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What Is Truly Local DNA?

05 December 2022

This week, I will attempt to provide a summation of many of my previous columns as it relates to building a truly local DNA. Let me start this week with a quote by General Shinseki, he said, "If you don't like change, you are going to enjoy irrelevance even less”.  Building a local DNA or mindset is critical if your local community is to thrive in the future.  When we ask people, what does truly local mean, we get varied responses, but most will link it to shopping local. While shopping local is certainly a big component of being truly local, I would suggest being truly local is much more than just shopping local.  In fact, the shopping component only makes up 10-20% of the truly local DNA needed in a community to become an economic force from which the community can prosper and grow.


That said, let’s briefly discuss shopping. Yes, shopping local is a big 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, it will have between 3-7X the local impact rather than shopping at out of town or online businesses. The compounding impact of each dollar spent, the reinvestment of local profits, and so forth are what add value to the equation.  We must understand that utilizing our locally-owned and operated businesses has the ability to impact your economy greater than most will ever imagine.


Not all economic development has the same impact on your community. 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.  One great example of this is money invested in your downtown returns or offers a 30% greater return on the investment (ROI) than elsewhere in the community. 


Do we contemplate and understand the devastating impact when a community loses its communication and/or media base? It is imperative your community has an ambassador to the outside world. Without it, who tells the community story and promotes your community? A recent Notre Dame study shows that where the local media has left or gone out of business, the cost of local government grows in excess of 30% over five years. Not only that, but when communities become what is referred to as news deserts (those without a media voice), their business base becomes less vibrant, fewer people will vote, and civic involvement dwindles. Building a truly local DNA within a community requires an effective communication network.


Another element of being truly local is understanding and promoting tourism. Regardless of whether you have a small or large tourism base, there are simple ways you must double down on this base. Nearly every community can create some sort of tourism draw. Those with ample tourism can grow that substantially with these simple tactics and strategies.


Most city and community governments will agree that a truly local mentality is critical to their growth and future. However, do you understand that most governments, while with the best intentions, have changeable laws, regulations and procedures that actually harm their own efforts? Your local leaders can stimulate a truly local community through the proper and fair use of ordinances and so forth. They can encourage new events their community can employ and that raises hundreds of thousands, if not millions of new dollars circulating through their community without anyone having to spend a nickel more than they do now.


Being truly local can spur local job growth? Being truly local can provide greater opportunities for younger generations to remain at home. Being truly local will spur local innovation and entrepreneurship. Being truly local will enhance the quality of life throughout the entire community. 


It doesn’t end there. We intuitively understand that arts, music, and entertainment are vital to a truly local mentality. That being the case, it would behoove local communities to utilize these valuable resources in their quest for a truly local community.  When communities find ways to highlight these community assets, they will find that residents take greater pride in their community and everything it has to offer


In addition, being truly local involves vision, leadership, and excitement.  Communities must change. Employing the same traditional strategies only spell doom. With the influx of non-locally owned businesses, communities that don’t utilize new techniques to thrive will fail. Becoming a truly local community and instilling the truly local DNA throughout the community is vital for you to not just survive, but thrive well into the future. 


John Newby is a nationally recognized Columnist, Publisher, Community, Business, Media, Strategic Consultant & Speaker. His “Building Main Street, not Wall Street,” column is enjoyed by 60+ communities around the country. As founder of Truly-Local, he assists community and business leaders in building synergies that create vibrant communities. He can be reached at: info@Truly-Localllc.com