We’re obsessed with attraction. Cities, regional governments, and states spend a lot of time and resources working to attract companies and developers to invest in the communities they represent. Economic developers fly off to trade shows and tell manufacturers about their communities, in the hopes they can get them to come pay a visit, fall in love, and hire locals to work for them… living happily ever after.
Similarly, local units of government, economic developers, and state agencies, put out requests for proposals for land and buildings available for development or redevelopment and circulate them, aiming to attract investment into their community.
Our communities are often well-organized, pulled together, posh, and working on being the best versions of themselves. Public officials across the board, no matter the community, are generally altruistic, as they spend each day working to create partnerships among existing stakeholders, and negotiating agreements and policies, for the city’s best interest.
Occasionally, the special interest project will arise and they’ll risk egg on their faces, to help improve others.
Although these efforts are plenty to keep busy, community officials face pressure to find long term partnerships. The overriding social norm is to seek and attract investment from an outsider, who may be new to your market. Outside investors can bring an heir of sophistication, culture, and new things, that are downright intriguing to us all.
So we pull ourselves together, make ourselves more desirable… because hiring the right firm for a market study is the community equivalent of sending yourself chocolates and flowers.
We get all done up and prepped for the big meeting… and bam!
They are looking for something else and although you get along so well, you’re officially in the friendzone.
What if there was another way to find the long term partnerships you seek to build for the community?
I know what you’re thinking…
But honestly, most communities have trusted relationships with locals that already believe the community is great. They are invested in its future and want to see it do well.
They were probably right beside you, as you were pulling things together for your other projects and are a trusted sounding board.
They may not be developers or your traditional investor, but they continually show up with a willingness to learn and belief in the community.
Are you having a moment?
How can you help your community change the dynamic from attracting outside investment, to retaining the locals and investors it has?
- Cultivate and Grow your own Developers. A training series from the Incremental Development Alliance can help.
- Lots of small business owners would consider buying their buildings and adding value to them if they knew how. This helps teach the elements of building regulations, zoning, design, finance, and how to pull it all together.
- When locals create momentum… the community becomes vibrant in it’s reflection of each person and their unique and diverse experience transformed into the character of the community.
- This investment by locals, for locals, also creates that desirability that outside investors are looking for. Because when you love yourself fully, others take notice and find it attractive.
- Support your small businesses. There are so many ways to do this and small businesses need your support now more than ever.
- Have economic development organizations, chambers, and main street associations talk to them about what would help them succeed. Best practices would be to host weekly, or monthly meetings for them to build relationships with one another. To keep the discussion positive, screen a TED Talk about pop-up collaborations, walkability, storefront design, cultivating talent in their businesses, the list is endless! Add a couple of prompts and questions to guide the conversation.
- Shop local campaigns and marketing.
- Tell their stories. Remind the community of who works at these businesses, why they do it, and what they are all about.
- Map your Assets. Asset mapping in community development is a process where your economic, physical, and social resources are mapped out in order to strategically embrace strengths, and find ways to build upon them. This can help you shape your unique value proposition of your community.
- Talk to students and recent grads at local universities. What programs are strongest locally? Do they have the jobs or elements they need to stay local and find employment or start businesses? Can you help string together what they need to help them stay local?
- Taking stock of where you are helps you find the ways to add value based on those assets. You can’t change your body type necessarily, but you can dress for it.
- Here is a great overview of what this looks like