I will start off 2021 with a quote I have used before. I want to double down on it due to the nature and impact of the quote. Gen. Shinseki said, "If you don't like change, you are going to enjoy irrelevance even less." Additionally, this column reinforces many issues we have discussed over the past year, but bear repeating due to their importance.
When we ask readers, what does truly-local actually mean, we get varied responses. Invariably, most will say it is shopping and spending money locally. While shopping local is certainly a component of being local, I will suggest being truly-local is so much more than just shopping local. In fact, the shopping component only makes up 10-20% of the truly-local DNA of which I refer to. The effective truly-local DNA needed in a community to become an economic force from which the community can prosper is much broader in scope and nature.
Yes, shopping local is part of the truly-local DNA, but understand not all shopping local is created equal. When one shops at a locally-owned and operated business, its local impact is 3-7X greater than shopping at a Big Box, Chain or non-locally owned business. Those truly-local dollars will be recirculated throughout the community 3-7 times helps to save jobs, boosts vital or essential services, paves roads, spurs new business, strengthens the local tax base and the list goes on. Understand locally-owned and operated businesses have the ability to impact your economy greater than most will ever imagine.
Do we realize not all-economic development has the same impact on our communities? There are certain types of economic development that not only return a far greater ROI, but will spur outside and private investment dollars at a much higher rate than any other economic investment. When we invest our local tax dollars on our downtowns and local business expansion and development, our tax dollars compound in similar fashion as shopping local.
Do we understand the devastating impact when a community loses its media base? Your local newspaper is your community’s ambassador to the outside world. If it were to disappear, who would tell your story and promote your town to the world? A recent Notre Dame study shows that where newspapers have gone out of business, the cost of local government grows in excess of 30% within five years. Not only that, but when communities become what is referred to as ‘news deserts’ (those without a newspaper or voice), businesses begin to decline, fewer people vote, civic club involvement dwindles, volunteering slows, and the communities begin to stagnate.
Regardless of the size of your potential tourism base, we need to find ways to double down on this base. Nearly every town can create tourism and those with ample tourism can grow that substantially with simple tactics and strategies.
Most community governments agree a truly-local mentality is critical to local growth. However, did you know most governments, while with great intentions, have laws, regulations and procedures that harm their community’s efforts? Local governments making minor procedural adjustments can stimulate their economy without spending a dime.
Communities are losing the younger generations due to stagnant or no job growth. What are you doing as a community to foster innovation, entrepreneurship, job growth and an enhanced quality of life? Enhancing each of those four items is a proven truly-local community homerun.
While we intuitively understand the arts, music and entertainment are vital to a truly-local mentality, what are you doing to enhance those? This column has shown and will continue to show examples of many communities that have taken the arts, music and entertainment to the next level without spending money they really don’t have.
It is no secret that 2020 brought about many challenges to each of us and our communities. As we move into 2021, it is the goal of this author to tackle these challenges head-on, and by taking the right steps, turning these 2020 challenges into 2021 strengths. This weekly column is about vision, leadership and excitement. I am excited to bring you weekly ideas on how your community can build synergies from within, utilizing the various resources at your disposal. Let 2021 be the year of invention, innovation, entrepreneurship and success!
John A. Newby, author of the weekly "Building Main Street, Not Wall Street " column dedicated to assisting communities and local media companies combine synergies allowing them to not just survive, but thrive in a world where their identity is being lost to Amazon, Wall Street chains and others. His email is: john@360MediaAlliance.net.