6 Ways Small Towns Can Create More Economic Growth Ideas for creating growth locally and for bringing growth from outside your locale.
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
In the simplest terms of economic growth in an area, it comes about in one of two ways: You're either growing organically or you're attracting growth from an outside market and bringing it into your market.
Three ideas for local economic growth
1. Create new entrepreneurs
This one could be a little more resource intensive. Look to the aspiring entrepreneur community and create a list of aspiring entrepreneurs and local investors from the region. Using that list, partner with your local organizations to create a multi-week entrepreneur's workshop series (essentially, how to get a business up and running correctly). Once that workshop is completed there will be aspiring entrepreneurs who really stood out. Suggest that they reach out to potential investors in the area (or have the workshop conclude in an entrepreneur pitch day to investors). Guide the parties to bringing the ideas to fruition.
2. Focus on businesses that are there and create relationships
Use the businesses that are there and find a way to help build/strengthen relationships with other local businesses. Running a business is time-consuming. Sometimes there are wonderful opportunities that are waiting to be capitalized on but the business owners just don't have the time to make them happen. Reduce that friction by laying the roadmap out for them. As an example: say there are three businesses in town that are run out of homes: a house cleaner, landscaper and contractor. Maybe individually they would not be comfortable about renting a storefront, but perhaps all three would be happy to split the cost of that storefront. Depending on the services offered, the businesses create new revenue synergies, in addition to having a new storefront rented out.
3. Look to the big employers
Look to the big employers in town: larger businesses, hospitals, schools, etc. Those businesses might benefit from having an off-site area specifically for training. Does the school have certain certifications that could benefit from a training facility? Could those employers benefit from having an off-site incubation hub where they could test new ideas or products? Put those empty spaces to use by showing the potential upside.
Three ideas for attracting growth from an external market
This pitch would be a little different because you're asking someone or a group to move to a new area. But, the goal is still the same — get more economic growth into town.
Consider having an interview with any business founders that have moved to the area. What were their greatest pros/cons in the process of moving to the area? Were there any unforeseen challenges they wish they knew from the start? Were there any exceptional pros to the move? If you can't find anyone who has moved there to start a business, consider asking native business owners what their pros/cons are of doing business in the area and use those as talking points.
Related: How to Effectively Use Testimonials
2. Identify what's missing from town
Is there something missing from town that you think an entrepreneur could come in and capitalize on with minimal resource cost. Are there any businesses that could move in with little to no competition and generate value for the people of the town? What opportunities are there where a business can turn profitable fairly quickly? What natural resources are there for them to use, etc.? Using that info, you can put together a sell sheet to send out to businesses/entrepreneurs you think would be a good fit.
3. Learn your market to create incentives to attract talent
If you have relationships built up with companies in town, perhaps ask them what the weak parts are of their business model. Or, ask what their five-year plan looks like. They might be able to provide some guidance on a business they wish they had locally, to either work with or to send work to. Or maybe they will be looking to acquire a business in the next few years to fill a gap in their business model. Use that info to curate a list of businesses that you think could be a good fit and reach out to them. It would also help to have key points of information on what the town is doing to drive improvement (high speed internet, reliable transportation, etc.).
When it comes to generating growth in an area, there is always a cost vs. reward ratio. Not sure what to try first? Generate a list of growth ideas within cost-to-reward order. Start with the idea that costs the least for the most amount of growth and work your way down the list. And remember, when it comes to getting businesses to move in, you're selling the area more than anything else.