Recently, business retention was invoked as one reason to turn down zoning approval of a new business in a small community. Sure, there were two existing businesses in the same general retail category in the community already. But I couldn’t help but ask myself if City Council and Village Board members the best people to choose economic winners and losers. When does business retention become local protectionism, and is that a problem here?
“Companies that enjoy enduring success have core values and a core purpose that remain fixed while their business strategies and practices endlessly adapt to a changing world.” This quote is from Building Your Company’s Vision, by Collins and Porras, published in Harvard Business Review a few years ago. Let’s swap the word ‘community’ for ‘company’ and apply this to the ongoing work of community development.
“Communities that enjoy enduring success have core values and a core purpose that remain fixed with their development strategies and practices endlessly adapt to a changing world.” That seems to fit! But, easier said than done when communities have election cycles and ever-changing leadership.
“Inclusive Economic Development” is the buzz from IEDC these days. In fact, across the country, programs are being developed aimed specifically at promoting economic equity and opportunity for communities and populations that were previously unexplored by economic development traditionalists. Rooted in the mantra “a rising tide lifts all boats,” these practitioners focused on attracting jobs and investment to an area under the assumption that job availability was equated with economic prosperity. To be fair, these practices were rooted in a market that valued low-cost, low-skill labor, and resulted in millions of middle-class workers who were able to walk out of high school graduation and begin their 30-year careers.
It starts with a desire, a hope.
One person’s vision for the future of a community may be just that, but with leadership and the right plan, funding, and political support, it can become a reality and transform a community.