Albert Einstein is credited with many quotes. The following one really rings true when it comes to community leadership, vision and innovation. He said, “Logic will take you from A to B, imagination will take you everywhere.” I really enjoy this quote for many reasons. On one hand, the first half of the quote might accurately describe a group of many city governments throughout the country. Those city government organizations are run by good intentioned and well-meaning leaders; they are smart and very creative within the box they reside. However, it is the second half of the quote that best describes the best forward-thinking city governments. This group are few and far between.
What is it that separates many communities in the first group versus those very few communities within the second group? Simply put, it would be their dedicated forward thinking toward revitalizing and transforming their communities for the new economy and future barreling toward them. Of course, most communities believe they have time and there are no worries. In reality, the economic transformation was moving rapidly prior to COVID, COVID has only accelerated the timeframe cutting it from a few years to a measurement now figured in months.
There are many discussions, points of view, thoughts and opinions on what will make-up this new normal and economy. However, when we consolidate those into a couple points nearly everyone seems to more or less agree on, we can see that regardless of one’s point of view, rapid change is certainly upon us.
We all seem to agree retail is undergoing a rapid transformation. Getting this one right is critical. It is rapidly becoming a retail situation of the haves and have-nots. In the middle, we have the national retailers such as Target, Home Depot, Walmart and Dollar Tree which are doing very well, growing in fact. While the segments on the ends are both struggling. For the sake of this column, we will stick to the local end. These are locally-owned and operated businesses having been devastated by the pandemic. This hardest hit group is in a fight for their retail and services lives. Many are falling by the wayside at a faster rate than one can imagine; and the bloodbath is far from over.
The locally-owned and operated business apocalypse is far from over, it will continue for years. The unfortunate issue here is that this hits the smaller and mid-sized communities the hardest. Many residents of these communities are flocking to the convenience of online shopping leaving their local communities hung out to dry. I am not one that believes all online shopping is bad. There are things that you cannot get in local communities. At times it makes sense to get those items the most convenient way possible. While some online shopping can be a healthy thing for a community, when the balance swings too far, make no mistake, communities are devastated.
While the methods may vary, when it comes down to it, forward thinking communities understand one basic law of transformation: The Law of Local. They understand every dollar they keep within the boundaries of their communities is vital and essential. They understand and commit all their time, resources and energy on creating a vibrant local retail base, a local restaurant base along with a local experience-based and quality of life atmosphere. They understand with few exceptions, the continued courting of national chains and big boxes are a trojan horse that can destroy their locally-owned business base. They understand those same dollars devoted in years past to national chains suck your community dry, slow and steadily. Those dollars are better used to build their community’s local business base. They make local entrepreneurship easy, affordable and wanted.
Oftentimes when writing this weekly column, I am guilty of saying some of the same things over with slight variations. While this may be true, I understand one of the major laws of marketing is that a message must be conveyed between six and seven times before the message begins to stick. Communities must look at it the same way, keep preaching the local message, keep conveying your shop hyper-local message and keep fighting for your future. If your community is to have a bright future, understand the economic dynamics of today are changing. Your ability to change with them is critical for your survival in a cruel and unrelenting economic environment.