Thursday was the first day for the City of Minden’s new economic director, and he’s excited to get started.
James Graham has been in the business of economic development for 30 years. Mayor Tommy Davis took him around Minden Thursday and he sees a community that is fortunate for coming through the economic recession relatively unscathed.
“However, it is clear that the city cannot stand still,” he said. “Anyone in business understands that if you’re standing still, it is most likely you are sliding backwards. It is a community that is ready for change, and it has to take the next step, which is jobs, higher paying jobs. We want to work with the private sector to create jobs that pay benefits.”
He believes it’s important for businesses to continue to grow, treat its employees fairly. He believes the public has a responsibility to prepare themselves for new jobs that will come.
“This is the age of brains, not brawn,” he said. “Those in the labor force have a responsibility to upgrade their skills if they want to stay competitive. We are definitely competing on a local, state, national and international marketplace.”
Government has a responsibility as well, he says, to operate efficiently and promote economic development with the help of the community and business community.
But the future is bright for Minden.
“I see a Minden that is still as friendly as it is today,” he said. “I see in the future a Minden where its neighbors still know each other although welcoming new neighbors moving in from other places, young families buying homes, because they have new jobs. The jobs of the future will require technical training and education. I see Minden with great vitality, because we want to work with everyone to create business and those existing to stay and expand.”
He also wants to see younger people stay and be employed here and help the community grow. The type of economic development he wants to engage in is one of partnerships.
Davis says he wants Minden to be more enticing to industry.
“We need something to come in here to where our citizens can go and make a decent wage with decent benefits and spend their money here locally,” Davis said. “We’re glad that James came to Minden and liked what he saw and saw the potential that’s here. We’ve done a lot of things right, and we certainly need to move forward and get into the economic development mode that we haven’t been in.”
Davis says they’ve been working towards ensuring having land that is site ready for businesses to either build or move in. This means making sure the infrastructure, such as water, sewer and electrical, are available.
Graham is originally from Virginia and has a daughter he’s about to send to college in the fall. He’s proud of her accomplishments in that she just received her pilot’s license, and is the first African-American female prior to high school graduation to do so in the state of Delaware, he said.
“She got her pilot’s license at the same time she was learning to drive a car,” he said. “Needless to say, I’m very proud of her.”
He says he chose economic development because he comes from a small town where the major industry was textiles and the impact of trade agreements had an impact on his reason for going into economic development.
“I saw families lose their homes, I saw businesses close, I even saw churches close, and I’d never seen churches close as a consequence of the economic devastation,” he said. “That impact left an impression on me.”
As he’s grown in the business of economic development, there is one thing he’s learned.
“What I’ve been able to ascertain is that people love their hometown,” he said. “If you don’t love Minden, then you can’t convince anybody else to either. People have to love their hometown. That’s half the battle.”
In July’s city council meeting, Graham’s hire was approved unanimously, with councilman Vincen Bradford absent.