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Too Much Energy Or Not Enough?
July 8, 2013 - Ernest Hohmeyer
Part 2 of 2...Throughout the region we have multiple downtown groups, business organizations, chambers of commerce, revitalization efforts, economic development and tourism groups. In some form or fashion they are trying to move our communities forward.
Who Do They Represent?
Depending on who they are they can represent a few members, main street, a village or different “areas.” This is where the words “area” and “region” become blurred. What “area” are we talking about anyways, the Saranac Lake area, the Tri-lakes or the Adirondack region? And are the Adirondacks the Blue Line or everything north of Albany? And then there is the “North Country” definition…
Businesses without Boundaries
In the meantime, you have a host of businesses and organizations whose customer base is from the village, the “area” and outside the “region.”
It is a tremendous opportunity to work with all of these organizations – and it can also be challenging. As a small business person or a community organization you don’t want to say no to any of these groups when they come a call ‘in. This can be for donations, event support or advertising. Sometimes we say yes more for good will than we do an understanding of what cause they are advocating and we may wonder if this is really going to help us.
In a small community, it can even be more uncomfortable if it is your business neighbor calling or your local political leader.
We all know we need some type of growth – and this runs the full spectrum from shoulder season marketing to new jobs. We are in such fervor to do this sometimes, we take action. We have to because if no one comes through our door, we are done.
Has this all become too much? Do we have so much energy that it is becoming confusing as to who is doing what, for who, what purpose, and which one do I participate in? Do we have so much individual chatter going on about the same cause whether it is marketing or revitalization we can’t keep up or understand it?
Is it anyone’s fault? I don’t think so. It was not that long ago that more than one chamber was not staffed, there were transitions on the community development front and a host of new faces arrived on important community and political organizations.
There was a real void in dealing with real issues in terms of community and business development. In response a host of volunteer efforts were created ranging from events to marketing.
And now we seem to be full of both volunteer community efforts and paid positions.
Is this one reason now that we may not be sure who is doing what and will this really help me?
Is there an even bigger question trying to figure out how they are connected to each other? I believe the one thing we have found out the hard way, is that many of these have great intentions, but resources are minimal leading to burn-out from both volunteers and paid staff.
It may that our new challenge will be to harness and coordinate this energy.
There seems to be a new, even if it is sometimes a begrudgingly acknowledgment, that we need to cross-pollinate efforts.
Can we now create for example, a simple thing like one regional community calendar? What about a regional business-to-business resource center? What about marketing our regional assets like the business parks?
What about simple steps like working together on regional bike races between communities, a Tri-lakes Fall Festival Tour that includes our new micro-breweries, farms and recreational amenities?
The one thing we have going for us, is there seems to be a sense we are becoming a region even though we are divided like few others in terms of boundaries. If we can agree to work together on some of these things, can you imagine what a model we could be for other rural areas – and the funding that may come our way?
A How & Where To?
There is a process you have to go through when planning a business project. Depending on what it is, you may have to apply for permits from various agencies, go to the planning board and perhaps even the zoning board of appeals.
Could we do the same for community initiatives – create a process – something we understand who is doing what and how I go about creating a new community initiative? For example:
• A hand-book • A community sounding board to vet your idea • A network connected to “community influencers” • How to Leverage Your Idea with Others • Marketing and Financial Assistance
This would almost be a “community incubator of ideas.” If we can do this in a regional format, it may have a bigger economic impact:
“Have a marketing idea, an event or business idea? Here is how you start and who to talk to!”
Here is what is just as important. If we can talk earlier on with some of these ideas, we can perhaps do better planning, acquire more resources, network it more appropriately between all of our jurisdictions and potentially fund it to a greater extent. Does Saranac Lake and Tupper need to compete for county tourism funds for example?
Too often now we are reacting to the latest idea and then pressure is put on all of us to scramble to make it successful.
A Business Network?
With all this energy perhaps there needs to be a clearer community road-map that is better planned out and connected to one another. Is it time for a formal regional community and business network between existing efforts?
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