Nia Peeples once said: “Life is a moving, breathing thing. We have to be ready to keep evolving. Indeed, perfection is a constant transformation. “When it comes to local communities, local media and local businesses, this quote has never been as accurate as it is today. While I usually tend to see and write at 30,000 feet in a way that is applicable to almost any community, today I’m going to provide three specific or detailed ideas that local communities can implement with low cost and positive results . We’ll take a look at economic gardening, food sheds, and micro-TIFs, and the potential impact each has on their communities, small and large.
Economic gardening is a relatively new term used in the world of community regeneration and transformation. Simply put, it uses the community’s own physical and financial resources to maintain and grow its own local business base. Far too often, communities get carried away by courting national chains and big boxes to the city. While these seem like short-term fixes, they can be very costly to entice into your community, and the long-term costs to the community can quickly turn into negative effects.
The downside risks are great. First, while they usually hire locals to run the business, all profits leave your community forever. They’re also on Wall Street at the whims of their bosses and can close in a minute. This wasn’t a big deal a few years ago, but in today’s age of COVID it is becoming more common. This usually requires infrastructure costs to be paid for by the community, and these costs can be ongoing and substantial.
Using the example of a steak house, I’ve seen communities spend hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars to lure and secure a national steak house chain. Compare this to a community that sponsors, supports, and even funds local entrepreneurs who are ready to start a local steakhouse. You can do this with a local look and feel that is just as enticing as using local beef, using local produce, and hiring local staff. In addition, all of their profits remain local and circulate 3-7X throughout the local economy compared to 1X for the national chain.
Food halls are one of the newest tantrums in much of the country, especially in the age of COVID and the associated attacks on local restaurants and restaurants. Essentially, they have taken old or unused buildings in their downtown area or in the heart of the community and created a localized food court with indoor dining, entertainment, and many different types of food. The key to the success of these food dishes lies in two things. First, they have an attractive and lively atmosphere that is warm and welcoming. In the age of COVID, it even works with the right distancing that is allowed to take place. Second, they offer many types of food and drink. This enables grocery sellers, who otherwise may not be able to afford to keep their isolated and unique location, to offer their various groceries in a group setting that will attract hundreds rather than a few on any given day.
Micro-TIFs are a spin-off of the typical TIF program that many communities are already using. TIF stands for Tax Increment Financing. Regular TIF programs have been around for decades and contribute to growth in thousands of communities across the country. Micro-TIFs are exactly what it sounds like. The difference is that municipalities can create a micro-TIF district that only covers one block or even only one street in a block. It could cover the local mall; It can even cover a building, depending on the laws in your state. TIFs are great ways to get money into the hands of land or building owners in key parts of your community. This will help them revitalize or convert their property or build into something that can make a huge difference to the community.
It’s no secret that America was built on the back of small churches and small businesses. Small businesses have always been the roadmap for sustainable success in the community. These are just three ideas. Communities that use these or dozens of other ideas that we see every day can overcome the obstacles that lie before them. Time is short and certainly vital. Communities have to unite and stand together, otherwise they will be divided and most certainly die.
John A. Newby, author of Building Main Street, Not Wall Street, a column devoted to supporting communities and local media companies, combines synergies that enable them not only to survive, but thrive in a world in the amazon is really local. Wall Street chains and others. His email at: john@360MediaAlliance.net.