Main Street America in partnership with the Institute for Local Self-Reliance (ILSR) hosted a webinar on February 10 titled “Small Business’s Big Moment” that highlighted ideas for communities on how to use the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds for long-term economic development. Kennedy Smith from the ISLR and Kelly Humrichouser from Main Street America moderated the conversation, whose focus was on small business.
Some of the ideas presented include:
Strategic investments in small business training, coaching and finance, i.e. financial relief grants, loans, opening business incubators, and other resources;
Using the funds to develop and open full-service grocers;
Building a robust infrastructure to support small scale manufacturing;
Simplifying and streamlining the procurement process to make it easier for small businesses to bid;
Investing in “shop local” marketing campaigns;
Expanding broadband access;
Making improvements in commercial districts to enhance accessibility.
A new era for tourism is emerging as we plan for the post-pandemic world with an eye on sustainability. At the heart of destination branding is a well-told story about what makes a place unique, welcoming, and memorable. A good story articulates a place’s distinctive traits while at the same time builds affinity and excitement.
As The Place Brand Observer notes, destination branding is more than just economic development, and it encompasses in fact a range of metrics including the local community’s well-being, the livability of cities and towns, and the general feeling that the stakeholders share about how well these initiatives are actually performing.
To successfully position a destination, one must certainly emphasize local landmarks and iconic attractions, but at the same time think strategically about what visitors might remember a week, a month or a year later. Also, since tourist attractions don’t exist in a vacuum, equal emphasis should be placed on investing in local communities. As one tourism authority once put it, a happy place will attract happy people or people who want to be happy.
Heritage destinations have always been popular. In addition, visitors are also looking for off-the-beaten path experiences, and occasionally insider tips to make the most of the experience. Content creators, mindful of these trends, will have to keep in mind that visitors are interested not only in memorable moments but also in how the experience itself will make them feel.
According to Destination Analysts, a tourism market research firm based in San Francisco, when planning a trip, people do prefer to consult with family and friends, but also review websites such as TripAdvisor and Yelp, and travel business websites like hotels, attractions, and airlines.
Last December I attended a webinar with Main Street America where Lindsey Wallace spoke about her organization’s approach to community transformation based on four pillars:
2. Economic Vitality
As we juggle multiple crises from health care to economic prosperity, climate change, and inequality, I believe this is a model that can lead to a sustainable future for communities that can rally together behind some common purpose.
The first pillar Organization calls for strong leadership and broad community engagement to identify priorities and forge partnerships across sectors.
Economic Vitality invites a diverse economic base, and smart investments that contribute to a vibrant entrepreneurial ecosystem.
Design plays a critical role in creating an inviting and inclusive atmosphere that incorporates historic preservation, energy efficiency, and accessibility.
And Promotion is all about marketing the community’s defining assets and unique attributes while supporting “buy local”.
Business trends that will continue to shape our communities are the expansion of broadband, remote work, e-commerce, and lifestyle changes that are here to stay like for instance slowing down, investing in self-care, and developing contingency plans.
Trust is essential in ensuring a peaceful and prosperous society. The pandemic has broken the patterns of trust that we have grown accustomed to in order to make decisions. The Edelman Trust Institute has published a collection of essays addressing the multitude of challenges we currently face to balance health care, economic prosperity and personal freedoms as we strive to rebuild for a post-pandemic world.
Have a clear mission and set of values
What you say and what you do ought to be aligned
Incompetence is a trust destroyer
Be honest about your limitations
Prioritize collaborations with others
Good companies invest in good employees
Emotional intelligence matters
Climate change pledges matter
Fighting disinformation is more important than ever
It takes time to build trust
Trust is built when promises are kept
Highlighting solutions not just problems makes for a better world
According to the Edelman Trust Barometer, businesses are currently the most trusted institutions in our society. Laszlo Bock, the CEO of Humu, advises though that as employees return to office, employers ought to relax performance standards and allow the employees to re-set their roles in a welcoming environment to avoid burn-out and ensure long-term retention and satisfaction. Employees are looking for confident, competent, and compassionate leaders.
Regarding the crisis in governance, Juha Leppänen from Demos believes that “leadership in the 21st century is not about having all the right answers, but about continuously learning and collaborating rigorously in inventive new ways.” Leppänen believes that by embracing humility governments can cultivate stronger relationships with stakeholders and generate more trust. His advice is to incentivize collaboration and participation.