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9 Steps to Community Revitalization

12 February 2024

Revitalizing a small community's economy and vibrancy requires a multi-tiered approach that utilizes its strengths, addresses weaknesses, and fosters sustainable growth. Over the years, many studies and practices have shown there are common denominators to turning a community around. Here are a few of the most common practices that successful turnarounds have utilized in their quest to grow and become a greater version of itself.

 

Encouraging entrepreneurship within the community can spur economic activity and create jobs. According to the Small Business Administration, small businesses account for 99.9% of all U.S. businesses and employ 47.1% of the private workforce. Providing support such as business incubators, mentorship programs, and access to capital can empower aspiring entrepreneurs to start and grow businesses locally.

 

Tourism can inject new money into the local economy and create jobs in various sectors including hospitality, retail, and entertainment. For example, a study by the U.S. Travel Association found that every dollar invested in tourism promotion generates $8 in economic impact. Communities can leverage their natural attractions, historical sites, and cultural events to attract visitors and boost tourism revenue. There is no better ROI!

 

Infrastructure improvements, such as roads, bridges, enhanced internet capability, and transportation can enhance connectivity and facilitate economic development. According to the American Society of Civil Engineers, every $1 billion invested in infrastructure creates 13,000 jobs. Moreover, improved infrastructure can attract businesses, support tourism, and increase property values, leading to long-term economic benefits.

 

Strengthening the local agricultural sector can provide economic opportunities while promoting food security and sustainability. According to the United States Department of Agriculture, small farms account for 90% of all farms and manage over half of farmland in the U.S. Investing in agricultural education, infrastructure, and marketing initiatives can help small farmers thrive and create jobs in related industries such as food processing and distribution.

 

Developing a skilled workforce is essential for attracting and retaining businesses in the community. According to the National Skills Coalition, 50% of U.S. jobs are considered "middle-skill," requiring education beyond high school but not a four-year degree. This approach is ideal for smaller communities, by investing in vocational training, apprenticeship programs, and adult education, they can equip residents with the skills needed to fill local job openings and support economic growth.

 

Embracing innovation and technology can drive productivity improvements and create new economic opportunities. According to a report by the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, every 1% increase in broadband penetration leads to a 0.2-1.5% increase in GDP. Communities can support tech startups, provide access to high-speed internet, and offer training programs to promote digital literacy and entrepreneurship.

 

Revitalizing downtown areas can attract visitors, stimulate commerce, and enhance the overall quality of life for residents. According to the National Main Street Center, for every dollar invested in Main Street revitalization, $33.56 of new investment is generated. Implementing beautification projects, supporting small businesses, and hosting community events can breathe new life into downtown districts and create a vibrant local economy.

 

Relying on a single industry can make a community vulnerable to economic downturns. Diversifying the local economy by attracting businesses from multiple sectors can provide stability and resilience. According to a study by the Economic Development Quarterly, regions with diversified economies experience faster recovery from economic shocks. Offering incentives, infrastructure, and workforce support to attract businesses in emerging industries can help diversify the economic base.

 

Collaboration among local government, businesses, nonprofits, and residents is essential for implementing effective economic development strategies. Engaging residents in the planning process, fostering public-private partnerships, and leveraging local assets can maximize resources ensuring initiatives align with the community's priorities.

 

Reversing the downward economic conditions in a small community requires a comprehensive and collaborative approach that leverages local strengths, fosters entrepreneurship, and promotes sustainable growth. By implementing the strategies outlined above, communities can create a more vibrant and resilient economy that benefits residents and businesses alike.

 

John Newby is a nationally recognized Columnist, Speaker, & Publisher. He consults with Chambers, Communities, Business & Media. His “Building Main Street, not Wall Street,” column appears in 60+ newspapers and media outlets. As founder of Truly-Local, he assists chambers, communities, media, and businesses in creating synergies that build vibrant communities. He can be reached at: John@Truly-Local.org.