By DAVID MOON, Moon Capital Management
The book I would love for someone to write is 'Everything I Need to Know
About Business I Learned from the Wizard of Oz.' It would be full of
' The bad witch always receives a just reward.
' Everyone has problems, even your uncles.
' There is a seed of opportunity in every disaster - including tornados
in rural Kansas.
' Things are seldom what they seem; the operation behind the curtain may
be less complex and sophisticated than you think.
' Never ignore the directions someone gives you simply because that
person is short.
But my favorite observation from the movie is grounded in centuries-old
theology: the solution to most problems is internal, not external. What
Dorothy, the lion, the tin man and the scarecrow sought was within them all
along; they just didn't realize it. This simple, but powerful lesson hit
me squarely in the forehead this week as I found myself in the midst of a
discussion about Knoxville tourism.
What if Knoxville could build an attraction that would draw 400,000 visitors
a year, including tourists from every state? Wouldn't it be exciting if
200,000 of these people visited from out-of-town?
We already have one.
Did you know that more than half of the 380,000 to 400,000 annual visitors to
the Knoxville Zoo are from outside Knox county? More than 100,000 of those
are from outside the state of Tennessee.
I'm all for getting out-of-towners to leave as much of their money in
Knoxville as anyone. I'd love to see more of it. But in our
enthusiasm to build the next great thing or emulate someone else's success, we
can ignore our existing local assets. There is an old joke in professional
services industries that an expert is anyone from out-of-town. The city
development equivalent is that a good tourist attraction is anything that
attracts people to some other town. If it works in Chattanooga, we ought
to do it in Knoxville.
Our area has a history of ignoring or being ashamed of our community
assets. Knoxville was once the center of the country music universe, but
the community was too embarrassed by the prospect of a hillbilly image to
leverage the opportunity. We often shy away from our local fanaticism with
sports, but two recent high-profile conventions were sports related: bowling and
motorcycling. Fewer than 150 years ago, Knoxville rivaled Atlanta as the
economic hub of the southeast. Our natural business resources (primarily,
the river and an educated, ethnically diversified workforce) surpassed those in
Atlanta. But due to lack of attention or investment or risk-taking, those
assets became either underutilized (the river) or shunned to places like Atlanta
My point is not just about the Zoo. There are plenty of assets in this
community that visitors already appreciate. We need to dream and plan and
do new things: a community requires vision to survive. But in our
zealousness to look forward, we shouldn't forget to occasionally look
David Moon is president of Moon Capital Management, a
Knoxville-based investment management firm. This article
originally appeared in the News Sentinel (Knoxville, TN).