Are we guilty of devaluing our local experts?

What would you call your greatest investment? Which one netted the most return, had the most bang for the buck, gave you the greatest sense of pride?

For me, that would have to be the books and toys I bought for my children over the years.

I believe you can never breastfeed or read to a child too much. Nonetheless, if you were to tally it up, you could wonder if I went a wee bit overboard with the book buying.

As someone who second guesses everything, in most instances I might be prone to say, “OK, you have a point.”

But not here. There is so much joy in being able to say, “I invested in ‘hope and promise’ right here in my own home.”

While I know my children will make mistakes and have, I know the investment was right.

I know that all those years of reading books filled with diverse cultures and people opened those kids’ worlds to possibilities and hope.

Like my oldest, who called to say that she’s contemplating a stint in the Peace Corps with a Masters in international human rights issues.

I also know that some people might question such an investment, the way they question all investments, any expenditure of money, even grants (like the ones good students use to go to college) “pork,” “a waste of good money.”

But some people’s “pork” is someone else’s senior or youth center. It’s money that builds a place that grows community or creates a new engineer. It’s our very own investment in hope and promise.

I believe that such an investment is never wasted and if you are honest about it, you’d have to admit that your personal success meant that someone invested in you, big time.

Mallory Jackson, a big proponent of the “Shop Local” program, adds a new twist to the theme. She speaks eloquently every chance she gets of the need to support the hope and promise and goods from the people and the businesses that surround us every day.

She even plans to use one of her two minutes she is granted as Port Orchard Chamber of Commerce ‘Small Business Owner of the Year” to share at Thursday’s meeting the power of investing locally.

She has made the choice to purchase everything she needs from local vendors, choosing, for instance, to purchase her bread from Morningside Bakery instead of a supermarket with corporate offices based out of town.

A key piece to the SEED project that people don’t seem to understand is that a main goal is to nurture the innovation and brilliance that’s already here in Kitsap County.

Part of the vision is to invest in the hope and promise of our own people, people with ideas and inventions, like the founders of In the Works, who will thrive in the incubator site.

Van Jones, founder of the California based Green for All and author of the newly released “The Green Collar Economy, how one solution can fix our two biggest problems,” is a firm believer that you can invest in your own people to solve your own problems.

He’ll be in Seattle today at regional bookstores and at Benaroyal Hall on Thursday speaking to a sold out (it was free) packed house.

He believes that sometimes we ignore the solution that exists right in front of us, when it begs for support.

One example that sticks in my mind is of the local Sunnyslope School librarian.

Trained in library science, she wanted to introduce a forest ecology program to the school, which was admirable, except for the fact that we had created such a program years ago, mapping the area and teaching native plant identification to scores of kids.

She, instead, was bringing in scientists from Florida. When I mentioned that fact to her, her response was, “We have ‘real’ experts.”

Yes, of course, “real” experts, while in our own backyard we have Dr. Olaf Riberio, certified arborist, who has been written up in none other than the Wall Street Journal; Navy Forester Walter Briggs who has a Navy forest named after him; certified arborist Jim Trainer, who produced the Forest Trails and Critter Tales DVD and National Geographic children’s author, Nancy Woodman, who translates info from her National Geographic expeditions into books for kids.

Do we value them less, because they live amongst us?

To counter the tendency to invest in things we can’t even see, sending our money to places unknown, while ignoring the real resources right in front of us, communities across the world are “asset mapping,” determining who and what exists within a community.

It might be a worthwhile activity for us.

It’s already happening on a small scale. Heather Cole is hard at work on recreation and vacation packages — ‘staycations’ they’re called, that keep local tourism dollars in town.

She’s mapping out all the local recreation hot spots and putting together packages. One might include: a comedy show at Slip 45; a spa treatment at Julea’s; a movie at the Orchard Theatre; as well as dinners at one of our restaurants like Blondie’s, Gino’s, Amy’s, Honey in the Rock, the Clubhouse and more, along with overnight stays at one of the many lovely bed and breakfasts in town.

Heather is finding much support, because there’s joy in investing in your own.

Mary Colborn is a Port Orchard resident.

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