Vote for Main Street
Mike Derby says: “As a small business owner and past chairman of the Rapid City Area Chamber of Commerce,
I am a big advocate of supporting local businesses.
After all, when was the last time you saw Amazon sponsoring a Rapid City Little League baseball team?"
The following article, written by John A. Newby originally appeared on the Opinion Page
of the May 17, 2020 edition of the Rapid City Journal and is reprinted with their permission
John A. Newby
Building Main Street, Not Wall Street
Winston Churchill once said, “Success is not final, failure is not fatal; it is the courage to continue that counts”. It is that time of year where many communities have either gone through or are preparing to go through their local elections. While it can be easy to believe your individual vote has little impact on the National or local outcomes, nothing could be further from the truth. Let’s address our votes on the local level. Our local vote not only impacts various issues in your local community, it can determine the direction of your community revitalization and transformation efforts for years to come.
The candidates you elect today can have a huge impact on the direction and future of your community or downtown. The questions you ask of them are critical. Questions such as; Do they understand the power and pull of tourism to the community? Do they understand how important being business friendly is to drawing new and younger entrepreneurs to your community? Do they understand that wishing for new high-paying jobs to show up is usually a fool’s errand? Do they understand the real importance of having a city led hyper-local movement? Do they even know what a hyper-local movement is?
These and other questions are critical to your community and specifically downtown. Tourism is indeed the one thing that communities can control to an extent. The events they host and the atmosphere they provide are so crucial to bringing outside visitors in to spend their money in your community.
Being business friendly is critical to growth. Communities that make it difficult for start-up or new businesses are simply left behind in today’s world. Those entrepreneurs will simply go to the next town that happens to be more business friendly to open their business there. City officials can create a one-stop business office that helps the potential startups and simplifies the entire process. Send the message to potential startups that your community is business friendly on all fronts.
Understanding the nature of higher paying jobs that accompany new businesses moving to town is what separates the true candidates from those blowing smoke. Companies relocating or start-ups offering those high-paying jobs are few and far between. Communities must come to the reality that courting those companies is, at best, high stakes poker. Communities that understand the slim odds of winning those few bids will have the upper hand. They have the upper hand because they understand that to improve their odds when competing with other communities in this high-stakes poker game, they must revitalize and transform their downtown. Companies simply don’t relocate to cities lacking community vibrancy, heart and soul. It is hard enough to retain workers as it is; they seek quality of life. This is something your community must provide for their employees to be relevant.
Do candidates understand what hyper-local means? Hyper-local efforts must be led by the city. They must promote, encourage and above all, set the example. When cities purchase goods outside of their community, they are sending a message to their residents that hyper-local really isn’t that important. That is the nail in the coffin of communities moving forward. With city’s budgets being challenged more than ever, every penny that can be kept within the boundaries of the local community is crucial. Those dollars will recirculate over and over again providing additional jobs, sales tax and progress within the city. Cities simply must get this right.
Voters must understand candidates claiming to solve all their community woes are blowing smoke and pandering to those ignorant of the crisis the cities are in. There are very few people that wouldn’t want to solve all the woes. The smart candidates must understand the only way to begin solving these woes is to keep as many dollars local as possible and create a vibrant community.
Small and mid-sized cities are in the fight for their economic lives. Many aren’t aware of the magnitude of the struggle or the size of the mountain they must climb to find success or respite from the economic storm, if respite even exists. These aren’t the days where a slow meandering approach is prudent; these are the days where the slow and meandering are left as a carcass on the economic road. Vote for bold candidates that understand tourism. Vote for candidates that understand hyper-local. Vote for candidates that are business friendly. A vote for a candidate with those attributes is a vote for building Main Street, not Wall Street.
John A. Newby, author of the "Building Main Street, Not Wall Street " column and Facebook group dedicated to helping communities and media companies work together allowing both to not just survive, but thrive in a world where truly-local is lost to Amazon, Wall Street chains and others. His email at: .