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OPINION: Understanding what truly-local really means

by John Newby | January 5, 2022 at 5:25 a.m.

One of my favorite quotes is by General Shinseki. He said, "If you don't like change, you are going to enjoy irrelevance even less." Each January, I spend the month discussing the basics of building a truly local community-wide mindset. Truly local means so many different things to each of us. When asking people what truly local means, we get varied responses. But invariably, most indicate some sort of shopping local. While shopping local is certainly a component of being truly local, I would suggest being truly local is more than just shopping local. Fact is, shopping local only makes up 10-20 percent of being truly local for a community to become an economic force allowing the community to prosper and grow.

First, let's quickly discuss shopping. Yes, shopping local is part of being truly local, but understand not all shopping local is created equal. Shopping at a locally-owned and operated business has between 3-7 times the local impact than shopping at big boxes, chains, or online where owners aren't local. In future columns, we will cover in greater detail the compounding impact, reinvestment of profits, and so forth. Understand, locally-owned and operated businesses have the ability to impact your economy greater than most can imagine.

Not all economic development has the same impact on your community. Certain types of economic development not only return a far greater ROI, but spur outside and private investment dollars at a much higher rate than other economic investment. While future columns will go in greater detail, just know that downtown investment is usually the most viable and impactful economic investment a community can make.

Knowing the devastating impact when a community loses its media base is critical. Your local media is your community's ambassador to the outside world. If they disappear, who will tell your story and promote your town to the world? A recent Notre Dame study showed where newspapers have gone out of business, cost of local government grows more than 30 percent within five years. Not only that, but when communities become what is referred to as news deserts (without a newspaper or voice), business declines, less people vote, and civic involvement dwindles.

Regardless of whether your community has a small or large tourism base, there are simple ways to double down on this base. Nearly every town can create some sort of tourism and those with ample tourism can grow that substantially with simple tactics and strategies. Tourism is certainly a truly local component.

Most city and community governments agree a truly local mentality is critical to their growth and future. However, did you know most local governments, while with the best intentions, have changeable laws, regulations and procedures that harm their own local efforts? During 2022, we will discuss how local governments can make minor adjustments that stimulate their communities without spending a dime more.

Every community must have local and impactful events. These events need not cost the community money. In fact, done right, these events can grow the dollars circulating through their community without anyone having to spend a nickel more than they do now.

Does your community need job growth? Are your children leaving for college, never to return other than for trips home to say hi? In 2022, we will discuss ways your community can employ tactics that drive innovation, entrepreneurship, job growth, as well as quality of life that draw your youth back to be part of it.

While we intuitively understand that the arts, music, and entertainment are vital to the truly local mentality, we will discuss ways your community can utilize those resources to a greater advantage. We will share examples of what others are doing that works. As they say, the greatest form of flattery is to not reinvent the wheel, but to copy programs that have shown success.

In addition to the above and much more, this weekly column is all about vision, leadership, and excitement. Communities must change. Employing the same traditional strategies must change. With the infiltration of big boxes, chains, and online offerings, communities that don't utilize new techniques will fail. We are excited to share the concepts we have found that will work for your community. As you build synergies with your local media, you will not only survive, but you will prosper and thrive in 2022 and beyond.

-- John A. Newby, of Pineville, Mo., is the author of "Building Main Street, not Wall Street" a weekly column appearing in communities around the country. He is CEO of Truly-Local, LLC and dedicated to assisting communities create excitement, energy and combining synergies with their local media to become more vibrant and competitive. His email is: [email protected] The opinions expressed are those of the author.

Print Headline: Understanding what truly-local really means

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