On a recent trip to Lake Placid Lodge, situated in Lake Placid, New York, a two time Winter Olympics host, with a population of 3,000 people; I was reminded what sustainability of a community really is. Everything about the lodge, from the wooden carved interiors to the art pieces that decorated the place to the ingredients that made up the award winning meals on our plates, everything was locally sourced and made.
This made me wonder about how much local talent we are truly missing by importing. Just as the chairs where carefully carved and looked nearly identical by the father and son living nearby as they found the perfect wood twigs from the nearby mountains, and then carved each piece to perfection. That fascinating back-story could have only been exposed because the hotel supported the carpenter’s talents.
A friend of mine moved from Denmark to Dubai recently, and her class credits can not be transferred to schools here because the curriculum in Denmark is based on a handful of ‘practical creative’ classes such as carpentry, visual arts, and metal design. While design classes are found in curriculums throughout the Gulf region, this view that such classes cannot be counted as official academia forecasts how such talent is not cultivated due to perception.
It’s a cycle, it’s not about science versus arts; its about local talents and the need to encourage the production of those talents. If the perception that what is imported is better in quality, then we are not giving a chance to those who are in our community and are able to rise to that same quality with their own skill and artistry. Support comes in many forms; it doesn’t have to be a final product, but could also be in terms of supporting local farmers through buying organic produce and lowering the carbon footprint by sourcing products closer to home. It might seem all these are workmanship’s that are outdated, but if we don’t look at the basics we can never go on to create a sustainable community with successful businesses.
When trying to find a company that would create a website for me I decided to look local first, support the small businesses like the one I hope to launch, in the hopes that I would experience the same in the future. To my surprise I got quotations in the range of AED 100,000! A price tag I could not see as logical, could not afford as a startup, and thus could not support. This is another aspect of which local businesses should understand, that while it’s tough and they need to compete with bigger companies in a tough economy, they can’t grow sustainably if they are not supporting similar local businesses without outrageous prices.
It is a dilemma that both sides have to think about, those who are able to nurture local abilities, and for those small local businesses to in turn create a realistic growth plan that incorporates other local businesses and ensure the positive ethical and environmental impact of their products and services in the hope of creating a supportive and self-reliant community.