Hey…1954 Called and it Wants its Economic Development Back

Dan Gilmartin, of EconomicsofPlace.com, usually pops up on my feeds as a good source talking about the emerging and vibrant new economies developing in Michigan cities and towns.  But when this “rant” hit today (thank God someone other than me rants), I knew many of you would also find it interesting.  I don’t have any knowledge of the legislation Dan notes, and I have no opinion on that – for all I know, it’s written in Swedish.  OK, probably not.

I say in the book, and in every talk I give it seems like, “That which makes you unique makes you valuable.”  In oversaturated markets, including an oversaturated market of places that have “great work ethic” or “highway access” or “low taxes,” we should have learned by now that the only alternative to competing on meaningfully unique value is to compete on cheap costs.  And we’ve seen what that does to products, to workers, to buildings, to local economies.  If your town or neighborhood isn’t differentiating in a meaningful fashion, you’re consigning yourself and your businesses and your residents to the clearance bin of communities.

Here’s Dan:

*I write this post in the midst of battling state legislation that would curtail local decision making on economic issues in favor of a single statewide standard.

Indulge me, please.

In an age when people, jobs and entire industries are mobile city leaders must make great efforts to distinguish their communities from the crowd. Creating and nurturing authentic experiences for people are vital tools for improving economic opportunities. That’s a fact.

The “one size fits all” argument clings to a flawed premiss that it increases efficiency, which leads to growth. This concept is at least outdated.

If the goal of a city or state is to attract low skilled, low paying production jobs then a single set of rules may eradicate barriers to entry. Many emerging countries favor this strategy. I, however, am under the impression that we’re aiming higher in Michigan.

Think of all the great places you like to visit (or live) and ask yourself, “what if they all looked and felt alike?” Where would Portland be without its emphasis on the environment? How would Austin differ without neighborhood based live music? Is Miami Beach still extraordinary without Art Deco?

Celebrating human diversity is a worthy and generally accepted goal today. We must do the same when it comes to our cities. Unique rules that buoy local culture and honor the distinct attributes of people and places are good things. Wiping them out is shortsighted and ill-advised.

Rant concluded.

Go Dan!

From the Good Ideas file: 100 ways to make your town fun.

What’s that got to do with your local economy?  Easy: people spend money in places they find fun.  And they spend more time in places where they have fun.  And, from the book, That Which Makes You Unique Makes You Valuable.

Nuff said.

This was the second of a great series of ideas.  Of course, not all of them will work for you (some I don’t know where they would work…) But I bet you’ll find something awesome that you, your department, your organization or your whatever can do.  And I bet good things will come of it.

Check out the article.  Here’s a taste:

25 (More) Ways to Make Your Town More Playful

Last month we shared 75 Seriously Fun Ways to Make Your Town More Playful. But, we cheated. 

You see, we just couldn’t come up with a 75th idea, so our list ended at #74. We’re so thankful to our readers who helped us fill out the list! And, we just couldn’t leave all those great ideas in the comments.

So, we present with you with 25 more ideas for making your town fun and playful:

  1. Add cheer to the streets with tiny notes.
  2. Host a temporary tattoo parlor.
  3. Get out on the street with a popcorn machine.  Idea from @wemakegood
  4. Three words: Cardboard Animal Picnic. Inspired by Patrick McDonnell
  5. Stop standing and start sitting with bench bombing.
  6. Install a Givebox Idea from @wanderingzito
  7. Start a bell box mural project.
  8. Conduct pointless surveys.  Idea from @uncustomaryart
  9. Put on a one man (or woman) flash mob.  Another idea from @uncustomaryart
  10. Build a treehouse for grownups.

Go read more.  Lots more.  And give people a reason to become People Who Give a Damn about your community.