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2012: Changing Community & Business Life?

December 18, 2011 - Ernest Hohmeyer
When a business closes in our small-town we lose more than just a product or service, we lose a small piece of our way of life.

It’s not the number of businesses that come and go; it’s more the type of businesses.

Retail and service businesses being hurt the most: that bookstore, video shop, movie theater and family owned retail store. It’s one less conversation, one less part of community. How many times have we stopped at a local store not really to buy anything but to say hello – and then we buy something anyways before we head out of town?

The New Community? There was an interesting article in National Affairs, entitled The Transformation of American Community by Marc Dunekelman. Here, he talks about “globalization, the information revolution, and the emerging pre-eminence of the service economy have begun to undo the bonds that long defined American villages, neighborhoods…” He argues that these traditional communities which were the focus of building America are now being weakened by these developments.

Our new “community” he suggests, is one where we are “choosing to invest more time and energy in keeping in touch with our closest friends and family members, and, on the other, in trading bits of information with people we do not know very well but who share some single common interest.” He talks about how traditional community clubs and social networks are being replaced with our ability “to cluster in communities with people who have similar backgrounds and outlooks.” “The changes that defined the latter half of the 20th century,” he writes, have “overwhelmed the township structure.” Traditional communities were “the center of the American experience…”

Business Opportunity? Even how entrepreneurial opportunities are talked about today has changed dramatically. It used to be you could read about how certain retail, service or manufacturing “sectors” were viewed as opportunities for the coming year. Traditional business types such as clothing stores, automotive repair shops, service and manufacturing “sectors” filled the business and industry magazines. While these individual opportunities are still discussed, there is a new language out there that talks about decision-making, collaboration and “gamification” as growing trends.

Check out the December issue of Entrepreneur magazine “11 Hot Start-up Sectors for 2012: This Way Up.” Here are some highlights:

Trend #1 “Decision” I interpreted this to mean that there is as an entrepreneurial opportunity that helps consumers make a decision. Now think about that – it’s not a retail store or chain outlet, but a business that helps folks make up their minds. The information they quote is staggering: - “27 million pieces of content shared online everyday” - “85% of those surveyed say reading others responses helps them understand and process information more deeply.” - “75% share info to connect with other people with the same interests...” Information quoted from the NY Times Customer Insight Group and Latitude Research by Entrepreneur in this article.

Trend #2 “Collaborative Commerce” “Increasing comfort with technology” is translating into new markets. These are business opportunities that “allow sharing, bartering, lending, renting and gifting – of goods, skills, money, space or services – at a local, peer to peer level, on a scale once thought impossible.” Quoted in this Entrepreneur magazine article is Rachel Botsman, co-author of What’s Mine is Yours: The Rise of Collaborative Consumption, who states that “collaborative consumption is a “multibillion dollar market opportunity.”

Trend #3 Customization “More than 35% of U.S. online consumers are already interested in customizing...” according to a study by Mashable in this article. Reading further, according to the research firm NDP Group “...customers are willing to spend at least 25% more to get products built specifically to their needs.”

Trend #4: True Mobility Entrepreneur magazine talks about business opportunities to helps consumers become more mobile. “Computing Power, network speed and quality workers are the three barriers standing between companies and true mobility. In 2012, for the first time, widely available tools can eliminate the first two issues...” “50 million tablets were sold in 2011, with almost 100 million set to leave shelves in 2012,” and the U.S. telecom market is expected to grow from $367 billion in 2010 to $443 billion in 2016” according to Pyramid Research quoted by Entrepreneur.

Trend #5: Creativity Here is one for the artists out there: Entrepreneur is suggesting that “...entrepreneurs are stepping up to help creative wannabes of every stripe do their thing.” This “sector” is responsible for “6 million creative jobs in the U.S.,” of which there are 1 million “independent artists, writers, and performers.” This has “increased 15% during the Great Recession” as quoted by Mt. Auburn Associates. Further, “565,000 new 'creative' businesses in 2010 were created” as stated here by the Kauffman Index of Entrepreneurial Activity. And who thought that the arts could not play a major role in our local economy?!

Other trends in Entrepreneurs “11 Hot Start-up Sectors” include: Trend #6: Urban Farming Trend #7: Gamification #8: Design #9: Extreme Fitness - “High Intensity Boot Camps were among the top 10 fitness trends of 2011, according to the American College of Sports Medicine.” #10: Jobs - “...14.4 million people use social media to find there last job in 2011...” (Career Enlightenment)

A New Years Resolution? It appears that we have moved from a technology based economy to include an information-based society.

In our sleepy little towns, these changes may be at first hard to see. But they are there.

Communities like ours which did not have large year-round populations and survive in great measure to the twists and turns of the traveling public, we may need to rethink our business and community models. There is a fine balance between protecting appropriate private information and making our communities and businesses more transparent so that we can work together to take advantage of these new collaborative, networking and sharing opportunities.

Can we survive as just a traditional retail store, service business or biotechnology firm as we have in the past? Can we continue to grow our communities and business by each of us trying to find that proverbial new customer that seems to be harder and harder to come by? Do our traditional “sectors” need to think of new ways to collaborate and market themselves?

Do we need to forget that we are in Saranac Lake, Tupper Lake or Lake Placid and instead concentrate on networking the artist, health and wellness, outdoor recreation and other “sectors” to create the “quintessential Adirondack experience?” Is it possible to create a true biotech “sector” in the Village of Saranac Lake or, in order to create a “collaborative commerce cluster,” do we need to pool resources of all those companies in the region?

There are new opportunities, that perhaps for the first time in our history; we may be able to compete with areas outside the Park. It may take us breaking down old historical barriers from a community and business point of view so that we can work together to do so.


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