Holistic approach to development

........................................................................................................................................................................................

You normally don't expect an economic development meeting to start with everyone in the room giving each other cordial, personal greetings.

Nor do you expect the person leading the meeting to pretty much turn it over to the people in attendance.

But then again, you may have never sat in on a meeting with Jeff Goebel.

Goebel could be considered somewhat of an economic development guru — he's worked on projects all over the world and is currently working with the Navajo Nation — but you would be hard-pressed to find him with any charts or diagrams or spreadsheets.

As a matter of course, Goebel doesn't to tend talk much about economic development, he lets the experts do that heavy lifting. If you ask him, he'll say what he does is more community building than economic development; but he'll add that both go hand in hand.

"I believe that the wisdom is in the community," he said. "What I try to look at is the deeper stuff, the core beliefs that can bring a community up."

Goebel led small public meetings in Mountainair and Estancia last week to get the ball rolling in a "holistic management" approach to economic development. The meetings were put together with the help of Asaera Coté, a Tijeras soap maker who is trying to build interest in sunflower oil production in the Estancia Valley.

At the Estancia meeting on March 28, Goebel had the handful of participants – which included small-scale entrepreneurs — arrange chairs in a circle, introduce themselves to the group and to each other.

Goebel said that exercise is effective in equalizing participants in a meeting.

"It tends to get rid of the petty issues that affect many relationships," he said.

Then the group sets about identifying issues and what can be done. Goebel said that most communities have a tendency to get locked into what can't be done instead of what can be done.

He added that a lot of people, when they think of economic development, tend to have large projects in mind. That ignores the small things that can be done.

"Change is incremental and most times a small change can make a huge difference," Goebel said.

The attendees at the Estancia meeting have different goals, whether it is to grow sunflowers or open a commercial kitchen.

"I can see by being here that others can add value to what I produce," said Mike Spiller, who grows herbs and consults on sustainability.

Coté said she hopes to hold more public meetings in the future. Those interested in economic development through holistic management can contact her at 281-8588.