Small towns across America have been hard hit by the recession. Business closures, job losses and significant downturns in construction and real estate are among many woes.
But towns like Pagosa Springs, Colo., where I recently presented workshops on social-media marketing and delivered the keynote address at the 4th annual Colorado Entrepreneurship Marketplace, can benefit from their struggles.
My keynote address was titled "Rethinking Entrepreneurship." However, I reworked part of the message to incorporate a portion of an essay called "Your City as a Platform for Entrepreneurship," penned by Jason Lorimer. This self-described "Fellow Entrepreneur" believes, as I do, that beleaguered cities should start marketing their problems -- not just their assets.
In the case of Pagosa Springs, there are hot springs, along with hiking, biking, camping, skiing and other pursuits that help maintain a busy tourist influx. But what they need to do is play up their troubles.
The reason? Entrepreneurs love to solve problems. And every town has an entrepreneurial base. As a result, officials in Pagosa Springs -- a town that most anyone with an affinity for the outdoors would kill to live in -- should be enticing entrepreneurs to set up shop, work and live in the community. To attract such talent, Pagosa Springs and other towns in the U.S. should do away with much of the red bureaucratic tape that hinders progress -- choosing instead to work hand-in-hand with entrepreneurs as partners.
Cities would do well to coordinate their efforts with those who want to create and build new companies and industries. With a city's cooperation, entrepreneurs can put forth ideas and create workable and profitable businesses.
Theoretically, these ends can be achieved when a municipality uses its infrastructure and professional networks to provide no-cost or low-cost workspace, as well as on-staff and volunteer mentors. Providing improved access to angel investors who are also interested in evolving a city can also help. The idea is to approach municipal problems in a manner that is beneficial to the township, innovators and investors.
Lorimer suggests that attracting a good number of progressive entrepreneurs is the easy part. The tough task is to work with the citizenry to outline major economic issues within the community and then promote them to entrepreneurs. City officials must explain to potential partners why they should invest their money and time in their town. That provides outside thinkers the platform with which to begin working on solutions. And, Lorimer says, these entrepreneurs will find solutions.
That's because the challenge of teaming up with the town to solve problems will lure them in, and the city's solid cooperation, contacts and partnerships will ensure that they stick around to see the results.
What do you think might help small town America grow? Leave a comment and let us know.
Mikal E. Belicove is a market positioning, social media, and management consultant specializing in website usability and business blogging. His latest book, The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Facebook, is now available at bookstores. For more information, visit MikalBelicove.com.