By ROBERT PIERCE
• Daily Leader
The U.S. did not experience a trillion-dollar economy until the early 1970s. The country is in the midst of its 14th recession in the last 80 years.
With the latter thought in mind, Dr. Lowell Catlett believes economic downturns are simply a natural part of the process. The dean of New Mexico State University’s College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences was the keynote speaker at this week’s rural issues conference at Seward County Community College/Area Technical School, and during a speech at Thursday evening’s dinner, he said the future is very bright, especially in this part of the world.
“We’re coming to understand that some of the things we take for granted such as the wind is now an energy source, the livable communities we have, low crime rates, great people, great attitude all contribute to a changing world dynamic that allows people to make a choice on where they want to live,” he said.
Catlett said in order to have healthy humans, there must also be an environment of plants, animals, people and most of all, Mother Nature.
“This is a great place to grow up and live,” he said.
Catlett said the biggest issue with the current economy is a demographic shift similar to the one that occurred at the beginning of the 20th century.
“We have whole demographics and ethnic groups changing the mix of our communities,” he said. “We have to understand when Russians, Italians, Germans and other people immigrated to Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas at the turn of the last century, they brought their cultural ideologies, their work ethics, their cultures with them.”
Those groups have adapted to America, according to Catlett.
“We’ve got some changing cultural situations,” he said. “We’ve got communities that believe they should exist because they are a county seat, but you’ve got communities like Liberal and others that have taken the bull by the horns and diversified their economy so that they can become trade centers and do things. It’s a matter of understanding that you have to be pro-active.”
As for solutions to the problems, Catlett said they solve themselves.
“I always have the expression, ‘Money, like people, go to where they’re treated well,’” he said. “If you have a community that has attributes of the things that people like and want to live in, they’ll move to it.”
Catlett said this means good health care and community members caring about the look of the town.
“That’s where people want to live,” he said. “They don’t want to live in the other ones.”
Catlett said he is not making light of the current recession, but rather saying it is simply a natural part of what the economy goes through.
“We’ve had, counting this one, 14 in the last 80 years,” he said. “We go through them on a regular basis. You don’t sprint all the time. You pause. You take a breath, but in every case, we find out because we have a recession, that’s when people start thinking ‘I gotta do it smarter and better.’”
Catlett said this is when the largest number of new starts in business, largest number of patents and the largest number of creative new endeavors occur.
“It’s because people say, ‘I gotta do this better,’” he said. “This one will be no different.”