In recent months a lot of changes have hit the scene in downtown Kokomo. Being that Sandra and I are owners of downtown's Main Street Cafe, I am more in-tune to the local chatter than ever before.
We noticed (wasn't actually hard to notice) that there were vocal detractors to KipCor's buying of local properties and just recently, the newly proposed baseball stadium.
Jeff Broughton is KipCor's president and CEO. They started work here during the tail end of 2013. In my observation, he's not just a man flying in, talking to renovation crews and flying out. He's clearly making work of getting to know people and getting to know Kokomo.
As Sandra and I have talked with Jeff these past few months, he doesn't come across as an outsider; he interacts more like a neighbor than a developer. He comes across like someone who's looking to find a home.
A question I've been asked many times, "Is this Broughton guy for real?" I reply, "You can't fake drywall."
His crews are doing real renovations to great old buildings that have been idly sitting and going to waste. I don't know his past any more than I know most other local business people's past. I know what I see evidenced in his work and his relational interactions. And what I see appears to be real, as real as any other born and bread Kokomoan business person I know.
As to the new sports facility, I've heard the squawks, "Do we really need to build a 9 million dollar baseball stadium?" The quick answer is no. We don't need that. Likewise we don't need murals in our community, flowers along our streets, or smooth roads.
I think the thing that every city needs to do is much the same thing each individual longs to do: reach its potential. Therefore investing money in hopes of contributing to the greater good of our city is indeed a need.
The thing I love about leaders and entrepreneurs is that they see the need or usefulness before everyone else does. Most of us wouldn't have voted to do all the bump-outs, new stop signs etc downtown. But almost all of us love and take pride in our downtown that looks better than it has in decades--maybe ever.
All of us drove past the Firestone Building and the train station section of Buckeye and never thought of doing anything to improve those areas. Almost all of us are now enjoying seeing these old beauties coming back to life.
There is this theory called the Diffusion of Innovations.
On the graph, 2.5% of us are innovators (leaders, entrepreneurs, developers etc). 13.5% of us are early adopters. That means that only 13.5% of us can get on board with a vision based just on a plan or talking about it.
In my humble opinion, this is why a lot of people in Kokomo roll their eyes about renovating old buildings downtown or building a new stadium. Also factor in that Kokomoans are more on the conservative side; most of us are not exactly known as risk takers ;-)
As you look at the graph, think of the rising curve representing actual construction of a stadium or actual renovation of a building that's been dilapidated your whole life. The more the project comes together and takes actual shape, the more people will start to see and believe in the vision.
I've seen this with Jeff Broughton and KipCor. In the winter, when it was mostly talk about the vision, I heard a lot of skeptical chatter. Now, after months of renovations, people are driving by the Firestone Building and Buckeye street. They're seeing the vision and now the chatter is rapidly trending positively.
Why? Because we're now into the early majority phase (see chart) which represents 34% of us (add to that the 15% who were already in).
The late majority (34%) will wait to see if businesses actually inhabit these renovated spaces. Laggards (16%) will wait to see if the businesses that come in, will survive.
So although there are always a couple people that try to make things hard for a KipCor or a new stadium, the truth is most of us simply can't see the vision until it starts taking shape.
So what does all this mean?
1. If you're an early adopter be patient with everyone else. Try to help them see it, but don't get irritated if they can't. And the fact that you can see it, perhaps indicates that you're a leader or entrepreneur and the reason you are, is because everyone else isn't. I say often to colleagues, "That's why we're leaders."
2. If you're not an early adopter, be patient. Don't judge a vision by its cover. A lot of great inventions sounded insane. "Really, in the 1960s we're going to the moon? I can give you 100 things we need to do first that are better uses of our time and money."
3. Even though Kokomo has its share of mid to late adopters, we are a very loyal people. We get behind things and people we believe in even if we weren't the first on board with the plan.
One last thought: Everything that KipCor will try won't work. There's a chance the stadium won't get done or done on time. But as Americans, don't we celebrate people who take a run at things? We certainly don't revere people who thought of all the practical reasons not to take a risk. There are no pictures, statues or records of people who played it safe.
Greatness as a country and for us as individuals rides on a little risk. I personally appreciate local people who are crazy enough to say, "What if?" Aren't you?
Associate Pastor at Oakbrook Church
Facilitator of Kokomo Area Career Center's new CEO Entrepreneurship program
Co-owner Main Street Cafe