We tend to associate small town economic development strategies with the decline of our nation’s rural areas-empty storefronts, closed shops and dismal industrial machinery. However, a common diagnosis of slow small town economic development is their relative lack of good lifestyle amenities which bring in new businesses and new residents. This is not a surprising development in an increasingly rural society where the average commute is longer than two hours and cars are the main form of transportation. In addition, many small towns have few stores and a low-income group of residents tend to shop only when necessary. In these communities, small town development strategies can be very limited, making it even more difficult for small town businesses to succeed.
There are many different types of small town economic development strategies, each designed to promote the growth of commerce and employment opportunities. The key to improving small town economic development strategies is to put forth a long-term plan focused on attracting new businesses and residents. Economic development strategies must take into account current and future changes in population and commuting patterns, as well as improvements in community infrastructure like schools and hospitals. Economic development strategies should also recognize the importance of building up the small businesses in the area. Small businesses offer the ” ripple effect” of additional jobs and income to surrounding neighborhoods and communities.
Small town development programs are usually implemented through a combination of federal and local funding. Federal programs, for example, can often provide small towns with capital grants and interest free loans for affordable real estate and business start-up costs. Local support can come from utility companies, city, county, or state government agencies that can provide land use easements or density bonuses for development projects. Many cities and counties offer various sorts of incentive programs for development, including low interest loans, tax incentives, and various business permits.
Developing an effective strategy for small towns takes time and experience. This is why most cities and counties combine their small town economic development strategies with comprehensive planning and business strategic plans. These comprehensive plans identify current and future demographics, quality of life concerns, and goals for the community. They will also outline how the strategies will be implemented, and how they will be reviewed and evaluated. When cities and counties implement comprehensive plans, they can achieve economic outcomes that include the recruitment of the right people, creating a better quality of life for existing residents, and providing access to essential services and resources.
Small town development strategies must also be supported by a strong vision and mission statement. These statements should be written in a clearly stated, concise manner. The future of the town, its people, and its resources should be clearly defined in order to build support for important town decisions. A clear vision is also important in promoting and implementing the strategies that make up the comprehensive town development plan.
Small towns face many challenges that prevent them from being successful. However, these obstacles do not have to stop the people who want to grow their communities into better environments for everyone. Effective small town economic development strategies require the input of everyone in the community. This includes elected officials, business leaders, homeowners, and other residents. All of these individuals can play a role in achieving economic development by investing in small town economic development programs that focus on the local economy and its people.