Community prosperity requires focus

Community prosperity should focus on business creation.

Community prosperity comes by accepting the advice of the people who live there

Academics and governments tend to discuss how global forces shape the choices you need to make about your community. Rather than the wants and needs of the real people who live there, the people that can lead to a community’s prosperity.

Thinking in terms of ‘regional development’ and ‘community strategies’  is good. But it is the individual choices and actions that are the primary drivers. Without large capital expenditure, growth and business prosperity can only come about through increasing entrepreneurial participation. This requires a catalyst, that will provide you with endless opportunities.

Community development programs

Business programs should be included in every community economic development strategy because without one the community can stagnate and go backwards. In order to provide jobs and the goods and services required by the community new thinking must be introduced. Programs should include business attraction, business creation and business retention strategies. Those who want to make their community a better place to live, need not worry too much about any programs because they take enough actions themselves.

Not every community can be changed, but then nothing can be changed until it is faced up to. Sometimes a community has to deteriorate further than ever before because this is what it will take to wake people up. This brings about better, understanding of the reasons for putting quality time and resources into growing a prosperous community. Being satisfied with the status quo will not grow anything so inaction is not an option.

Don’t compare your progress with that of other communities because each community is different and needs its own time do what is necessary for it. Some people don’t believe in their own community until someone else believes in it first, hence good leadership is critical. If the people in the community accept the expectations of others, they will never change the outcomes even to meet their own aspirations. Business development programs are important. How else will the businesses keep up with such things as The Internet of Things, Big Data, the use of robotics and 3D printing?

First, think about the community in which you would want to live

You will have choices about the community you want to live in for the rest of your life. Making the right choice will be critical. You probably would not like the prospect of moving again the community you chose went into decline and you can no longer enjoy living there. You don’t want to lose your investment when you have to sell up. Many can’t sell their houses or businesses and either have to walk away or stay and face increasing challenges you never envisaged.

Would you choose a community that is in decline? Declining to the point where nobody would consider living there or starting a business there and accept the challenge to do something about it. The community may or may not have features that you would be excited about developing.

You probably wouldn’t like a community  that is growing artificially out of control, because a new Industry is moving there that would distort the features you are looking for in a place to settle. It could make living more expensive than you had planned. Such communities can quickly lose their appeal if a new industry plonks itself in a small regional community or a corporation buys a small industry and wants to expand it rapidly. Particularly if it is a ‘dirty’ or ‘noisy’ industry.

Usually, it is better to choose a community that is growing naturally as time goes by. It is becoming more attractive to those who might want to come and be there for all the right reasons.  A  community where you feel comfortable and would like to make a contribution in some way.

Business creation is arguably the most important key to community prosperity

When you create and support a locally owned business and help it improve and expand, you not only generate jobs but you also generate incomes. This income has a  high probability of being spent within the community. Therefore  from a development perspective, locally owned businesses generally are better for the community than chain stores.

Focusing on entrepreneurship is the most effective and cost-efficient economic development strategy.  This applies to most communities because it is the entrepreneurs who solve problems and create new business opportunities.

Local governments and local leaders, need to become experts at helping business start-ups. Many communities are short on entrepreneurs. However, they can become familiar with the attributes of entrepreneurs and what their wants and needs are in starting and growing new businesses.

Leaders can help most by:

  • Developing infrastructure and enhancing their sense of place because this will help to get things moving.
  • Map the assets available in the community which is especially relevant to understanding what is available.
  • Focus on innovative export opportunities because these can grow a community beyond its limitations.
  • Initiate programs to support entrepreneurs and achieve critical mass.
  • Identify opportunities to diversify and expand vertically with innovation.
  • Facilitate linkages with other communities in the region because together you have more resources to make things happen.
  • Help to keep a healthy balance of dynamic businesses, not-for-profits and much needed support services.

Business expansion

Growing your own business and helping other businesses to expand, is a far superior strategy to most business attraction initiatives.

Olympic athletes train every day to be the best that they can be. Businesses may not need to train every day, but the winners are those who are constantly improving their skills by learning and practice.

Why not help the business and not-for-profits  to learn to be the best that they can be. Create a continuous learning environment in each organisation and the community. Help the businesses and not-for-profits to benchmark themselves against the best in their industry.

Business attraction

Motivating factors that influence people’s decision to start their businesses in a particular locality include.

  • Customer base and a sense of customer opportunity.
  • Low cost of doing business.
  • A climate more to their liking.
  • Attractive lifestyle environment.
  • Existing small businesses and perceived competition.
  • Good roads/highways, air and rail services.
  • A good place to raise children.
  • The presence of family and friends already in the community.
  • Government incentives can play a part, depending on the strings attached.

When you talk about business attraction, some people immediately think specifically of retail attraction. While implementing your community development strategy, look at meeting local demand for popular products and services in the first instance. Then look to find innovative opportunities that local businesses can become involved with which are broader than the local area.

Always keep in mind you are operating in a global economy that is driven by technology. Look at opportunities that can come from cloud computing, mobile, big data, social media, robotics, analytics and so on.


How many out of this crowd could be interested in your community?


If you want or need a particular type of business that it is lacking, check to see if the market size is adequate.  The best business attraction prospects are companies in an industry related to and are interdependent with industries already located in your community.

Some strategies to attract businesses

If you are seeking to attract new businesses the following are some important strategies to consider:

  • Strengthen the existing small businesses because this can help to facilitate their involvement in identifying and attracting new businesses.
  • Set up a step-by-step program for identifying prospects. Meeting their wants and needs and bringing about the desired outcome, of other businesses.
  • Effectively promote the physical environment and lifestyle opportunities is very important. You might be surprised what appeals to some people.
  • There is no best strategy to lure a business to your area because of the diversification of people’s interests.
  • Rather than waiting for the business to find you, or sending out a generic information pack. Pick up the phone, make an appointment, visit them and be sure to follow-up.

How to attract business to smaller towns

Smaller towns offer a high quality of life and a strong sense of the worth for  every resident in the community. However, a place with a small population can have a hard time because they can’t support a broad enough range of goods and services. Economic challenges are magnified in a smaller town, because even someone leaving, or a business failure affects nearly everyone. If there are problems and people are not happy with their business, job, or past experience, create opportunities for them to move forward. They can turn their existing business into a lifestyle business, or start a new lifestyle business.

Not happy with your job, or past experiences?

The key to success in building a healthy business community in a smaller town is to create an economic development plan. The plan should maximise the community’s strengths and minimises its weaknesses. It is important to include the local people in any planning event and execution.

  • Create a business group that meets regularly so they can identify problems, frustrations and opportunities more quickly.
  • Set up a business facilitation office and meeting place because you want to make it easy for people to meet and exchange ideas.
  • Do a SWOT analysis of your town to identify its strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats so you know where you stand.
  • Bring the community together to articulate a vision and set goals for local economic improvement. Form a core group to keep the planning effort going.
  • Create a plan to present to the community. Refine the plan based on community feedback and prepare to execute it so that enthusiasm is maintained.
  • Ensure the local media is involved in the effort, or at least kept apprised of developments. Good information keeps everyone in the loop.
  • Develop a presence for the community. Utilise a professional website and social media involvement because people must be able to find you.
  • Market the community and the business benefits to would-be business owners so they are clear about what is on offer.
  • Appoint a person, or persons, to write up stories about the area for a ‘content marketing’ program.
  • Access government programs that may be of use but be careful the cost/benefit is not always there.

Business retention and community prosperity go hand-in-hand

Retaining and expanding existing businesses is a surer and cheaper economic development bet than recruiting new ones. Businesses that stay and grow become more entrenched and committed, therefore it becomes much more difficult to up stakes and leave. While good businesses are the backbone and the economic base of a community, they are sometimes hard to retain. 

Business retention is critical if you want a steady growth in your community. This is because you don’t want to be replacing businesses that cease to exist for some reason or another. Typically communities don’t work hard enough at business retention or cultivating entrepreneurs and innovation. All too often the continuing existence of a business is taken for granted.

You need more than a one-time campaign to keep the businesses you have; you need to be doing periodic check-ups. The check-ups will not only identify businesses that might leave, down-size, or expand elsewhere. But it might provide clues about incentives for business expansion. Most smaller businesses go on a ‘roller coaster’ ride and exist in a fragile condition and  are in need of good support services.

Smaller communities are often devoid of business advisors

This can create a problem with the introduction of new ideas and the latest thinking to strengthen their retention.

The significance of retained businesses and entrepreneurs to the community is that over time, they generate new income.  This money circulates within the community, therefore everyone in the community benefits. Talk to the small business owners about why they started their business in your community? Look for ideas about how you might strengthen business networks in your region?

Get the broader community involved in comprehensive business retention and expansion planning.  The big benefit will be the creation of  more and better jobs. Programs must be tailored to the individual community. This will properly address the specific economic and social problems, frustrations, wants and needs of the community members. You must be concerned with how existing businesses are functioning and where there are room and need for expansion.

In developing strategies for business retention, it is worthwhile focusing on business activities that generate an export. This delivers a net outflow of goods or services from your community. The benefit being more cash flowing into the community.

Marketing strategies are important

Irrespective of size, willingness to stray beyond the tried and true to reinvent the community prosperity is always a good option. Making it into something even bigger and better through diversification and innovation is a challenge that can be met. Start by selecting attractive community features. Defining clear promotion plans for these features should be part of the marketing plan. Slumps in the community prosperity are overcome with new strategies.

Some of the areas to cover might include:

  • Featuring unusual local businesses may help attract visitors to your town.
  • Natural environment and topographical features.
  • Community prosperity is often linked to the friendliness of the people and businesses.
  • Man-made features that will have appeal.
  • Focus on innovative export opportunities.
  • Lifestyle focus.
  • Family-friendly attributes are important for community prosperity.
  • Space and outdoor living focus.
  • Emphasise the food aspects of the area.
  • Feature the arts and crafts of the area.
  • Heritage of the district.
  • Local festivals.
  • Water quality and availability.
  • Available health and community services.
  • Local training facilities.
  • Availability of partnerships for mutual benefit.
  • New community prosperity can be driven by tourism opportunities.

The more things change the more opportunities there are. Look beyond the current reality and see what is possible. A community’s strength improves as the standard of business acumen and business knowledge improves. Aim to create new conversations, that will lead to new relationships, better health and better businesses as well as nicer places in which to live.

Attraction of entrepreneurs is important for community prosperity and growth

Leaders in non-metropolitan communities interested in community prosperity would be wise to understand the various factors that motivate entrepreneurs. This should be considered before jumping into projects they think will make their community more attractive to entrepreneurs. There are a number of factors that play a role in attracting entrepreneurs to a particular a community:

  • Personal factors, such as wanting to live and work in a particular community.
  • Location of raw materials because this will be critical to most moves.
  • All businesses have problems and frustrations to solve. So identify them and offer innovative solutions.
  • A highly educated workforce.
  • The customer base because that is where they can make money.
  • The sense of opportunity so you can build their enthusiasm.
  • Particular types of customers.
  • Low cost of doing business is always a strong lever.
  • Attractive local business environment and services because no one wants to live in a run-down community.
  • Support services available are important for community prosperity.
  • Good transport and logistics facilities because they will want to be able to do business easily.
  • Local tax and other business incentives.

Quotable quotes

“We cannot seek achievement for ourselves and forget about progress and prosperity for our community. Our ambitions must be broad enough to include the aspirations and needs of others, for their sakes and for our own”. Cesar Chavez

What is important is family, friends, giving back to your community and finding meaning in life”. Adrian Grenier

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