Getting serious about downtown entrepreneurship

Don Macke at the Center for Rural Entrepreneurship just sent out a summary of takeaways from an Economic Development Survey undertaken by the National League of Cities and the International County/City Management Association (ICMA). 

The Center, an initiative of the Rural Policy Research Intsitiute (RUPRI)consistently puts out substantive resources for supporting entrepreneurial development.  Sign up here for their newsletter.

The summary aligns with our ongoing preparations for  “Cultivating and Entreprenurial Downtown,” the Virginia Main Street Toolkit training set for July 22 and 23 in Franklin. Here are Don’s takeaways:

1.  Too many communities do not really have an economic development strategy that they are aggressively supporting.

2.  The dominant focus of economic development is still business attraction and industrial development.  Serious support of entrepreneur-focused economic development is very limited.

3.   Economic development efforts continue to be fractured across local governments, chambers, development corporations, main street programs, tourism groups and the like.  Comprehensive and integrated efforts are still too rare despite the regionally-focused development seen in competing nations.

4.   There are exceptions and a growing number of communities that are very committed to economic development, investing aggressively and smartly, and beginning to really focus on entrepreneurs as a core strategy to grow their economies. 

There’s more to think about in the report, and at the July training, we’ll spend a day and a half addressing strategies that can help you make your community an exception.

Towns that build entrepreneurs

 
Economic restructuring in five Oklahoma towns built from existing assets to support entrepreneurial climates.

Economic restructuring in five Oklahoma towns built from existing assets to support entrepreneurial climates.

A recent Daily Yonder article was forwarded to the VMS Blog from the City of Martinsville, which is pulling together community investment in their central business district through the Uptown Partners project. 

 “The Town that Builds Entrepreneurs” uses data from Oklahoma communities to demonstrate the power of the Main Street economic restructuring approach: an incremental effort to build on existing assets while diversifying the business mix. The communities focused on quality of life, including the natural beauty that surrounds them, and they built from the industries that had shaped the towns. They even partnered across jurisdictional boundaries.

In Martinsville-Henry County, the community is pulling together to put a similar strategy to work using the unique assets of the area, such as its furniture-making history, cultural and arts assets, the New College Institute– an uptown educational resource, and the area’s potential for uptown housing.  

Martinsville’s Main Street program, Martinsville Uptown Revitalization Association (MURA), is one of the uptown partners working to foster a climate specifically conducive to entrepreneurs. Track the community’s progress at: www.uptownmville.com.