In this nationally advertised “dying town”, there is a grass roots movement to be seen as active and vital. Much of this activity is taking place on Facebook, through a group called “Let’s go Kokomo”. The “let’s go Kokomo” movement is not new, it has been active here on local radio for a couple of years. The movement was originally designed to help people find locally owned and operated businesses and to encourage them to shop there instead of driving out of town or shopping on the internet. The shift to Facebook has happened only in the last couple of months, and I think it is a nice rallying point for the folks here in town to gather and discover things about themselves. There is a lot of information on Facebook right now about Events and groups in Kokomo, but the truth is that it is still the result of a lot of effort by a very small group of people. And while it is fun and informative and makes living in a dying town less painful ( sort of like a morphine drip), I have not yet figured out how it will counteract the death march. If I am on Facebook, why would I search for and be interested in a group about Kokomo, unless I was already here? The Facebook activity reminds me of the Whos on the puffball, happily going about their business, in denial that the pot of oil is coming.
I do not want to discourage the Let’s Go Kokomo founders, because as a resident, I find the information infinitely useful. I even contribute. But we should be honest that we are doing this for ourselves, not to save the town.
I think there are ways to leverage the web and technology to let people out there know what a great town and what talent awaits businesses here in Kokomo. We need to get more involved in online activities that are focused outside of Kokomo and let people know where we are from with pride. Here are a couple of potential starting points:
1) The OpenStreetMap of Kokomo is almost empty. With so many people who have technical knowledge finding themselves with time on their hands, we should have the most densely filled in and informative map out there. Not only would this be helpful to people in and outside of Kokomo, but it shows that we take pride in our city and that we have a vision of the future where OpenSource and OpenData are important. A town full of forward thinking individuals is attractive to businesses, start ups and innovators.
2) Take all that resourcefulness and start innovating yourself. Stop looking to figure out how you can move away and get a job, start looking at all the great ideas trapped in those engineering brains and start building things right here. There are people already starting, and there are resources to help you out. The Inventrek center is looking to expand and launch lots of startups.
3) If you are out of ideas, or are not convinced that yours are worth working on, help out with someone else’s. Head over to sourceforge.net ( or your favorite open source area) and start contributing actively to other opensource projects. After you put in your 4 hours of job searching time each day, do not waste time cleaning the garage, or watching reruns on TV. Sit down and build something. Interact with the other people on your project, make connections and make the world a little bit better.
4) If you can not afford to give your time away for free and really need to work on more income, check out Innocentive.com for crowdsourced engineering and problem solving opportunities for pay.
These are just a few ideas. I would love to see discussion in the comments from the folks outside of Kokomo, what would you like to see and hear that would convice you that we are in fact alive? What will break through the barriers of understanding so that you hear us yelling “We are here, we are here, we are here….” ?