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Community Industry Called “Synergy”
July 6, 2014 - Ernest Hohmeyer
We love to identify with something. In community development there is a penchant to identify “industries” that fit the town.
Over the first 2 parts of this series, we talked about the importance of - and reliance on - particular industries.
Industry or Town?
In thinking about this further, you can argue that many Adirondack communities sprung just because – an industry decided to locate there.
We may have this Hollywood image of a bunch of castaways, who toil hard fighting man and beast until one day they came to a sacred plot of land and said “Ah, ha, we will build a town here.” It was industries though who in many cases built our Adirondack towns.
And when they waned we tried to replace them. After all, if the industry sheriff leaves town, what will we become?
When the community job lawman couldn’t be replaced, town folks were often baffled – and scared. It wasn’t funny. For many years they tried, these small and isolated towns probably not realizing this was a national downward trend and had nothing to do with them.
We Led the Way
But rural communities, especially here in the Adirondacks are resilient. It’s tough to make a go of it – that’s one thing that hasn’t changed. They were not about to be chased out of town by the lawlessness of lack of jobs – and they fought back. You can thank rural communities for many of the innovations in revitalizing downtown. The spirit of relying on yourself and fierce independence led to a new thinking on building from within a community.
The community was now in charge of its fate.
Or was it?
These community economic plans were very comprehensive. At least now they were focused on a community’s assets and liabilities. However, much of the discussion and later volunteer efforts were often formed around an “industrial development” committee, “biotech” or “retail.”
Is the industry sheriff still calling that you can hear on these still July nights? Or is that ringing in my ear from slapping it one too many times trying to kill the black flies?
The new gun in town is “destination planning where the focus is on tourism.
And this focus on industry is not a bad thing folks. It gets the community to target what it wants.
Sense of Place?
Is there a way to complement our historical yearning for “industry” with also a synergistic approach that integrates them and communities?
Where we talk about a “sense of place” as well as “industry”?
Once again, it has little to do with our small, rural Adirondack communities. There are not spots on our face (okay, there may be due to that famous Adirondack cologne known as “Mosquito Mascara.”). This focus on industries by other communities has had varying success and has also led them to consider additional approaches such as “place based” development.
Rural is King
Once again, it is rural based thinking that is offering a new kind of community development paradigm. In Part One of this series we talked about the Institute for Sustainable Communities (www.iscvt.org.) based in Vermont who are “in the business of unleashing the power of people to transform their communities.”
A component of their concept of a sustainable community is “economic security” which includes a “diverse and financially viable economic base.”
In Part 2, we talked about how one of the oldest components of our economy – wellness – is an example of a new look at creating jobs - and that is synergy among many industries.
More and more you as you learn about communities that are successful in developing jobs, they have not only buried geographic boundary lines but they are blurring industries. Instead they are seeking to create “synergies” among industries and communities. The new buzz words are not always specific industries but integrated approaches like “life sciences” or hang on - “wellness.”
To take advantage of the new wellness requires integrating several industries ranging from medical to outdoor recreation and from the arts to traditional tourism.
I am pleased to report that a diverse working group of Adirondack industries came together recently to see if it was possible to work together on a synergistic approach to creating jobs. Participants were a diverse lot including educational institutions, tourism owners, outdoor recreation, wellness practitioners, business organizations, the banking community and non-profits.
A New Paradigm?
Two key goals were identified:
1. The development of our region as a world renown wellness destination 2. To further develop our role as a healing center.
Several short and long-term objectives were drafted including:
• Outreach to existing businesses, community organizations and government officials on ways on working together to take advantage of the new wellness
• Working with existing organizations to create shoulder season retreats that combine outdoor recreation with the arts, cultural and community activities.
• Developing a “Wellness Resource Network” that would include the diverse assets and venues required to meet the varied needs of the wellness traveler. This includes visitors as well as targeted populations such as veterans and those seeking care.
• Develop an overall strategy in conjunction with current community and destination planning efforts on building a wellness destination.
• As this effort involved several industries, develop a coordinated way to share information and resources
• To create a multi-disciplinary array of services among various industries necessary to attract the new wellness.
The key theme throughout this meeting was the need to integrate key Adirondack industries. If we were going to brand ourselves as a “world renowned wellness destination” we would need to “cater” to their varied interests. This would require almost every facet of our economy – and it would take more than one community to pull it off.
Only time will tell if this new way to interpret the laws of creating community jobs will be any more successful.
But it sure does have an interesting twist that can complement existing industry planning efforts and may help to look at things with perhaps a more holistic, regional badge.
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