ROCK HILL — Like many of his friends, Jason Broadwater left Rock Hill when he found the meat-and-potatoes life of a mill town too bland. There was nothing to challenge his creative passions.
He traveled to Asheville, N.C. for school and stayed, writing a novel, learning to teach and taking the fledgling steps out on his own as a independent writing consultant.
The birth of his child resulted in a move back to Rock Hill. He found a textile town without the mills. Most had been torn down. Some had been converted to housing. A shining example of what could be was an old mill filled with computers and workers, a beacon on how the new and old economy could be intertwined.
Broadwater did what some young businessmen do, he joined the chamber of commerce, volunteering his time there and on other civic and educational boards. He found himself going to lunches with other business and civic leaders where the menu is a steady diet of chicken, beans, potatoes and -- in a nod to the health conscious -- a big bowl of salad greens.
As he started making the rounds there were two reactions to his visions about Rock Hill.
Some politely excused themselves when he started to rattle off phrases such as a 1099 economy, economic gardening, walkable urbanism, the connectivity age, and a punk rock economy. At best it sounded like a sting of buzzwords. At the worst it was a string of gibberish.
And when he mentioned bohemianism, some bolted, thinking Broadwater was advocating a rebirth of the hippie culture.
But some, a no less influential group, sought out Broadwater. Some, like York Techs president Greg Rutherford, were kindred souls. Each realized they were an entrepreneur at heart. The difference was Rutherford worked for an institution that is not use to taking risks while Broadwater often talked of taking big risks.
Most of us are taught to be quiet, to mind and ps and qs, Rutherford said. Jason is not affected with that, not afraid to express his ideas. It can be overwhelming. He is an idea factory. It revs my engine.
Others, such as Andy Shene, chairman of the Rock Hill Economic Development Corporation, were intrigued with Broadwaters ability to talk from A to Z, all the time with a laymans common sense approach.
Soon Broadwaters table was the place to be if you liked conversation that was lively, unpredictable and agreement was not necessary.
He is pure energy, intellectual energy. He thinks outside the box. He is what Rock Hill, York County needs, said Rick Jiran, a government and community relationship manager for Duke Energy.
As the owner of a downtown business, Revenflo an internet marketing and development firm, and as a member of the Rock Hill Economic Development Corporation, Broadwater embraced a revitalize downtown -- with his own unique twists.
His vision, twists and advice have been combined into a self-published book, Old Town New World. Main Street and More in the New Economy. Its part memoir and part case study of what Rock Hill has done downtown, plus Broadwaters suggested ways to effect change.
One of the essential elements is understanding Broadwaters outlook on the new economy. Todays emerging workforce is largely people who are industrious, productive and want to function outside the corporate paradigm, he writes.
I dont want a job and neither do our contracts. We want work. And we choose our work, our load, our lifestyle and our location, Broadwater writes.
His ideas are outside the box. No one in government is going to promote a plan the eliminates his job, Broadwater said. People think you have to align yourself with an institutional agenda and sell it, he said. Such thinking stifles, rather than encouraging growth, in the new economy, he said. Economic growth will be from the bottom up, he said.
Broadwaters prime example of the new economys success is The Hive, a collaborative effort among the city, York Tech, Winthrop University and some private investors. The Hive is a web development and marketing operation thats staffed with college students turning classroom knowledge into practical experience. They produce web pages and marketing campaigns for non profit organizations, the city and others on contract.
It took time for Broadwaters Hive to be endorsed. The idea gained credibility when York Techs Rutherford backed it. Rutherford saw it as a way of training or retraining students for jobs. Winthrop University embraced the idea because it a way for students to put theory into practice. City officials supported it because it brought people to downtown and was one less empty space.
What the Hive took most of all, Broadwater writes, was for individual who were friends to put themselves on the line. It took passion, friendship, and risk.
Its passion, Broadwater says, that will change Rock Hills economy. He want to find the people that are passionate about an idea and encourage them. And not just one, or a handful, or even a 100. He wants to find thousands of champions.
Vibrancy is the clanging of a thousand voices, not one single voice, he writes. We need to help connect those what want to work together, help connect people to resources, and help put a megaphone to the noise that arises from the clatter.
If you have 1,000 people who have passion, you have Asheville, he said.
Don Worthington 803-329-4066 firstname.lastname@example.org