In this episode Quint talks with Chuck Marohn, a speaker, author, and visionary who has forever changed the way we look at creating sustainable growth in our cities. The founder of Strong Towns and author of Strong Towns: A Bottom-Up Revolution to Rebuild American Prosperity, Chuck will talk about how COVID is impacting cities and what they can do to find their best path forward.

Discussion centers on why a “small ball” approach (small, incremental, inexpensive changes that improve people’s lives) makes much more sense than focusing on giant projects that require outside government funding. Chuck also talks about how we must protect our entrepreneurs and give them the space they need to make our cities incredible places to live. He’ll discuss this subject at length in his upcoming EntreCon presentation, titled Why My Cities Top Draft Pick is an Entrepreneur, Not an Investor.

Finally, Chuck will preview his upcoming book Confessions of a Recovering Engineer, which explores how the way we build roads is failing communities— and how we can rethink our approach in a way that builds wealth in our neighborhoods.

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Transcript

Quint Studer  0:01

Well, Chuck Marohn wow, you know, one of the things I talk about Chuck is something called reverse mentoring. And it’s, it’s where, because you know, we’re big here in the student community is to put on mentoring, we work with mentoring, we provide mentors. And one of the things that I’ve come to here is something called reverse mentoring. And that is where you might mentor somebody based on your age experience and some things, but then a younger person mentors you in something, sometimes it’s technology, but I know for me, you’re one of my mentors. You, you know, I have you, you really created a light bulb for me. And I’d studied Gallup, on cities, I had been to a lot of cities that, you know, I had done a lot of things, sort of just trial and error, but you sort of put some light on it, you turned on the light of some consistency on how strong cities are built. And I use the word all the time Chuck sustainability, and not only in cities, but anything I do I talk about, you know, it’s fun to start, but it’s got to be sustainable. And you know, nobody knows more cities, and you have a big bestseller hit with your first book, strong towns by Wiley, you’ve got another book out on
being a recovering engineer, and talk about it as you talk about with COVID and the countries what are the challenges you’re seeing with cities because you’ve always talked about challenges cities have but today, we’ve got some, some new challenges, and why don’t you talk a little bit about what you’re seeing?

Chuck Marohn  1:40
No doubt. Um, first of all, just thank you. And, and, you know, it’s a, it’s kind of humbling to hear you say that, I’ve helped you because, you know, obviously, the reverse mentoring, you’ve been a huge mentor and a huge, you know, person helping me kind of understand the world and frame what we’re doing. When the pandemic started. I was actually in Florida, in terms of like, the lockdowns and all that stuff. I was in Florida and and our team was at a retreat. We do these retreats at theme parks, and we were actually at Disney World. You know, having a meeting, we bring everybody from all over our country together and get together. And all of a sudden they canceled the NBA season, they canceled the NCAA season, Tom Hanks got COVID. And my team picked up and everybody went home. Since then, we have been inundated, just absolutely overwhelmed with cities, and people working with and affiliated with cities and carrying about cities, who are worried about what do we do about small businesses? What do we do about the collapse of our economic ecosystems? What do we do about people who can’t get into housing? What do we do about food insecurity, it’s been like one continual crisis after another, these these long standing things that have built up, you know, that have made our places very fragile, now are coming to bear in ways that are creating a lot of urgency, the thing that is sitting there, the big kind of, you know, the the big thing on the horizon, that is is starting to creep into view is just the fiscal situation. Cities, budgets are work on a delay, in a sense, they don’t work like a business where the store closes, and then they go out, it’s kind of like a one year two year delay with the economy. But if you look out cities next year, and cities the year after that, their budgets are going to be decimated. And at a time of huge need. That is a major it’s a is a crisis that we’re going to have to figure out, you know, how to navigate through?

Quint Studer  3:53
Well, when you look at Chuck, for example, I’m on some boards of private businesses, and COVID has hit them, depending on the business, but majority of them, you know, I’m not talking about paddle board kayaks, RVs boats, hiking equipment, but the majority of companies have been severely cut on COVID. I’m on the board of a health care system, and they got hit by 100 million dollars. Now, they had to make some very serious changes. I mean, that meant reducing some staffing. But you know, it’s interesting, they still never reduce their services. So they didn’t say We’re shutting down the ER, they didn’t say We’re shutting down we’re not going to do inpatient care anymore. Now of course, depending on the governor and where COVID is, you get elective surgeries it can go up and down. But let’s say that everything’s open. How does the city handle this all sudden, you have less money? Um, how did they how did how are you seeing them adjust to this because private and private businesses we we sometimes decide what What we can offer and what we can’t. But a lot of times that gives us that ability to say, are we as efficient as we need to be? Are we as effective as we need to be? Are we using technology as good as we could use? So what are your What are you seeing across the board with cities that are having these financial hits now are going to

Chuck Marohn  5:17
it’s, it’s a, it’s a really strange situation for people coming from private industry to watch how cities run. I wrote about this in chapter nine of my book, The feedback loops that cities get are different than a business, if you’re, you know, a restaurant and you’re not providing food, if you are, you know, a retail place and you’re not providing product, if you’re a service organization, you can’t provide that service, you just go away. And so you wind up cutting people first. And then trying to find a way to, you know, continue to provide the services and the goods that you’re providing with cities is the exact opposite, that the gut reaction to hardship is to, in a sense, hunker down and hang on to your people hang on your staff. And then the way that cuts manifest, because there there are cuts, they’re cut, I mean, you don’t have the money is in services. So you don’t do that rec program in the park, you don’t maintain that park quite as often you, you put off the capital project to repave the road and fix the sidewalks. And so what what happens, what manifests in cities is that because of the way they’re run, and because of really the the internal feedback loops, we wind up with a lot of staff, without enough to do, because there isn’t the budget to kind of go out and do things. It’s a very difficult conversation, because what we have recommended to cities, or at least tell them to think about is that we have to talk about reducing staff, we have to talk about how do we use this as a time to restructure to deliver services in a different way, sometimes in a more efficient way. But But oftentimes, it’s in a more distributed way, you know, cities are very good at what what I will call efficiency, I think sometimes people bristle at that because they’re like, oh, city governments not efficient. They’re very efficient, they make big projects, they bring big things in. And the reality is, is like now’s the time to get a little bit leaner, a little bit less efficient in our delivery, but maybe more distributed or more efficient in the number of touches we have with people. And actually, you know, retooling and refocusing. I think this is a this is a great opportunity. But cities have to get beyond the silo hierarchy, you know, human management type system, and into more of a focus on the urgent needs of people in their communities.

Quint Studer  8:01
etc. Interesting, interesting to say that, Chuck, because again, coming from the field, I was in things like six sigma, lean, Malcolm Baldrige ways to always look at how to cut out waste, how to be more efficient, more effective. You’re right, again, ideal I’m on the board of some companies, and not that they, you know, they don’t say this has been good at all. But it is forcing them to make some make some decisions they probably should have made. But now they can say they have no choice because you know, who wants to make some of these tough decisions or the extra environment, you have no choice sometimes a company that I work with laid off 450 employees. Now they have 12,000 employees, right. But it forced them to look, it forced them to look at productivity differently. It forced them to look at how they measure productivity. It’s forced them to look at all sorts of things that they probably wouldn’t have looked at, or what that is, urgently if they didn’t have no choice. And I’ve often wondered about that. And of course, what drove them is the fact that they had no choice, because the revenue was immediately a hint. Right. But what you’re saying, and I’ve always thought, Well, the reason that makes government sort of hard, because they have serve a consistent revenue stream. They’ve learned to count on visits, not based on satisfaction. Yeah, it’s really not based on or your taxpayer satisfied with your services. You’re always going to get this much money, whether you’re really good or really bad. I was talking to a city and pushing them one day and they said, well quit, you don’t understand we’re not for profit. I said, right. That’s why you should even be more efficient and more effective because you’re utilizing other people’s money. So you’re finding that cities, what what I’m hearing is they’re a little bit different as they might cut service, but and again, nobody likes to see people lose their job, but labor is where the dollars are in any industry.

Chuck Marohn  9:59
It is You You look, okay. So if you’re running an organization, you’ve got fixed costs, and you’ve got variable costs. For most organizations, the variable cost is is labor. I mean, that’s the thing, like we can increase number of people we can reduce. But things like keeping the machine running or keeping the, you know, a computer running, or paying the bill for your software subscription, or whatever it is, those are largely fixed costs. And they’re fixed costs, either because you have long term commitments, or because like those are essential to keeping things running. If you look at a city, a city looks at things like fixing the broken Street, are fixing the cracks, sidewalks, those are variable costs, we can put that off another year or another two years, or another five years, or whatever. And the fixed cost they look at as the staff, the actual people in the city hall. This is this is a, this is one of those areas where I think a more modern take on government, and one where we don’t, I’m going to try to say this in a nice way. I think a lot of people look at government, as you say, you know, it’s a nonprofit, we’re a nonprofit organization, and they equate nonprofit with charity. Well, I run a nonprofit. And the thing is, is like our mission is really, really important. And sometimes because our mission is so important, we actually have to do things with staff that are uncomfortable, we have to do things with programs that are uncomfortable, we have to say no to people, because we’re not a charity, we’re a nonprofit with a mission. If you’re a city, and you’re a nonprofit, with a mission, and that mission is the delivery of services to the community, and and basically the coordination of community action within the community. Sometimes you have to make hard decisions internally. You know, in order to fulfill that mission and cities, I’ve been reluctant to do that. very reluctant.

Quint Studer  11:57
Well, before we get into your new, I’m gonna ask about your before we get into a couple of things, I want to ask you about some what you’re seeing what cities outside of the government construction, new book,

Chuck Marohn  12:10
the new book is called Confessions of a recovering engineer. And it’s, it’s actually the book that I probably was was going to write first. But felt I had to write strong towns, which is that like the umbrella book. So this is like the this is the Empire Strikes Back to the Star Wars of the first book. This gets deep into transportation. I actually start the book by focusing on this, this death of a young girl, I was speaking in a city in Springfield, Massachusetts, and that night, a young girl was struck and killed, leaving the library with her mom crossing the street. And the thing about this incident is that it was a street that I had been made aware of. Prior to as having these problems, this propensity other people have been struck and killed there. And the city had responded to this situation in all the kind of wrote backward ways. And so this book is an exploration of all the different ways we do transportation. And you know, how we’re failing, our communities failing our cities, and then you know, what we do differently? If we want to do a strong towns approach to transportation? How do we build our roads different? How do we build our streets different? How do we do a transit differently? How do we, you know, build build wealth in our neighborhoods differently? It I’m very excited to share it. It’s probably the I think of like the hype around the first book, and there was a lot people were interested. But this is the one that I think people have been craving, and I’m excited next year will it’ll be available at some point in 2021. And I’m excited to, to share it with the world.

Quint Studer  13:57
Sounds like almost for you as a therapeutic book,

Chuck Marohn  14:00
correct? I would say yes, I, this this incident that happened, it happened in 20 2014. And at the time, the little girl that was killed was the age of my daughter, and it was like a week and a half before Christmas. And I was I had been on the road a little bit and I was feeling lonely and I wanted to get home. And all of a sudden, you know, this, this happens. And it happened in a place where we had been telling people this was going you know, it was it was a completely preventable thing. That but the thing that caused it the underlying effect of it was really my profession. It was the engineering profession. It was our approach as as it as you know, as professionals, to building transportation systems, discounting really human life and human experience in pursuit of our own, you know, professional set of objectives. I felt at the same time that I felt anguish over this, this young girls, you know, she was eight years old, tragic life being cut short, at this time of year with my kids and like everything, I also just had to overlay that with some professional guilt. This is a situation that is a shared experience by 10s of thousands of people every year, across this country for decades and decades. And it’s time that, you know, as a society as a profession, that we do a confession, and we do pledge to do something differently. So yeah, there’s, there’s a lot of therapy involved in writing. And this book in particular, was very, very helpful for that for me.

Quint Studer  15:41
Yeah, I think you know, and I’ve written books about culture and do things you almost are right in saying, I wish I would have done this, these are things I could have done, and so on. So sort of like we don’t want other people to go through this week. And not to get off but also things take so long. So for example, part of silicon people that are listening to podcast know that we bring in the best speakers, the best presenters, the most intellectual capital in the world, to Pensacola, and then we haven’t do a talk and now with COVID, we’ve actually made it well, you can listen to it anywhere and view it and ask yourself, yeah, really neat. We had a Dr. Michelle pride from New Mexico come in, or professor Aaron. You know, Chuck, she part of it was street safety. And you know, they used to come to Pensacola before COVID. And then they spend a day here and this is a type of woman that Honest to God, I think she brought a tape measure with her wherever she went. And I had no idea as ours wide our streets were how wide our crosswalks were. And she was very concerned about serving empty street, which is a major thoroughfare fare in Pensacola because it had 4 12 Lane highways. This is right in the town. This isn’t is not

Chuck Mahron  16:58
out. I’m familiar with it. It’s a

Quint Studer  17:00
an a crosswalk, so it was 54 feet wide. And people could die there. And of course, not too long after she she left we had a young mother pushing her baby with a stroller get killed going across that. And they might say, well, they should have went to the crosswalk. What honest to Gosh, Chuck, these crosswalks are like four blocks away, right? They don’t want to slow traffic down. So you know, if you’re a mom, and you’re Russian in news, you’re not going to go four blocks over four blocks back, just not gonna happen. But you know, it’s interesting.

Chuck Marohn  17:34
Can I can I point out one thing on that real quick? You we talked earlier about the feedback loops in government and entrepreneurship and how we adapt to stress. Namely, another industry, I mean, think about, like, you know, infant car seats, or baby cribs, where you can have repeated, you know, injuries, repeated deaths. And you don’t have kind of a forced introspection. The idea that engineers we just say, Well, she was she was not in the crosswalk, and then not actually go out and make a determination on what that would mean. It shows you how out of touch the system actually is.

Quint Studer  18:15
Well, and then what happened. Of course, of course, it’s a big deal. The politician show up, federal Florida Department of Transportation shows off they’re going to redesign the street, but you know, blah, blah, blah. They’d rather put a wall in so people can can prosper. They’re just more crosswalks more lights, but a one. But But hit me. Is there a big hullabaloo? But the street still looks the same now? Right? Looks the same and and everybody points fingers? Well, that’s because it’s a State Street. That’s because it’s a federal Street. That’s because that’s a city street. No, it’s a people Street. Yeah. And so it just hit me how, you know, we now can’t say in Pensacola, that we don’t know that st is dangerous. We know it. We can’t say that. We don’t have a plan, because we have a plan. So question I’ve got to now hold up the mirror when I get off this This interview is to say, when are we going to implement the plan? Because I think people love to call declare victory when the plans complete, not when the execution of the plan. So that’s fascinating. So when you look at cities, because they’re financially going to be strapped because of COVID. That’s just the way it’s going to happen. What are some things a city can you encourage that that can maybe come up with more revenue streams that aren’t taxpayer revenue streams?

Chuck Marohn  19:39
That’s it. That’s a good question. And I’m going to reject it. And I’m gonna, I’m gonna I’m going to do it like this. It’s one of those things where you know, when you’re running a business, when you’re an entrepreneur, and your revenue stream dries up, I think there’s two different tracks and the one track is How do we, you know, change, become more efficient, retool and make use of what we’ve got. And then the second track is how do we find new revenue streams? I think, yeah, yeah. Well, you can’t just do one, you’ve got to reduce your costs be more efficient, more effective here? Yes. Wow, you’re also growing here. So understand about a city is that cities have after, you know, really over the last, post World War Two era, cities have become implementation arms of state and federal policy. And so if you go into a city hall, what you will see is that the staff, the bureaucracy, and I don’t say that in a derogatory way, just the way we’ve created and aligned our cities, the programs that we have the task via, it’s all aligned vertically. And so what you’re looking at in City Hall is a system that is designed to work with the state government, work with federal government work with the bond market work with Wall Street, to bring capital into the community. And what happens in hardship is they’ll say, Well, okay, what’s the money that the federal government is going to provide? What’s the money that we can get from the state? What? Who can we get to come in and do something where’s that capital coming from? And a big part of the dysfunction in cities today is that we’re taking our cues from those capital flows, as opposed to the urgent needs of people in our city. What we have found is that when cities can reorient themselves, and you can think of this as a customer first mentality, although I really reject the idea that, you know, our residents, our customers, they’re, they’re actually more shareholders than they are customers. But if you if you think of it from an entrepreneurial mindset, what we really should be focused on at City Hall is the urgent needs of people in our community, where are people struggling? Where are people struggling to use the city as it’s been built? And if you start to ask those questions, what you find is that there is almost an infinite number of things we can do on a very small budget, and servantes Street is a good example. You know, we could get out there tomorrow, and implement that plan with straw bales and cones and paint. And would it be perfect? No. Would it be in its final state? No. Would it be a lot safer and a lot better and actually address the needs of people? Yes. And we could do it on a shoestring budget, but we don’t. And that’s because we’re oriented vertically. And we need to reorient horizontally. If we reorient horizontally, yes, we’re going to need more money. And I think there’s ways we can start to tap into that. But until we do that, we’re not going to be spending our money in ways that are going to actually help us and be productive.

Quint Studer  22:55
Well, I love them, you know, you just hit me with a joke. You know, if you’ve been here, we created something called a blue nerf. And it’s when we had enough property on both sides of the street that we had the city sort of we out we rented the street from the city, they right would take care of it. And we put a tree in the middle of an intersection. And at first, you know, the fire department said, Well, we can’t get through. But reality we had measured all this before we did it. And now people drive around this tree. Now. It’s ironically, if we would have said, we’re going to put around about there we reverse engineered ourselves $100,000 piece of cement that was not flexible, not movable. And people would have like crazy. So when I go to cities, I always joke because they they have everybody’s I was in Springfield, Ohio, and it was a cold winter’s night and I was going to speak Chuck and I thought this is going to be like Spinal Tap, or I’m going to get there. No one’s going to be there. But the three people that showed up at the City Council meeting topic was something else. And we walked in and it was my people wanted to hear about how to grow a vibrant community and we were I was stunned and he said My gosh, we haven’t had this many people here since the roundabout conversation. But you know, that was a inexpensive now tree cost $25,000 to put in to plant so that was around about 420 $5,000 that people love driving around. In fact, we decorated it for Christmas. They like it so much. We’ve kept it decorated. And people even go have their pictures taken around the tree in the middle of the road right now. That was a very inexpensive technique. And Mike when I was with you in Plano, Texas that one time You know, I think the thing is we get caught up and is it gonna be forever? No, it doesn’t try some things, move some things do some things. Right. I think I think the small ball and you know one of the things we learned from you when you come to Pensacola, you’ve been here twice and you’re going to be speaking at EntreCon now in our community track. You know better is better than Can’t be perfect, but better is better than what you’ve got. And don’t be afraid to do some small ball things. And I think that’s, you know, that’s where people get tripped up. I think, Chuck, they can’t do a perfect they just paralyzed themselves.

Chuck Mahron  25:14
Well, let’s cut cities a little bit of slack, because I feel like maybe I’ve been a little bit hard on him. One of the one of the challenges that cities have is when they do try to do this, we, as the general public, tend to get uptight with them. Oh,

yes. So out of them.

Chuck Marohn  25:33
I was, uh, I was doing a project here in my hometown, where we were trying to identify, basically creative people who could help us make the city better. And we went out and we said, All right, 20 people come in, we’re going to give you $100 each, we want you to go out and do something to make the neighborhood a better place we want we want you to do something that will make it a better place for people to live in the neighborhood. And we gave 20 people 100 bucks, and people went out. And some people took that money and they planted trees, someone, you know, bought a bunch of ice cream and handed it out to people. Someone bought Christmas lights and hung them up in their yard. My dad, I was telling my dad about this. And my dad said, that’s a stupidest thing I’ve ever heard. You know, why would you? You know, why would you take money? And he thought it was money from the city. It was actually money we gotten from a partner or foundation partner to do this is a Why would you take city money and spend it on Christmas lights and someone’s tree that’s a complete waste of taxpayer dollars. And he was all mad. And I told them that, yeah, that that’s right is a waste of taxpayer dollars. But understand what I did, I just paid $100 to figure out that that’s not the person who is going to go on to round two of this contest. And round two of the contest was we gave five people $400 apiece, and then round three was you gave to people $1,000. And then the fourth round was you had one person who you were going to give a significant amount of money to in an entrepreneurial sense, we get this we get that making small bets. As a way to discover the best approach, it is money well spent. But in city government, what that looks like is it looks like a waste of money. And taxpayers show up and they pound their fists and they say how can you waste our money. And they they they push the staff and the elected officials into a defensive mode, where you get like death by committee. Okay, we’re gonna make this project so big. And so like, touch so many different hands that no one single person is responsible. And and that’s the worst kind of government.

Quint Studer  27:46
I think you hit a beautiful point, when you get beat up like that, you become risk adverse risk averse. And that. And I think that’s a term when Jim Clifton was looking at cities. And one of the things he talks about is private citizens at times have to have the back of your elected officials, because it’s going to be pretty, pretty tough. And one things we have found with civic con, it’s pretty much our, our public officials when they make a decision, we’ve educated the community for them. And I’ll give you an example. We have a street called Spring Street. It’s about a six black Street between Main Street and garden Street, four lanes, 45 miles per hour. And Spring Street goes right down to the maritime Park, which is quite, quite beautiful. But it’s but before the park was there, there was no need. Nobody went there. So you’d get and it was how fast can you get between garden Street, the main street or Main Street and garden Street. So I think to our marriage credit with, you know, civic con and talking about somebody gets in at 25, they live 35, four out of 10 get maybe severely hurt her die 45 eight out of 10 severely hurt her die. Um, he took these four lanes, and he made them two lanes. And he took the extra lanes on each side and he created angle parking spots. So because people always want parking, and now he’s got angled parking spots where there used to be a lane. Now, the first thing that happened is the bike people beat him up because there wasn’t a designated bike lane. But but i’m saying is instead of saying, Wow, this was great. You created all these parking spots for nothing but paint, you slow the speed down to 45 to 25. Because we all learned that from you. If you want to know your city, drive it slow, or I bike a lot and I since I’ve been biking I see so many things that I didn’t see before when I drove. But you’re right. The first initial reaction wasn’t to say, Wow, is that smart? He’s saving lives by slowing down the speed limit created these parking lots spots for nothing the first time was, well, we should have had a bike claim. And from the bikers now the car said, well wait a minute now, I have to go 25 instead of 45. Right and I don’t park there anyway. So I do think you have a good point that we also need to be as aggressive on supporting the government and looking at an understanding decisions versus how it’s so easy it is to come up with Herbert Spencer. So this your way to keep ourselves in darkness is has contempt prior to investigation. Right? Sometimes we have contempt prior to investigation. Well, you’re going to be an entrecon this year. We’re all excited. You’re like, you know, the superstar here in Pensacola, Florida. So many people go back to Chuck Marohn. It was a defining moment in our history when you came and presented. It changed the paradigm and change the thought process. And you really were the spark that ignited the change here in Pensacola in many ways. For this year for EntreCon, because we think there’s such a connection between growing a sustainable city with small businesses and entrepreneur but also making the community work. We’re very excited. We have James Lima, talk about economic placemaking. We have James fallows, who’s from the Atlantic, who traveled the whole country with his wife, Deb, and they wrote the book called our towns, why do some cities you know, sort of what differentiates those cities that seem to do well? And of course, we have you talking with the strong town. So So somebody comes in and Dr. Khan, and they’re going to sign up or their community member they go to your session? Well, and maybe you don’t have it yet? Because sometimes I don’t have my session till right beforehand, what are some of the messages you’re going to want to try to cover?

Chuck Marohn  31:44
I really want to focus on the difference this between an investor and an entrepreneur. Okay. So, so much. And I mentioned earlier how cities are oriented vertically, as opposed to horizontally. You know, a big part of that is trying to find investment capital people who will come in and invest in the community. And investment is very important, like we need, we need investment. But if you think of like the opportunity zone program, the idea with the opportunity zones, the last couple years has been well let’s get someone from outside the community to come in and shower a bunch of capital in here. we overlook or, or discount how that is different than an entrepreneur. And I define an entrepreneur as someone with a crazy idea who doesn’t know that they can fail. So they have a they have a passion, they have something they’re working on, but they don’t really stop to consider like how everything could go wrong with their life, or, you know, the if they failed, yeah. And we had here in Brainerd, my hometown, in Minnesota, we we struggle with entrepreneurship. But we see I see sparks of it here and there. And one of these sparks was we don’t have a donut shop in town. Like you can’t get donuts here. And there was a person who was starting a little donut shop. And you know, they were doing kind of custom funky little things. It wasn’t your standard, you know, Little Debbie, whatever chocolate or whatever it was, it was it was interesting, it was a niche. And at the same time that this was starting up, Dunkin Donuts was looking to locate into town. Dunkin Donuts is obviously you guys have, we don’t have them here in Minnesota very much. You have a lot of them in Florida. They’re a big corporate chain, I looked into what you needed to start a Dunkin Donuts, to start a Dunkin Donuts, you had to be first of all a registered investor, you had to have a half million dollars of liquid net worth. In order to start a franchise, they had a way you would build the building, they had the building basically designed you just needed to identify the lot. And they would put it in and then they had all the basically the programming for you. Here’s how you hire a manager. Here’s how you do this. What they were looking for was people with capital people with money, who could in a sense, invest in their model their business, that was always the city rolled out the red carpet, gave them tax subsidies to try to attract them did all this stuff to bring the investor into town. And the reality is the entrepreneur. The you know, the the local person was going to provide that service at a very high quality without needing the subsidies without needing, you know, all the demo work. But we were crowding them out with this investment capital. I think we have to. I’m gonna use this word and it’s I want people to think about it for a bit. I think we need to protect our entrepreneurs and not protect them from competition but but provide themselves space to be that crazy person to try those things, not knowing that they could fail, and actually give them a little bit of room to flex and, and discover. And when we do that, I think what we’ll find is that our cities are filled with these kind of people. And they will make the place incredible if we just give them the room to do it.

Quint Studer  35:27
On they correct that individual experience that doesn’t look like anyone else. If you’re a community. And we’ve had similar kind of speakers talk about this, you’re not going to differentiate yourself. If you look like every other city that has the same chain, the same this, you know, one of the communities that I’ve spent a lot of time in, there’s so many chains now they call it change, though, anyway. And I think you lose that. And when you look at downtown’s particularly Chuck, because when I first got into downtown Pensacola, we sort of thought, let’s attract some of those franchises. And again, this is just the nature of the beast not wrong or right. They’d look and say, No, you know, no, it’s not built. Now, when it’s all built up all successful, then we’ll come in, when you’ve paved, you’ve done

Chuck Mahron  36:09
all the hard work, right. So

Quint Studer  36:11
I agree with you. And I think that’s one of the things, you know, how do you create these eco entrepreneur systems in small and mid market cities, because the big cities sort of have these things they started. I mean, my son lives in Chicago, and they’ve got tons of different ways for entrepreneurs, startups, and foundations and but some of your small and mid market cities, which you and I spend a lot of time in. Yes. Don’t So I think, you know, that’s, I just love what you just said, I learned one

Chuck Marohn  36:38
of the more one of the more remarkable things that I found is, you know, you can go to New York City, you can go to Manhattan, you can go to Queens, where I’ve got a good friend who lives and you can find more local entrepreneur, restaurants, shops, you know, one off mom and pop kind of places, you could actually eat more local food in New York City, you know, food has grown within an hour of New York City. Then you can hear in Brainerd, Minnesota, where I’m surrounded by farms surrounded by you know, an all we have are, you know, the McDonald’s, Taco Bell all the all the chains, we got our Applebee’s we got all that. And we have lots of people who who are unemployed or underemployed, who have all kinds of skills and just need the room to be able to do this. I would have thought it was the opposite. like New York, we’re gonna have all the chains, you know, but it’s opposite.

Quint Studer  37:37
I had never thought of it. Again, you turn another light on for me because when where she and I are in New York, I don’t think we’ve ever eaten at a chain restaurant in New York. And they have all these food vendors outside.

They close. They close

Fifth Avenue every Sunday, between like 52nd and 57th. And let just vendors out there.

Chuck Mahron  37:58
Yeah. Yeah, I have never thought of that. But they’re protecting. When I say protect your entrepreneurs. That’s what they’re doing. They’re protecting them actually creating space where they can be competitive in a marketplace.

Quint Studer  38:11
Bingo. Bingo. Well, this has been marvelous. I

always learned so much from you, I could just I’m like, you know, you’re like a hose. And I just want you to keep the water on for me and for many other so so Chuck, we’re excited about one first year strong counts book, which has done extremely well, extremely well. Your new book coming out, and the impact you’re having around around the country. And we’re you know, you’re a change agent. And we appreciate that. And you know, you’re just wrapped up and I think that’s hard for people sometimes you know, they something you probably get showered with affection. But do you know that sometimes people don’t really show the affection for the disrupter until until later on because they didn’t know what work and they get scared of change and they get scared of that. So we’re appreciate what you’ve done. And we’re so looking forward to you being part of afrikan this year with our community track. So thank you so much Derek and time for communities and think in time for this podcast.

Chuck Mahron  39:13
Hey, thank you and I’m flattered to be able to do it. You know, I have a lot of love for you and all the work that you’re doing and, and and Pensacola in particular. So it’s it’s fun. My only lament is that we can’t do it in person this year. But we will hopefully look forward to that next year.

Quint Studer  39:32
I agree. Thank you so much.


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