On using our powers for good

What if Startup Weekend were every weekend in Pensacola?

What would we be then?

In early October, Pensacola saw its first Startup Weekend, hosted by the Florida Institute for Human and Machine Cognition and the Greater Pensacola Chamber of Commerce and Pensacola State College. 

Startup Weekend’s are national event, organized online, that bring entrepreneurs, angel investor and mentors together in a space for a weekend. From the mass brainstorming sessions emerge a handful of ideas that the collective deems have the most potential to come to fruition.

Teams are organized and the ideas are pitched to a panel of judges, who name a winner.

The idea is like a kissing-cousin of the Pensacola Business Challenge, which encouraged young business owners to pitch their best ideas to someone who would give them the mentoring and resources to give their business dream a go.

From the Business Challenge, we got Carmen’s Lunch Bar, a welcomed addition to the downtown dining landscape.

Make no mistake, there are still a plethora of examples that show how our charming municipal foibles keep progress at bay.

Whenever someone whines about how Pensacola just can’t seem to move forward, to get anywhere, to get out of its own way, point to both of these events as proof that we can.

At Startup Weekend, some of the people whose ideas failed to make the final grade ended up working on teams for ideas that did.

Imagine that: Your idea lost in the voting, but you set aside your disappointment and work to make the idea that did rise to the top the best it can be.

The collaborators on the winning project from Startup Weekend were a mix of ages, ethnicities and experience.

They used collaboration and shared expertise to create a better product that serves a need in the community and marketplace.

They were brought together by education, research and private business entities working in concert.

Elizabeth, it’s the big one, as the sage Fred Sanford used to say.

Now really put your thinking cap on: What if we did that every day.

What if we decided not to prosecute the concession contract at the Pensacola International Airport like it was Nuremburg.

What if the elected body charged with collecting our trash didn’t threaten to take our garbage and go to Alabama (which doesn’t want it, by the way) in a tussle with the County Commission over tipping fees.

Why is there even an elected body -- and all the accompanying bureaucracy that entails -- for sewer, water, trash and recycling collection in the first place?

What if scoring points at someone else’s expense, tempting though it may be, were replaced with offering an alternative solution to a common problem?

Then we really would think we’d died and gone to heaven.

Every day we make choices. As the Rev, Joseph “Run” Simmons recently tweeted, “how people treat you is their karma; how you react is yours.”

We are blessed to live in a place of unequaled natural beauty. We are building one of the best streets in America on Palafox Street. Navy Federal Credit Union is hiring hundreds of people to jobs that pay a living wage. We have a growing cluster of tech companies that are building our base of intellectual capital.

We live somewhere that people save all year to come to for a week.

We have problems: Too much poverty, too much crime confined to certain ZIP codes, too little education.

But we have the tools to change those things. We only must make the choice to pick them up and use them.

Together.