Column: Vibrant communities don’t just happen
Commentary by Jim Ittenbach
The keystone of a vibrant community is located at the intersection of local resident and local business. Small business is the economic engine of community life. It is an engine that provides energy and opportunity to local residences. Local businesses strive to serve their community’s needs by providing goods, services and entertainment. More importantly, they strengthen communities by delivering tax revenues to local governments which create improved education options, valued community programs and economic stability and sustain housing values. These basic ingredients improve the quality of life for many, in turn fostering residential growth: a win-win outcome for all.
This type of outcome must start, however, with a concerted effort on behalf of civic leadership to attract and support the entrepreneur at heart. Individuals with the passion and the dream to enhance the lives of anyone who wishes to engage and enjoy the result of their effort. But it seems that what should be the easy civic option is often a barrier that keeps smart and confident entrepreneurs from taking the necessary steps to launch their impassioned life journey.
Local governments need to survey and identify what their citizens need, want and desire. Then, with a demand-side model in hand, begin to build strategic relationships with entrepreneurs, supported by fast-track permitting, small business/civic forums, grant workshops/matching grants programs.
Next, we citizens must respond by making a concerted effort to participate in all that the local business community offers. It is easy to justify shopping national businesses or online outlets in an effort to save money. Yet, supporting local business efforts will yield a holistic return that will pay dividends to all.
I imagine that many, like myself, got their first job working for a small to mid-sized local business. One that was more than willing to pay it forward to the community that supported them as a starry-eyed novice who needed a significant amount of hands-on mentorship to learn how to achieve sustainable independence. Now, it’s payback time for us to them!
Through the years, I’ve had the pleasure of working with business leaders focused upon improving their customer experiences. Now, I think it is time to focus our collective attention on working with civic leadership to improve entrepreneurial experiences. Live long and prosper.