Entrepreneurship could be the solution

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By Arlene Jones

Columnist

The next mayor of Chicago is going to be faced with a plethora of issues. Especially financial ones. So as we prepare for the April 2 runoff between Lori Lightfoot and Toni Preckwinkle, as citizens who will have to pay for the cost of their decisions, we should all be paying attention to what they have to say.

Although I am already leaning toward voting for one of them, I am open to listening to what they both have to say. Those of us who live in Austin, need to pay special attention. Austin is at a point where we can either thrive, continue to sustain, or slide down and become the next totally economically-depressed area.

I want the next mayor to not only promote the idea of entrepreneurship, but also create an environment that is open to it. We need a generation of young people learning that they can make their own money without having to work for anyone. I work part-time for a delivery service, and recently delivered a T-shirt printing press to a young black family. No furniture in the house, but they had invested their money in that press. And I was proud of them because, with the number of funerals we have, a lot of people have T-shirts they wear to it. Every last one of those T-shirts has to be printed by someone. 

There are also remembrance T-shirts. I know of a family that lost one of their members, and the entire family constantly wears T-shirts remembering that loved one. Then there are all sorts of shirts for family reunions, school reunions and just pride in saying you are "Straight out of Austin." Whoever is creating and printing those T-shirts is an example of economic entrepreneurship solutions at their finest.

I've also noticed that all over the North Side, the Bungalow Belt is slowly being replaced by new buildings. I believe we can make Austin a tourist destination, showing off our huge selection of well-maintained bungalows and Victorian homes. There's no reason that Oak Park should get all the tourists it gets without us taking advantage of being in the same area.

One of the most popular tourist attractions when people go to different destinations, is to have a meal in a local home. Imagine if we could have people open up their houses to show off the different styles of bungalow interiors, and then follow up by being able to cook and serve them a meal? We're talking about people paying $25 and up. Multiply that by six people, and that's good money if you're making it every day and it only takes let's say 2-4 hours.

I remember reading how in New York, one of the popular tours was to visit a church in Harlem, and then have a meal. The tourists come to hear the sermon and especially the gospel choir. We have a plethora of churches here in Austin. Very large churches. Could that be a possibility for us? Again, it's the notion of making your own money as opposed to looking for someone else to give you a J-O-B.

Lastly, I want Chicago to return to having stores on the first floor and living quarters on the second floor and above. That is an excellent way to revitalize our business strips. Especially when you don't have to worry about meeting the rent payment for the business while also having to pay to live somewhere. My dentist has that kind of setup on Fulton Market Street. That kind of business/living arrangement could stabilize and sustain a community like no other.

There are tons of ideas and mechanisms to be put into place to revitalize our city. Pay attention to what the candidates have to say and then vote accordingly.

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