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Successful Cities Thrive On Many Factors



When most of us think of a successful city, we have personal parameters that we use for measurement. I happen to enjoy a city with a thriving music scene, but I also like to see a city with a great baseball franchise. When it comes to football, I shrug my shoulders.

I love cultural diversity, so I love cities like New York, which seems to have every culture known to man thriving in their own niche neighborhoods. In contrast, a city like Winnipeg in Manitoba, Canada, is less culturally diverse. However, Winnipeg reminds me of my appreciation for a city that is clean, well kept and offers great city services, which certainly puts Winnipeg near the top of the list and New York near the bottom.

But city planners have a different, more clinical approach to what makes a city great. The metrics for overall success of a city include personal safety (crime rates), environmental health (air quality, for example), the average income and the unemployment rate, the cost of living, services made available to residents, the average level of schooling obtained by residents and, yes, they would include the physical beauty of the city’s scenery. In that last category, some cities have it, others don’t. San Francisco, lovely. Newark, New Jersey, not so much.

Yes, all of those factors matter, but some can said to be more encompassing than others. You could put several of those factors under the category of economics if you wanted to take an academic approach. Or, on a more pragmatic level, you could ask what makes a city attractive, not to residents, but to businesses, which, in turn allows for the personal income tax rates to go down and contributes to employment, health, soundness of infrastructure and can even lead to the city affording a symphony orchestra or for someone in town to make sure the resident baseball team has a star pitcher on the mound.

So, here are some of the ways a business owner would evaluate a city:


Business owners like cities with deep water ports that are well maintained, rail services to bring workers and customers to their door, strong bridges, a solid highway system and good roads that are not clogged up half the day with traffic jams.

Bright, trained, available workers

Business owners require workers. This requires ease for commuting and a strong education system, because smart workers are the dominant trend in the United States – the smarter, the better.

Shipping and receiving

The deregulated freight market did a lot to help cities thrive because it meant supply businesses could more easily move parts to manufacturers and they, in turn, could push freight out the door. This allowed for factoring for freight truckers, which falls under the category of finances.

Financial strength

Business owners require loans to pay workers, pay suppliers, increase their inventory, expand production and get through a business lull. That means banks, but that also requires overall financial strength. Banks and businesses are symbiotic. One thrives if the other thrives and visa versa. They also both go down together if one of the two begins to fail.


Devolution is the term given to a government that gives away centralized power to local governments. When Washington gives the states the means to make their own decisions and when those states, in turn, give cities the right to make local decisions that serve their needs, that’s devolution. Thriving cities require at least some autonomy so that government solutions can be customized to fit their needs.

Crime rates

Of course, businesses care about crime rates.


From the owner of a newspaper stand to the owner of an industrial manufacturer, businesses care a lot about taxes. In turn, cities without businesses require all of their services to come from sales and income taxes. Businesses help balance that equation.

With this in mind, when a recession hits, business sections in newspapers are filled with stories about how much of a deal a business could swing from their host city, often with the threat that they would pull out and take their jobs with them. Other businesses needing to move shop around for the best tax deal they can find.

For the city, the best deal during a recession involves tax forgiveness in exchange for the promise of new jobs or job guarantees for existing jobs. Some businesses caught amazing breaks in those days and still do. Cities are not successful without good jobs.

Last but not least: Customers

Where would we be without customers? They might be local or they might drive to the city to make a purchase … but there is no sense in building an automobile factory in Hawaii when there are only so many customers there.


Is Wood Burning Sustainable For Your Home?



sustainable wood burning ideas

Wood is a classic heat source, whether we think about people gathered around a campfire or wood stoves in old cabins, but is it a sustainable source of heat in modern society? The answer is an ambivalent one. In certain settings, wood heat is an ideal solution, but for the majority of homes, it isn’t especially suitable. So what’s the tipping point?

Wood heat is ideal for small homes on large properties, for individuals who can gather their own wood, and who have modern wood burning ovens. A green approach to wood heat is one of biofuel on the smallest of scales.

Is Biofuel Green?

One of the reasons that wood heat is a source of so much divide in the eco-friendly community is that it’s a renewable resource and renewable has become synonymous with green. What wood heat isn’t, though, is clean or healthy. It lets off a significant amount of carbon and particulates, and trees certainly don’t grow as quickly as it’s consumed for heat.

Of course, wood is a much less harmful source of heat than coal, but for scientists interested in developing green energy sources, it makes more sense to focus on solar and wind power. Why, then, would they invest in improved wood burning technology?

Homegrown Technology

Solar and wind technology are good large-scale energy solutions, but when it comes to small-space heating, wood has its own advantages. First, wood heat is in keeping with the DIY spirit of homesteaders and tiny house enthusiasts. These individuals are more likely to be driven to gather their own wood and live in small spaces that can be effectively heated as such.

Wood heat is also very effective on an individual scale because it requires very little infrastructure. Modern wood stoves made of steel rather than cast iron are built to EPA specifications, and the only additional necessary tools include a quality axe, somewhere to store the wood, and an appropriate covering to keep it dry. And all the wood can come from your own land.

Wood heat is also ideal for people living off the grid or in cold areas prone to frequent power outages, as it’s constantly reliable. Even if the power goes out, you know that you’ll be able to turn up the heat. That’s important if you live somewhere like Maine where the winters can get exceedingly cold. People have even successfully heated a 40’x34’ home with a single stove.

Benefits Of Biomass

The ultimate question regarding wood heat is whether any energy source that’s dangerous on the large scale is acceptable on a smaller one. For now, the best answer is that with a growing population and limited progress towards “pure” green energy, wood should remain a viable option, specifically because it’s used on a limited scale. Biomass heat is even included in the UK’s Renewable Heat Initiative and minor modifications can make it even more sustainable.

Wood stoves, when embraced in conjunction with pellet stoves, geothermal heating, and masonry heaters, all more efficient forms of sustainable heat, should be part of a modern energy strategy. Ultimately, we’re headed in the direction of diversified energy – all of it cleaner – and wood has a place in the big picture, serving small homes and off-the-grid structures, while solar, wind, and other large-scale initiatives fuel our cities.

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7 Benefits You Should Consider Giving Your Energy Employees



As an energy startup, you’re always looking to offer the most competitive packages to entice top-tier talent. This can be tough, especially when trying to put something together that’s both affordable but also has perks that employees are after.

After all, this is an incredibly competitive field and one that’s constantly doing what it can to stay ahead. However, that’s why I’m bringing you a few helpful benefits that could be what bolsters you ahead of your competition. Check them out below:

Financial Advising

One benefit commonly overlooked by companies is offering your employees financial advising services, which could help them tremendously in planning for their long-term goals with your firm. This includes anything from budgeting and savings plans to recommendations for credit repair services and investments. Try to take a look at if your energy company could bring on an extra person or two specifically for this role, as it will pay off tremendously regarding retention and employee happiness.

Life Insurance

While often included in a lot of health benefits packages, offering your employees life insurance could be an excellent addition to your current perks. Although seldom used, life insurance is a small sign that shows you care about the life of their family beyond just office hours. Additionally, at such a low cost, this is a pretty simple aspect to add to your packages. Try contacting some brokers or insurance agents to see if you can find a policy that’s right for your firm.

Dedicated Time To Enjoy Their Hobbies

Although something seen more often in startups in Silicon Valley, having dedicated office time for employees to enjoy their passions is something that has shown great results. Whether it be learning the piano or taking on building a video game, having your team spend some time on the things they truly enjoy can translate to increased productivity. Why? Because giving them the ability to better themselves, they’ll in turn bring that to their work as well.

The Ability To Work Remotely

It’s no secret that a lot of employers despise the idea of letting their employees work remotely. However, it’s actually proven to hold some amazing benefits. According to Global Workplace Analytics, 95% of employers that allow their employees to telework reported an increased rate of retention, saving on both turnover and sick days. Depending on the needs of each individual role, this can be a strategy to implement either whenever your team wants or on assigned days. Either way, this is one perk almost everyone will love.

Health Insurance

Even though it’s mandated for companies with over 50 employees, offering health insurance regardless is arguably a benefit well received across the board. In fact, as noted in research compiled by KFF, 28.6% of employers with less than 50 people still offered health care. Why is that the case? Because it shows you care about their well-being, and know that a healthy employee is one that doesn’t have to worry about astronomical medical bills.

Unlimited Time Off

This is a perk that almost no employer offers but should be regarded as something to consider. According to The Washington Post, only 1-2% of companies offer unlimited vacation, which it’s easy to see why. A true “unlimited vacation” program could be a firm’s worse nightmare, with employees skipping out every other week to enjoy themselves. However, with the right model in place that rewards hard work with days off, your employees will absolutely adore this policy.

A Full Pantry

Finally, having a pantry full of food can be one perk that’s not only relatively inexpensive but also adds to the value of the workplace. As noted by USA Today, when surveying employees who had snacks versus those who didn’t, 67% of those who did reported they were “very happy” with their work life. You’d be surprised at how much of a difference this could make, especially when considering the price point. Consider adding a kitchen to your office if you haven’t already, and always keep the snacks and drinks everyone wants fully stocked. Doing so will increase morale tremendously.

Final Thoughts

Compiling a great package for your energy company is going to take some time in looking at what you can afford versus what’s the most you can offer. While it might mean cutting back in other areas, having a workforce that feels like you genuinely want to take care of them can take you far. And with so many different benefits to include in your energy company’s package, which one is your favorite? Comment with your answers below!

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