Small town economic development more difficult?
Andrew Redden, Ec.D.(F) / April 27, 2013
I just read this article on a LinkedIn Group. It’s an interesting read about the challenges of small town / Main Street economic development.
There are two themes that emerge in my opinion. One is that a more unique, customized and careful approach is needed when dealing with the economic revitalization of small rural main streets in contrast to larger cities. Second, rural and small town economic development is evidently more challenging overall and requires a skilled group and/or talented economic development official to make it happen.
Regarding theme one, this reinforces suspicions that communities may want to consider a long-term investment in a downtown revitalization effort. Across the Province of Ontario, I’ve witnessed rural municipalities obtaining funding from senior levels of governments to hire a “Main Streets Coordinator” and setup a 1 or two-year contract. That’s way too short. I remember Kennedy Smith, an expert on Main Street development, once claiming that main street revitalization is at least a 10-year process.
Second, rural communities are wise to invest in the Ernesto Sirolli model of economic development. Checkout his website for more information. Hastings County and Lennox & Addington County are two partnering communities in Eastern Ontario who are creating numerous jobs and new businesses in their rural Counties using this model which is endorsed by Sirolli.
Regarding theme two, I wonder if it’s time to revisit (raise) the salaries of rural economic development officials. If I’m reading the article correctly, economic revitalization in rural small towns is more challenging, difficult and complex. That would require someone with a marvelous skill set to take on the challenges necessary and work with the community. To attract and retain the right candidates to take on the rural challenges, reimbursement of their long hours, time and talents is something perhaps worthy of some discussion.