The Fourth Economy team was a bit preachy (be nice) before the pandemic…trying to tell people why ‘place’ matters to economic development and the stewards of its impact. We are all looking for silver linings in what we’ve been through. For me, it’s how people have realized how important their community, their parks, their arts and culture, and their front-line workers and businesses are to them. These are your place assets! I see progress in some communities as they now understand oversized incentives to lure businesses to stay or move in won’t help the places of your community, and they are retooling their economic development support systems.
I was excited to join the community that the City Nation Place organizers brought together in Pittsburgh last week. The group's core includes travel, tourism, and hospitality peers - and a growing number of economic development leaders who have translated the impact that place assets are having. I have three takeaways to share:
1. Listen to your community
Several travel and tourism leaders noted that what they realized most over the past two years is that their ‘customer’ should be as much their local residents as it is the traveler. Often tension exists between the guests and their host community as the ebb and flow of travel impacts residents' daily life. By doing better at listening to your community's ideas, you can develop more authentic messages and celebrate authenticity. Philadelphia’s campaign to share what Freedom – Liberty means to some of the region’s most prolific Black artists, poets, historians, and legacy keepers is one such example.
2. Support adaptation
We have had two years of forced innovation as closed theaters went online, musicians streamed into our living rooms, the restaurant tables were moved to the sidewalk and street, and once-vacant lots became pop-up socially distant venues for social gatherings. As 2022 moves on, we are learning what should continue, what should evolve and what needs even more collaborative innovation to make our places vibrant. Community leaders can support their place stewards by providing the resources and collaborative tables to work together to innovate further. Our social fabric has been stretched and torn at points, and it will be our community places that can mend it. Some groups have published resources on this topic, including Knight Foundation Charles Wolfe, Outdoor Industry Association Americans for the Arts
3. Share your voice
If you take a moment to ‘google’ your city or region, my guess is that you will see many messages designed to attract the traveler, attract business, attract movers, and more. These messages are championed by various organizations, including a Chamber of Commerce, a convention and visitors bureau or destination marketing organization, an economic development group, a realtors association, or an anchor institution such as a university or medical center. You may find more. The point is that each of these groups is sending a message that they have developed with creative support but often not the engagement of their organizational peers. They miss the opportunity to amplify a message and expand the assets they often highlight. It’s time to share your voice.
I will share more notes in a future post. For now, please check out the article on urban trails as a placemaking strategy from my teammate Ross Berlin.