Political Column - Opening Avenues of Opportunity

The heart of entrepreneurship and development is initiative. The nemesis is bureaucratic red tape. Each has a purpose. The one to conquer scarcity in the world and provide for our desires. The other to establish boundaries to work within, to protect people from each other. The one the beating engine of the world, the other the suffocating confines in which it runs.


Dalton Township is a developing area. Large companies like Michigan's Adventure and Duck Creek RV Park are doing additions. Smaller businesses like The Scoop ice cream shop and the Full Moon Diner and Saloon have recently opened. Things are finally going to happen with Business Park North. And there's more on the horizon.

I was recently at the ice cream shop on M-120 talking with a friend, and he inquired about food trucks. About what he needed to do, about what the steps are. I told him that I didn't think we had any ordinances on them, but I would look into it. I did.

It turns out that Dalton doesn't have a food truck ordinance. I inquired into other local governments ranging from Norton Shores, to Allendale, to Whitehall, and Traverse City. They all handle food trucks in different ways. The places that are the most successful with food trucks are also the places that have the most structure around the subject, the places that have ordinances in place.

The growth of the food truck industry in these areas means that the government then put something in place. The first movers both have an advantage and a challenge. They are the first to grasp opportunity, and they are the ones that must jump through hoops as the hoops are first being built. All of this without knowing if they will succeed or fail, for the opportunity to succeed must also be the opportunity to fail if the market is to remain free from the distorting influence of the government picking winners and losers. Then, once the path has been broken, once an avenue and a process have been generated, it is open for others to follow.

The real question for the government pertains to that opening initiative. What do you do when someone makes such an inquiry? I believe that the best option is to help carve out that initial avenue. To look at what other governments have done, to look at the successful sets of ordinances. To use those to inspire one adapted to and suited for the locality. So that when someone asks, "What do I need to do?", or "What's my next step?" an answer can be found for them. A path that they may walk to achieve their vision.

One opportunity then leads to another. For instance, a few years ago people feared food trucks would compete with and put brick and mortar restaurants out of business. As it turns out, the two are different experiences and used by different people at different times. Thus, instead of competing they complement each other. Restaurants launch food trucks to grab a part of another market. And people aspiring to open a restaurant begin with a food truck to test the feasibility and viability of their initial idea in the local market. One opportunity leads to the next.

Neither the initiative of the entrepreneur nor the restrictions of the government ever exist without the other. The goal cannot be the destruction of one by the other, but rather a constant give and take of correction and adjustment. They must complement each other as two of the supports upon which society is built. Government cannot create the initiative of the private individual, it must allow for it.

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