, some supper and then took in a great hockey game between WHL rivals Kelowna and Seattle. Kelowna won in overtime.
And of course, like all recent meetings with other bloggers we talked about all kinds of interesting things, including learning, education, community, story, work and family. Meeting J was just like getting together with every other old friend you hadn’t seen for a while, except that I had never met him before.
One of the conversations we had is resonating with me this morning. Jeremy was describing his small hometown in Manitoba which is a Mennonite community mostly based on farming. There is however quite a little vibrant steel and tool prouction industry in town making several of the town’s families very rich. These businesses started out making tools and implements that were needed in town (like grain augers) and their innovation got them noticed far and wide so that eventually the businesses expanded into the global market place.
What is key though is that although there is a social strata as a result of this local economy, the nature of the industry – rooted as it is in local needs, local innovation and local familes – means that the wealth generated often goes to good in the community, such as building a local firehall.
There is something to this that reminds me of the Harvard studies on First Nations economic development that point out how important it is for private enterprise to have a cultural fit in the community. The Manitoba Mennonite example (and the Osoyoos Indian Band example and the Wakatu Incoorporation example) shows that these businesses can grow quite large with many benefits for the community as long as that cultural core stays intact. Jeremy and I thought Rob Patterson might find this interesting too, given his interest in seeing similar things happening in Prince Edward Island.
Neat as those ideas are, I think actually our biggest joint insight last night was that there is perhaps no friendlier machine in the world than a
Zamboni. As we watched the ice being cleaned between periods we reminisced about when we were kids and the utter fascination that the Zamboni held for us. It drives over old ice and magically, smooth wet ice emerges out the other end. And as every Canadian knows, there is nothing better than being the first one out on a new sheet of ice.
But even more than that, we started imagining how much friendlier the world would be if, for example, the Americans had invaded Iraq with Zambonis instead of Hummvees. Talk about winning over the hearts and minds!
Jeremy and I will be soon opening a business to outfit Zambonis for military duty with Canada’s armed forces on peacekeeping duty in Afghanistan and Bosnia. The world will be happier for it.