CDS Community Development Strategies
There are historical reasons cities are located where they are and sometimes the original location factors no longer exist or at least are not relevant. When highways replaced railroads as the primary means of access some small cities became less of a destination and more of a self-contained community. Typically, new highways intentionally bypass commercial areas to avoid stop lights and congestion. Over time key industries/employers can dry up or even shut down and the demand for historically mainstay agricultural crops may diminish. Replacing these employers or products can be slow if not impossible.
Isolation can be considered a good thing if outside influences are unwanted. However, being located in close proximity to a growing metropolitan area can be a real advantage. Big cities attract new businesses and industries who need or want to be in the area. Some of these businesses will prefer a small city atmosphere – employees can live and work in a less stressful environment and yet be able to enjoy big city amenities when needed. It’s a whole lot easier to reel in a company who is already motivated to locate in the general area than it is to go out bag one from scratch.
What puts your city on the map? In order to grow or even maintain a population base every city must have some type of catalytic attraction. Without a local college, a major recognizable employer who is always creating jobs or some type of tourist attraction a city can be invisible. It is difficult to imagine how a small city can expect to grow without having at least one special feature that outsiders can identify with.
When City leaders are not keen on growth, staying small is not hard to do. Some people drawn to governing positons are not visionaries and believe that change is something to fear and not encourage. Once a no growth reputation is born, developers and business owners will often take the course of least resistance – if it is perceived that local authorities have policies that oppose growth they will quickly move on to greener pastures. Nothing will kill future growth opportunities more completely than a well-known city wide no growth attitude.
Older residents with ties to the community tend to stay put but as the young ones grow up they need a good reason not to leave. Local employment may be the best reason but other factors can’t be overlooked. They will want good schools for their children, sufficient retail shopping and services and good quality housing they can afford. These same issues are as critical to attracting and keeping businesses as they are to keeping home grown residents. Any city not perceived to be providing a high quality of life for its residents and businesses is not likely to survive over the long haul.
Businesses create jobs and often need a little help from the City. However, when tax revenues are insufficient to fund incentives and/or the needed infrastructure improvements that business want - it’s hard to be competitive. No one wants to pay higher taxes and any benefits to be derived can take years to materialize. However, if the City wants to grow and become proactive in stimulating economic development, finding creative and acceptable ways to increase the tax base may be required.