I’ve been thinking and studying about what revitalization is and what it can mean to small towns. Is new businesses downtown enough? No. Is a new smokestack going to help? Maybe, but not enough. What about tourism and bringing people in to town? Yes, but again – not enough. Storm Cunningham* shared a white paper on LinkedIn and in it he said:
Pedestrians, bicyclists, and trails are good visual indicators, and all are easy quantify. Water quality and public water access are also key: daylighted urban streams, new waterfront parks (often on old industrial sites), and the like are also simple to measure. Common revitalizing factors I encounter include newcomers (e.g. immigrants); heritage renewal; fiber optic internet; and restored connectivity (e.g. dam or urban highway removal). Activation of dead spaces is key, so “growth of users” is an easy revitalization metric.
Revitalization begets revitalization when it reaches the tipping point, creating a positive feedback loop. The pivot point is when the free market takes over, and 9 public leaders no longer have to push so hard for revitalization. This could be tracked by comparing public to private investment. Property values and tax revenues are the two most common metrics, of course.
Those are just a few things that are measurable and Storm goes on to say that CONFIDENCE must be looked at, measured and talked about. Confidence from the citizens, the leaders, the volunteers, the businesses. If you have no confidence that your community matters, you don’t stay.
I’ve read the entire white paper, shared it with many of my counterparts and now my head is spinning some. I don’t have answers right now. But I’m talking to people, and reading and studying. Why? I want to live a town that matters. I want rural America to be great again. I want my kids and grandkids to live in towns they love and provide for them. It will take most of us getting out of our silos and working together. I think we can do it.
*REVITALIZATION: The missing role of local, state, & national governments.
Most cities and nations want rapid, resilient renewal. So why do we rely on hope and miracles?
An informal white paper by Storm Cunningham, CEO of ReCitizen, author of The Restoration Economy (B-K, 2002),
Rewealth (McGraw-Hill Professional, 2008), and FIXERS: New Leaders for Broken Times (2015)
find the entire white paper here: http://stormcunningham.com/