I write this having just watched the swearing in of our new president, hearing his call to service and responsibility in his inaugural address. It will take some time to let that speech soak in and to hear more about the tone that will be set in Washington.
My immediate reaction is that this is, indeed, a historic and extraordinary moment in American history. We celebrate the first African American president in a very personal and humble way. We are inspired; we feel blessed; and we are immensely proud of our nation.
I'm personally excited to think that this new era could be one in which we take things a bit more seriously - we've got a country to rebuild, jsut as we have a city to rebuild here in Jackson. We have challenges that we face, we have wars to bring to conclusion, we have liberties to cherish, defend and, in some cases, restore.
I, for one, welcome a new era of civic responsibility and hard work. Nothing pleases us more at the Jackson Free Press, as we relish the opportunity to move past the ideological battles of the past 40 years to find the common solutions that can point the way to a new sense of American progress and, as Barack Obama has said previously, to further perfect our Union.
Some will say that Obama alone can't do that. I would agree. But I do believe that if we - as a nation, with determination - work to put those differences behind us and find the ways in which we can progress along moderate, deliberate and intelligent path, we will have empowered Obama to lead us to an extraordinary new day.
We begin today - as it happens. with the Best of Jackson 2009 issue. I love this issue, not only because it's the largest that the Jackson Free Press has ever published, but because of the excellence represented in the pages.
Sure, some of the categories are fun and games, but this issue as a whole allows our winners to be recognized for their contributions - civic, culinary and commercial - to our community here in Greater Jackson.
It feels like the past few months have been a whirlwind of up and down news - change in Washington, crashes on Wall Street and, any way you slice them, numbers that aren't good for jobs, real estate and retail in the heartland.
Yet, in the midst of it all, we can have just extraordinary celebration of every thing that's unique about a place like Jackson and the wonderful people, business, artists and organizations that make it everything that it can be.
This issue is hard work for us - we're a small staff for collecting and disseminating all this info - but it's big fun as well. This year has been our biggest ever in online ballotin, the sheer number of votes cast and the way some of the categories have fallen. There are some surprising winners, some stalwarts, some newcomers. We celebrate them all.
So how do we tie all this together? I feel like one thing we might decide to recognize in this "fresh start" era for America is the importance of local business, local entrepreneurship and civic involvement. The Best of Jackson issue is a great place to start with that. Here you can find lists of wonderful local businesses to visit if you haven't seen them in a while - or if you've never been.
Dollars spent at local businesses go further than those spent at national chains - those dollars are spent on local webmasters and accountants, on child care, property taxes, re- investment and new jobs. Those dollars are also placed in local banks, increasing the amount of money available for loans to other individuals and businesses. Those dollars are invested in real estate, in marketing and in charitable causes.
By contrast, the bulk of dollars spent at big-box retailers that aren't spent on local salaries return to their corporate headquarters and don't continue to circulate in the local economy. Larger, publicly held companies have proven to be quicker to lay off workers in order to preserve "shareholder value" and please a fickle Wall Street. While local businesses will weather a drop in profitability in order to keep the doors open and morale up, the big guys have no compunction about cutting jobs or closing up shop, leaving their boarded windows behind.
Right now, we have an opportunity to double-down on the local economy and take seriously our responsibility to work with our neighbors to effect a solution. The Jackson Free Press will be there, helping you to identify the high-quality, unique options that we have at our fingertips, such as those revealed here in the Best of Jackson issue.
And, along the way, we're going to have some fun as well. First, with a Best of Jackson Party this Sunday, Jan. 25, opening to the general public at 8 p.m. at the new Auditorium in the recently renovated Duling School in Fondren. Come join us to celebrate the winners.
Also, in February, the JFP will be the local sponsor of a national initiative called "Record Production Month" (RPM) in which artists are encouraged to cut an album in the month of February and then share it with fellow artists and listeners. The goal is to encourage creativity and risk taking in music production - we'll participate in a national listening party and conference on March 28 with a local party sponsored by the JFP. If you've thought about cutting an album and need some encouragement, check this challenge out.
More details coming soon; see http://www.jacksonfreepress.com/rpm or http:// http://www.rpmchallenge.com/Jackson for details.