Opportunity at the Economic Roots
|Broken Platter.The Owl and the Pussy Cat by Brenda Andersen circa 1960’s|
A Call to Action!
I first began blogging about political matters because I observed that there was a missing diversity of reporting and opinion in the Maine media. My purpose in writing my own blog is to create an alternative voice. I have likewise found this to be true in terms of access to economic development support in the Boothbay Region despite the existence of organizations which call themselves economic development councils and resources. The economic development council is as unapproachable as the Boothbay Planning Board, which despite language found in Title Thirty of the Maine Statutes stating that the public “shall” have a hearing in regards to town planning, inclusive of comments submitted in writing, the Boothbay Planning Board does not provide contact information on the town website, also true for the Joint Economic Development Planning Council.
When I approached the Joint Economic Development Council of Boothbay and Boothbay Harbor about a museum concept for which Andersen Design had been fiscally sponsored, the JECD has just spent 79000.00 of public money to hire New York consultants to write, from a great distance, a master plan for our local community. The Camoin Associates master plan recommends museums for the region.
Fiscal sponsorship means that the sponsored organization can accept non-profit funding without itself being a 501(3)C organization. In other words a fiscally sponsored project can bring capital funding into a community but it still pays taxes, including property taxes. Ms Wolf seemed unaware of Andersen Design’s history, recognition, and support within our industry. We were readily invited to apply for funding from a major Maine Crafts Foundation but that requires establishing a board for the museum, for which I found no support locally.
One might expect a local economic development council to understand fiscal sponsorship as a community asset. However, it is uncertain that JECD spokesperson, Wendy Wolf, was familiar with fiscal sponsorship, as she advised me that the first thing I would have to do is become a 501(3)C organization. Wolf also relayed that the JECD could do nothing to help individual businesses. I was advised to get help from my own peer group, dismissing the advise in the Camoin Report, about developing museums in the region. Ms Wolf was preoccupied with planning an advertising program to benefit the Boothbay Harbor restaurants and accommodations industry, in conjunction, with the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens Christmas lights event, all accepted into the JECD’s peer group.
It is true that Andersen Design’s support is not found in government and other public organizations. There is a large world outside the public system but there are times when one must confront and even collaborate with government. Now is one of those times since it matters to preserve the quality of life and working environment provided by a business in the home. For many years that life style, so fundamental to rural living and designer craftspeople has been a target of elimination in Boothbay. An examination and comparison of statutory mandates and town planning leads from one to the other by following the money, distributed as grants. The State is playing a hand in our town planning, which could be remedied somewhat by establishing a town charter, but that still leaves the heavy hand of centrally managed wealth redistribution. Since I would not like to move once more in order to have the freedom to live a quality life consistent with my upbringing, I must take up the call to action and harken others to join me. I present my case herein.
|The Cat that Thinks by Himself, By Brenda Andersen. Vintage Prototype circa 1970’s ?|
A Concept is Born
About twenty years ago, Andersen Design’s production, which once had a large facility, had fallen back on our space in our home. I was casting the line but it was too large to cast all at once in that small space so I had to rotate the line. I imagined there being many small studios and that each one could concentrate on particular segment of the line, perfecting the craftsmanship of those particular pieces. I favor the quality of work process that small studios attached to a home provide, but size and working environment would be up to the individual studio.
We need collaborators who love the process and are dedicated to it and so I felt the studios should be individually owned. We would network with them as independent contractors. The studios could either work exclusively with us or develop other business and their own lines. That would depend on the individual of which there are all types. I am aware that there is a subculture in America of artisans who decorate slip cast forms and others who slip cast forms and sell them to that market, evidence that the interest in ceramic work is alive and well and attractive. My idea is a variation on that and fashion design studios which out live their namesakes, and continue the originating tradition.
The classic Chickadee was designed by Weston and Brenda Andersen is produced using our original casting slip and glaze recipes made from raw materials. Even though the glaze and decorating recipes are the same, due to the process, each studio’s work is likely to be distinguished by its own identity. Teaching a process dependent upon originally designed glaze and body recipes requires the hands on involvement of those who know the process. Small works like the chickadee have never gone out of demand, fitting in small spaces in the kiln, increasing its value and creating a better firing density They are a pleasure to craft well and all that we can produce is readily sold. Today we are missing a studio where we can produce and train others. Please sign up for our Kickstarter support list, which needs to grow far beyond its current size before we launch. If you are already on our list you can help by sharing this message around.
I didn’t realize then, that it is a politically radical idea to propose ownership at the roots of the economy, in Maine, in the early years of the twentieth first century.
Diversity- A Plan or Pipe Dream?
“As Tzu-Gung was traveling through the regions north of the river Han, he saw an old man working in his vegetable garden. He had dug an irrigation ditch. The man would descend into a well, fetch up a vessel of water in his arms and pour it out into the ditch. While his efforts were tremendous the results appeared to be very meager. Tzu-Gung said, “There is a way whereby you can irrigate a hundred ditches in one day, and whereby you can do much with little effort. Would you not like to hear of it?” Then the gardener stood up, looked at him and said, “And what would that be?” Tzu-Gung replied, “You take a wooden lever, weighted at the back and light in front. In this way you can bring up water so quickly that it just gushes out. This is called a draw-well.” Then anger rose up in the old man’s face, and he said “I have heard my teacher say that whoever uses machines does all his work like a machine. He who does his work like a machine grows a heart like a machine, and he who carries the heart of a machine in his breast loses his simplicity. He who has lost his simplicity becomes unsure in the strivings of his soul. Uncertainty in the strivings of the soul is something which does not agree with honest sense. It is not that I do not know of such things; I am ashamed to use them “cited as favorite anecdote of Werner Heisengerg. by Marshall McLuhan in The Medium is the Message.
Recently, in response to developments, I thought of an even more radical idea, that the core network should be located in Boothbay. It should be an avenue accessible to those of limited means (or not) to become entrepreneurs, just as it was for our family which lived on the edge of faith during my youth, before the business attained financial success providing a comfortable and secure living.
I was too young to be aware of financing, aware only that the business was started with small business loan and proceeds from selling the Levittown style house Dad was able to purchase as a war veteran. The SBA loans were guaranteed by the government and enabled financing but did not cost the taxpayers unless there was a default. Such a system can measure its public benefit value by the ratio of loans paid back versus defaults. I have wondered how my parents managed to swing the financing of the New York Gift Show, which put Andersen Design on the national map. As the first NYC Gift Show, it may have been offered at a reduced rate. I only know that I have never heard that they had any outside financing to make that happen.
Winters were dicey. I went to the post office every day eager to see if there was a check in the mail. I was accustomed to not knowing when necessary funds were coming and having the funds arrive, as needed. That reinforced faith in the workings of the universe. This is the spirit of America that is lost as we become another wealth redistribution society, providing security but withholding opportunity for all those except the economic top. Andersen Design possesses productivity assets which can contribute to the economic development of a region from the roots outwards. Our assets, an extensive marketable and classic product line and a historical brand identity, are unusual and can only come about over the long term, not instantly manifested over night.
However many are intent upon reinventing the Boothbay Region as an exclusive community for the wealthy. How can the latter accomodate a budding micro-economy entrepreneurial class? Can the economics of one co-exist with the economics of the other? I can’t answer that. But it has to begin with a vision and the ability to suspend disbelief. The vision is based on the foundational concept that the appropriate goal of economic development is economic diversity and strength in the middle.
Should Andersen Design succeed in realizing a ceramic slip studio network, it will enhance the economic and cultural diversity of the community. Ordinances which encourage rather than prohibit home businesses contribute to the solution of several problems at once, affordable housing, year round employment, and way to integrate raising a family with growing a living.
|Acorn Squash Vase, small, 3.5″ tall, The beauty of this natural and organic form takes on pristine clarity in our soft white matte glaze, Vintage prototype. Design by Weston Neil Andersen circa 1980’s|
An Industry Partnership
Most economic development in Boothbay is centered on the leisure time activities of the tourism and entertainment industries. A ceramic network enhances a community focus on creative, innovative and productive work activities. Networked ceramic studios, sometimes working independently, sometimes collaboratively, meets the description found in §3305. Industry partnership grant program, since such a ceramic network is an industry partnership.
The Industrial Partnership Program is one of the few options that make training affordable, but it is not as equitably accessible to all as was the minimum wage, which is no longer treated as a training wage, a shared expense by employer and employee, but as a minimum living wage, keyed to increase with inflation. Training is expensive to take on. It is a form of education, raising the skill level of the employee. Whereas the formerly conceived minimum wage made training equally accessible to all and a shared cost between employer and employee, one has to garner community support for grants.
The first community served by a ceramic studio network are home businesses which need the support of town ordinances. The second community is designer craftsmen in general and ceramic artists in specific,and then there is the retail sector which benefits by shopping experience which is actually better in the real world than online. As already stated, the community that shares the values of creating entrepreneurial opportunity at the roots of the economy would be served by such a network. Andersen Design understands growth from the roots because that was how Andersen Design began. Growth from the roots up can extend to the heights, a pathway made more accessible when the divide between the haves and the have nots devolves into the middle, a divide which has only deepened in Maine since Governor Longley and his unelected board reinvented Maine as a centrally managed economy in 1976.
Since thinking of the idea for networking the production of our line. I have explored the capitalization-funding systems from every angle and came to see the entire economy as intersecting wealth redistribution sectors. Once there had been three separate and distinct sectors, government, private, and non-profit, but all had merged into one, morphing intermittently into the appearance of separability but in fact so homogeneously connected that it seemed that it had swallowed up the wealth creating sector, obscuring it from perception by the naked eye. Although the wealth redistributing sector redistributed wealth that was once created, it developed into a culture in which the act of creating wealth was viewed as untoward, while the act of redistributing wealth was perceived, or at least promoted, to be motivated by the unselfish will to public benefit. Meanwhile behind every powerful non-profit organization is found a multitude of large corporate foundations which have accumulated large concentrations of wealth in the private sector. As reported in American Investment in the Twentieth Century, since the onset of the twenty first century, the macro-economy, which funds the redistribution economy, has been decreasing investments in building non-financial businesses in order to increase investments in financial assets, or money making money, as its only function within society. We are not there in totality, yet, but is the direction in which America is headed. How is it sustainable?
The Butterfly Effect
It is often said that the individual has no effect on the path of the world. However in chaos theory, there is a minutely sensitive dependence on initial conditions in which a small change in one state of a deterministic nonlinear system can result in large differences in a later state:
The Butterfly Effect
Edward Lorenz, is derived from the metaphorical example of the details of a tornado (the exact time of formation, the exact path taken) being influenced by minor perturbations such as the flapping of the wings of a distant butterfly several weeks earlier. Lorenz discovered the effect when he observed that runs of his weather model with initial condition data that was rounded in a seemingly inconsequential manner would fail to reproduce the results of runs with the unrounded initial condition data. A very small change in initial conditions had created a significantly different outcome.
|Andersen Design has a special talent for form. The Andersen Butterfly as it was decorated as a production pattern can also be decorated as a one of a kind or limited edition artwork. There is no limit to the decorative and glazing possibilities. It is because Andersen Design started as a business in a home, that it was able to evolve as production as an art form, which is the truly humanistic response to the inhumane working conditions brought about by the Industrial Revolution in the 18th century, and in the twenty first century, by those working “quality jobs” in Amazon distribution centers. Andersen Design’s brand of production as an artform centers on work as more than a means of an income but as an important quality of life. Andersen Design Production as an art form necessarily relies on its humanity.|
One might equate central economic management with the data system which is rounded off, in the belief that that only large systems contribute to results, dismissing smaller systems as inconsequential. The State as central manager of wealth redistribution economy, arranges the pay and benefits of the workers from minimum wage to quality jobs, which are defined as jobs paying higher than average wages and benefits, with no further criteria. A system of grant giving corals all who engage to serve as instruments of the State’s centrally managed design for everything that exists. The State just hasn’t been able to figure out how to coral those darn butterflies! The best solution is to round them off, to build one’s model of everything as if nothing exists outside the all-knowing state.
Title 30: §4345. Purpose; department to administer program Under the provisions of this article, a municipality or multimunicipal region may request financial or technical assistance from the department for the purpose of planning and implementing a growth management program. A municipality or multimunicipal region that requests and receives a financial assistance grant shall develop and implement its growth management program in cooperation with the department and in a manner consistent with the procedures, goals and guidelines established in this subchapter.
E. Assistance in the development of ordinances;
In the Boothbay Register, articles about our town economic development groups are always about the money, and inevitably grants from the State.
|The Meeting of the Emperor Penguins Board. Emperor Penguin designed by Weston and Brenda Andersen and finished in Andersen Design’s proprietary glazes.|
The Mad Hatters Board Party
In 1976, Governor Longley’s unelected board, defined one of the two missions of the state’s new centrally managed economy in its report Governor’s Task Force for Economic Redevelopment, Recommended Legislation for an Economic Development Program -110th Congress, as “To eliminate municipal referendums on public bonds”. Since public votes on municipal bonds are provided by the Home Rule Amendment to the Maine Constitution, added in 1969, it is not such an easy thing to do. Instead a system of government by boards proliferated and proliferated.
Government by boards is an opaque form of government. There is no individual accountability as positions of the individual board members are hidden behind the collective identity of the board, like the Wizard of OZ. Boards can deem nonsense like the Mad Hatters Tea Party and there is nothing to do about it.
In my search for a means to recapitalize Andersen Design, I learned about fiscal sponsorship, which allows an enterprise serving a mutual purpose of a non-profit 501 (3)(C) to be sponsored by the non-profit as a project enabling the project organization to apply for foundation grants without being structured as a 501 (3)(C) non-profit. The entity whose project is sponsored qualifies for funding, otherwise available only to 501 (3)(C) organizations, but is not tax exempt. This seems like a healthy development with potential to redistribute wealth on a more equitable bases by including the micro-economy free enterprise sector, which is taxed to finance subsidies for the large corporations which concentrate wealth and create foundations to give via non-taxpaying non-profits. The justification for subsidizing large corporations with taxpayer funding is because it serves “the public benefit”. For such rational to be true, what goes around must come around.
I applied to a New York fiscal sponsor for the arts, as a social enterprise. I was told before I went through the process that because Andersen Design has been teaching ceramic skills on the job, for our entire history that we should qualify. After taking an inordinately long time to come to a decision, the board rejected our application citing the use of the word “production” on the application, which the board declared to mean “being in it only for the money”. By asserting that our motivations are whatever the board declares them to be, the actual fact that we have been teaching employees the skills of making ceramics since 1952, was disqualified as a social enterprise function. The fact that we taught the skills and can continue to teach the skills is an indisputable fact. The assertion by the board regarding our motivations is arbitrarily mechanized fiction.
After rejecting our application for funding the continuance of Andersen Design’s historical purpose, the fiscal sponsors board then encouraged us to apply for a different mission, wherein the apparent thinking of the board became even more preposterous.
The board invited us to apply instead for a school or a museum. If we applied as a school, the board would not allow us to teach others how to make our product line of over 200 designs but it would allow us to teach how to make our proprietary glazes.
Having invested so much time and energy into the application, on the spur of the moment, I decided to apply for a museum, making up the figures on the fly, being sure to show a loss. We were readily accepted once we changed our mission and showed a loss.
However our first goal is to re-establish a ceramic studio and training center. The museum makes a great component of the network whenever both materialize, but is on the back burner until then.
Town Ordinances Need to Work for All Inhabitants of the Community!
A January 2019 article in the Boothbay Register tells about an artist who purchased a house on Ocean Point, thinking it would be no issue in a small town to get permission to set up a gallery and teach a four student class. He was wrong. The planning board denied permission.
In the same article it is reported that the planning board is reconsidering its prohibitions against businesses in the home, but no contact information is given. In November the inhabitants of the municipality will be allowed an up or down vote on what the planning board decides, and a public hearing at that late date, but no mentioned opportunity for submitting written comments, as mandated by Title 30 of the Maine Statutes. As my reader might have guessed, this is my written comment.
Concurrently, with rumors that the planning board is reconsidering the ordinances prohibitive to home businesses, the town selectmen and JECD are trying to implement fiber optics broadband, and talking about grants to pay for it. Will there be a trade off bargain for State funding pitting one interest group against another? The broadband group commands the media with frequent stories advancing their intentions but the only way I found out about the planning boards rumored reconsideration of ordinances restricting home businesses is because of a one line mention, hidden in a paragraph in the January article in the Boothbay Register. The JECD does nothing to represent the interests of traditional rural lifestyles while using public funding to advance its own agenda.
Boothbay is located within commuting distance from the Midcoast Regional Redevelopment Authority, a former navy base, reinvented as a municipal corporation chartered by the Maine Legislature to serve as an instrument of the state. As the only municipality designated as a Pine Tree Zone in the Midcoast Region, most, if not all, taxpayer subsidies and tax exemptions, are invested in the municipality of MRRA, leaving only one role for the rest of the Midcoast Region – to serve as high end housing for the tax payer subsidized development at MRRA. The perceived needs of a MRRA suburbia is one speculative explanation for why the mysteriously appointed Boothbay planning board has passed ordinances, some copied word for word from the State’s Industrial Partnership Act, aimed at breaking apart the lifestyle and work process which integrates a business with a home- a core value in Andersen Design’s vision of a related network of independently owned, industrious ceramic studios, in fact the inspiration for it, without which the evolution of production as an art form would not have had room to grow. Production as an art form is historically relevant to all that has happened since the industrial revolution and its associated social issues.
Boothbay Comprehensive Plan of 2015 pg 16 & 17 Identical to Chapter 39: MAINE INDUSTRY PARTNERSHIPS Action , 2-3 * Action B,2-4[ 2013, c. 368, Pt. FFFFF, §1 (NEW) .]
Action B.2-4. Explore creating a small business assistance program that would help growing businesses, including home businesses and home occupations, with financing and with locating in appropriate commercial/industrial districts when appropriate.
Add Developers like Paul Coulombe and Air B&B to the mix and there is little room for people of ordinary means. Even so, our politicians invest great rhetoric into claims of wanting to attract young people and to create year round employment and affordable housing. Even I admit that it is madness to think that young budding micro-economy entrepreneurs could afford to live and work in Boothbay, even if our ordinances were to be rolled back.
And yet, here we are, residing in Boothbay on a property with well water, needed for producing our product, due to the fact that in 2017 the town water in Knickerbocker Lake became unusable for the purpose of mixing our ceramic casting slip, as it acted as if radically overdosed with flocculants, a water cleansing agent. The property where we reside has enough acerage to accommodate building a ceramic studio and training center. In order to do so, we must first take on city hall, aka the Boothbay Town rulers, both elected and unelected. According to Title 30 financial assistance to municipalities is to be tied to conformity with State goals:
§4345. Purpose; department to administer program Under the provisions of this article, a municipality or multimunicipal region may request financial or technical assistance from the department for the purpose of planning and implementing a growth management program. A municipality or multimunicipal region that requests and receives a financial assistance grant shall develop and implement its growth management program in cooperation with the department and in a manner consistent with the procedures, goals and guidelines established in this subchapter.
State Goals are inevitably tied to the system described by Senator Rubio in his Report. Made in China 2025 and the Future of American Industry, in which there are high value and low value industries at the global scale. High value industries are designated for developed nations and low valued industries for emerging economies. Most things hand crafted are low value industry, according to this system which actually is “only about the money”. This way of thinking is consistent with Maine’s definition of a “quality job”, exclusively measured by higher than average wages and benefits, as arranged by the State for corporate benefits.
There is also this in Title 30:
§4326. Growth management program elements 1. Inventory and analysis. A comprehensive plan must include an inventory and analysis section addressing state goals under this subchapter and issues of regional or local significance that the municipality or multimunicipal region considers important. The inventory must be based on information provided by the State, regional councils and other relevant local sources. The analysis must include 10-year projections of local and regional growth in population and residential, commercial and industrial activity; the projected need for public facilities; and the vulnerability of and potential impacts on natural resources. (emphasis added)The inventory and analysis section must include, but is not limited to:
B. Significant water resources such as lakes, aquifers, estuaries, rivers and coastal areas and, when applicable, their vulnerability to degradation; [2001, c. 578, §15 (AMD)
For the purposes of inventory and analysis, the degradation of the Knickerbocker Lake water supply, pursuant to the purpose of mixing our casting slip, should be included in the inventory and analysis of significant water resources and fairly incorporated into the zoning ordinances. Our long established local industry requires a property with well water. I submit that “other relevant local sources” includes all inhabitants of the community. The planning board should be talking to the people and businesses affected by their regulations- during the planning process, not only a short time before a vote. There is no way for the planning board to understand our issue with town water unless there is an open avenue of communication.
If the planning board completely ends the current tyranny against home businesses, our water issue will be solved. They may be calculating access to State grants in this policy. However the balancing factor is that by encouraging growth at the roots of the economy, incalculable initial conditions could create a significantly different and more diversified outcome for the region’s economy and culture. The quality of measurement should not be only about the money.
Think globally, Act locally!