Articles from SaveYour.Town

  • A sample cheap placemaking idea for 2020
    A sample idea from our new Cheap Downtown Placemaking Ideas video with Becky McCray and Deb Brown. Make sheet murals. Get cheap torn or stained sheets from the thrift shops, paint right on them, or sew them up into something decorative. Hang it up downtown, maybe inside the windows of a building, outside hung over a railing, or use magnets to stick it to anything with metal siding. 2020 took a toll on downtowns. To recover, we’re going to need some ideas to improve our downtowns, but on really small budgets. Make your downtown a more vibrant place with more…
  • How small towns can recover from the coronavirus recession
    August 2020: It’s official. The United States is in recession. In other countries, recovery is just starting or maybe business is still on hold. For small towns worldwide looking to recover and rebuild their local economy, this is going to take some time. So we’re giving you more time with our three recovery videos: Restarting Local Shopping Rebuilding Your Local Economy Refilling Your Business Pipeline Yours to keep. No time limits. These are some of our most popular videos, and for good reason. We’ve put our best responses to this crisis into these three 30-minute videos. These are not boring webinars.…
  • The best way to ensure small startups succeed: put them together
    Tiny business startups are our best bet for revitalizing rural areas, small towns and distressed economies. To help these small entrepreneurs to be more successful, put them into the same space. This is a short sample from our SaveYour.Town video “Refilling Your Business Pipeline.” A study about co-working actually explains why the Tiny Temporary Together model works so well at rebuilding your local economy. It has benefits far beyond the simple number of startups. Emergent Research said that co-working spaces are much more than just a place to work, “they are places where members work, network, learn and socialize together.” People…
  • Rebuilding Your Local Economy
    How do we rebuild our local economy? This crisis is different for each community. So many jobs lost, so many businesses gone or in bad shape. Most of the reopening and rebuilding advice out there is intended for big cities. It doesn’t match our small town reality. What works for rural communities trying to rebuild? Everyone else is competing for the same limited resources.  How do we compete?  What if we can’t compete? New programs are complicated to access without help And they may not be enough to save businesses already in trouble Tighter government and nonprofit budgets mean resources we used to…
  • Restarting Local Shopping – How one town is preparing now
    Jack in Georgetown, South Carolina, USA, shared what they are doing to renew, refresh and recover during and after the lockdown of coronavirus/COVID-19. Deb Brown shares all five ideas: Pressure wash everything downtown Adopt a planter box Photo banners in empty buildings Wall murals Outdoor market with existing businesses They are Taking Small Steps with each little action, Gathering Their Crowd to find as many people as possible who can help, and Building Connections to people who have the resources they need. That’s Idea Friendly! Get more ideas from this Restarting Local Shopping video Every town will face challenges when…
  • Ideas to fill up empty lots in small towns
    You probably have one in your downtown. Maybe a building burned, or maybe the roof just fell in. These things happen. Now you have an empty space, maybe with walls, or maybe just an open lot. What can you do with a roofless building? The standard answer for small town governments has been to make a pocket park: a little green space, a bench or two, and that’s about it. Maybe a memorial or piece of art. Pocket parks are OK, but they aren’t the only possibility. There’s much more we can do. This is a good place to apply…
  • We gave up planning the old way
    My small town hosted an international photojournalist, Brendan Hoffman, in residency at the local paper. A town of 8,000 people managed to take a 6 week free class on Using Photography to Tell Your Stories, view an exhibition of War In Ukraine, and personally visit with the photographer and share ideas for stories in the community.  The Old Way I bet you believe we had a ton of meetings, had to fund raise to bring this man in from the Ukraine and host him for two months, and spend lots of money on exhibition space and marketing as well. It…
  • Survey of Rural Challenges 2019 results
      What small town people see as their biggest challenges And what topics rural people most want help with Wouldn’t it be great if the people who say they want to help rural people would actually listen to rural people’s own challenges?! That’s why we created this survey! We use the results to create practical steps that help you shape a better future for your town. Your responses also get shared out to others who work with rural communities through articles and media stories. Using these survey results, we developed a free video of action steps you can take to…
  • Shop Indie Local
    WHAT IS THIS SHOP INDIE ALL ABOUT?   It’s called the Shop Indie Local campaign and it encourages you to take a step toward strengthening your own local economy. We shoppers collectively spend a large part of our annual shopping budget between November 1 and December 31. What if you shifted your shopping dollars to your locally owned, independent businesses? Every dollar spent at a local, independent business returns 2-3 times more to be re-spent in the community compared to a dollar spent at a non-local business. With consumers reporting that they will spend an average $1,007 for holiday shopping this…
  • About those experts who want to save your town for you
    Small towns have been beaten up by too many experts who claim to have the one solution that will save every town. Over the decades, we’ve heard them all, from coworking hubs, to community branding, to flipping your town. Remember when teaching people how to sell on eBay was the one solution that was going to save every small town?? They’re mostly good ideas for the towns where they started. Many a consultant that wants to “save small towns” started out with a good idea that worked in one town, and now they want every town to pay them to…
  • Add your needs to the Survey of Rural Challenges
    Every small town has its own set of assets, issues and opportunities, but many of us share common challenges. We created the Survey of Rural Challenges so you could share your own view of rural, and we could better help you. A total of 479 people answered our previous surveys, and we’d like your help to get an updated view. We’re asking about challenges to your community and your business, and what’s working well or not so much. We use the results to create practical steps that help you shape a better future for your town. Your responses also get…
  • Is it really about money?
    For those of you that work in different organizations, chambers, and economic development groups that want to see your town thrive- I understand you have a budget. I get it, I’ve been there. You have to justify an expense to your board and explain why you think it is important. If they don’t understand what you’re saying, they often say no. Let’s take a look at what a $300 investment annually with SaveYour.Town can do for your group. In order to do that, we have to determine how important your small town is to your organization. Do you want to…
  • The one revitalization idea we recommend for every small town
    You probably know that we don’t have any standard plans here at SaveYour.Town. We don’t have a pre-written template that we try to force onto every town, but we do have one recommendation that works for almost every town. And that is to divide big spaces up for small businesses to share. It helps you address some of the most common challenges, like entrepreneurs unable to find usable buildings or buildings that would be hugely expensive to renovate. It’s also hard to bring people downtown when there just aren’t that many businesses and their surrounded by those vacant spaces in…
  • Building Relationships versus Networking
    Networking is important, we all know that.  We need to meet people to advance whatever agenda we are working on.  Networking is the buzzword of this century.  You hear it everywhere. It means to interact with each other to exchange information and develop contacts. You’ve been to networking events.  Usually there’s time to sit and visit, maybe have a cocktail.  Then there’s a program of some sort.  Finally you either go to work, or you go home.  Maybe you’ve exchanged business cards with someone.  You’ve probably made small talk, talked about the latest sporting event, or discussed some political thing. …
  • Big Ideas? Small Steps!
    You have a big idea to make your town a better place and you’re getting tired of all the hard work to do such a big thing. Tired of beating your head against city council asking for approvals Killing yourself trying to raise enough money to do the whole thing Talking to everyone and they all like the idea but no one is taking action But there is another way. In small towns especially, big ideas are best accomplished by taking small steps. At SaveYour.Town, we developed the Idea Friendly method for small towns to do big things. There are…
  • Our events are sooooo boring …
    We received a note that said, in part: “At the two events run here in the past 10 yrs at least 50% of the tents were things like tents for domestic violence help, police giving home security tips & opportunities to report problems, STD clinic tents etc etc.etc.  These are obviously incredibly important but it made the event really depressing. It made me wonder  what kind of place I had moved to, and made a few things hard to explain to my then small children.“ I agree, these organizations and their work IS important. But, how do we get them…
  • People don’t shop local, and businesses won’t work together
    There are two common problems in small towns, and we think they are related: Our people shop online or in the city when they could buy the same or better things from local stores. And then when we try to get local businesses to work together to keep people shopping local, we can’t get them to cooperate! Today, we want to address these two related problems with a video focusing on cooperation. If we could get businesses to work together to get the word out, we could create a lot more sales opportunities and bring the locals home to shop.…
  • Survey Asked: How do we get people to open up B and B’s?
    In our survey of Rural Challenges in 2017 we received many results, and many questions. One of them was ‘how do we get people to open B and B’s?’ Small towns often have great natural resources, events and activities and many reasons to visit. However, they don’t always have hotels, motels, B and B’s – accommodations. You might be surprised that people are already providing a place to stay! I think you’d be pleasantly surprised if you search www.airbnb.com for your area. There ARE people who are doing short term rentals in your area. One of the problems I see,…
  • Finding the resources you need before you can take action
      You have everything you need. I know it’s really hard to believe, but play along with me for a minute, if you would. When I was in Illinois, people brought up a lot of issues holding them back. The city council is spending money on the wrong priorities. The local foundation is giving money to the wrong things. There aren’t any entrepreneurs in town, so we need to recruit from outside. What if the answer to all of those is already at hand? It doesn’t matter what the council is doing. You don’t need them. Go do your thing,…
  • Small towns have a future; do you see it?
    Not everyone sees a future for small towns. That’s clear from media reports that question the future of small towns and articles that talk about what’s wrong with rural people. It’s clear that rural people are assumed to be less ambitious than urban people. Small towns are often mentioned as some place that humanity should leave behind in the inevitable march of progress and urbanization. People in our own town reinforce this idea that we have no future. They compare us to their version of the past and say things like, “I remember when I was a kid, this town…
  • Relationships or Networking?
    Networking is important, we all know that.  We need to meet people to advance whatever agenda we are working on.  Networking is the buzzword of this century.  You hear it everywhere. It means to interact with each other to exchange information and develop contacts. You’ve been to networking events. Usually there’s time to sit and visit, maybe have a cocktail.  Then there’s a program of some sort.  Finally you either go to work, or you go home.  Maybe you’ve exchanged business cards with someone.  You’ve probably made small talk, talked about the latest sporting event, or discussed some political thing. …
  • Videos to help you save your small town in 2019
    A new video each month in 2019 Available from the 1st to the 15th On rural topics you asked for   Have you had trouble catching our SaveYour.Town videos because you could never predict when they’d be available? You’ll love our 2019 schedule. When do new videos come out? Throughout 2019, you can rely on a new video to come out on the first of the month and stay available through the 15th. You can schedule watch parties for the First Friday or Second Tuesday or any combination like that, and know you’ll have a SaveYour.Town video to share. What…
  • The Idea Friendly Method explained
    Can you make a small town more open to new ideas? Yes, and it may be the most important thing you can do. In a world driven by frenetic change, which small towns are going to thrive? We know rural people play a key role in our society, so some small towns will have a future. Some small towns are innovative and progressive. Other small towns are stuck in the past. Is there anything that tells us which towns will survive and prosper? The key factor is openness to new ideas. Openness to new ideas is an advantage for rural areas addressing…
  • Plant the Seeds
    Pamela Slim, author of Body of Work and developer of the Indispensable Community Tour  shares these 35 ways to seed and support your community. 35 Ways to seed and support your community (created by the Sunnyvale Community Group) 1.     Facilitate a LinkedIn introduction for a community member 2.     Create a YouTube video with helpful content 3.     Follow up via email with a valued contact and let them know how much you believe in them 4.     Showcase of photo of them with an expression of success on your FB page 5.     Highlight the story/accomplishment of a member of your community 6.     Celebrate their…
  • When your small town has to start with nothing
    Sometimes, when someone is telling me about their town, they’ll say it. “We have nothing here! Nothing!”  It bothers me. Surely you have something to work with? Des Walsh is a friend of mine from Australia who has strong rural ties. He told me about a village that had nothing. “Many years ago I visited the Jogjakarta region, on Java in Indonesia. My Indonesian host took me on a local tour, including to a small village which was very poor, and this at a time when Indonesia had a great deal more poverty than it has now.” The host said…
  • Telling Stories
    My mom loved looking at Becky’s iPad. That’s because whenever Becky visited she showed her pictures of animals in far away places. I believe that we are given a chance to share the world with each other. Some of us travel just a few miles away from home, yet can share the stories of our farms, the ball diamonds where the kids play, the creeks where the bullfrogs croak and the tall grasses up on the hill and you can close your eyes and imagine yourself there.  You know the old timer that takes you on a trip back to…
  • Idea Friendly Stepping Out
    It’s so easy to become entrenched in our day to day activities. We get up, go into our morning routine, go to work, come home and then our evening routine. How many times a week do you drive to work and wonder what you saw on the way there? Were there stop lights, empty buildings, holiday decorations, or kids waiting on the school bus? It’s this same sameness day in and day out that holds us captive to the same ‘ol same ‘ol. We start to believe we don’t really matter that much, that our ideas just might be too…
  • Don’t you already know what’s wrong with your small town?
      There’s an entire class of consultants out there who will come to your town and tell you what’s wrong with it. They take their template that they apply to every town from 500 to 500,000, and they walk around your town to see where you don’t fit. Then they make a long list of everything you’re doing wrong. They’ll dress it up nice with a report and binders for everyone on the council and a nice presentation. Then they leave. You’re on your own to figure out what to do with that list, how to figure out what to…
  • Be Specific
    The most common question visitors ask is “what is there to do here?”  When I work in a community during an embedded experience I help them find better ways to answer this question. In Avon, MN I asked them what they liked about their community. The majority of the answers were pretty generic, something like this: The location is close to a major highway and a larger town The lakes and the resources that are available Trails system is good Great schools for our kids The small town feel and family friendly environment we have Our voters invest in the district…
  • Retail marketing in a small town
    How are you marketing your retail business? Small town retailers often fit into two marketing categories: old school way and idea friendly way. Old school way is doing things the way you’ve always done them, hoping it will continue to work. Idea Friendly marketing is using all the tools you can that are available to you, depending on who your market is. If you’re product is only for locals, then get on the matching Social Media channel. If it’s over 55 women go to Facebook, young kids are on Snapchat. Are your locals on twitter? Have you looked for them…
  • Voting on ideas is a waste of time
      When I met with the people interested in forming a downtown development group in Pullman, Washington, I shared some basic ideas about the Innovative Rural Business Models, then we all walked through downtown together to spot opportunities. At the end, a reporter asked me why I didn’t start in the usual way. He said he was expecting me to have everyone write down all the ideas for what they want in their downtown, then sort all the ideas into related goals, then let everyone vote on what they thought was most important. That’s the usual pattern for building consensus and…
  • What do you do with your newcomers?
    Do you even know who the newcomers are in your town? One way to find out is to ask your realtors, they’ve sold them houses or condos. That seems like a lot of work to welcome newcomers one by one, after the realtor has shared the information, if they even will share it. Bennettsville, SC hosts a Newcomers Gathering every couple of months. It’s a loose collection of people inviting newcomers to join the event one evening in town. The realtors invite people personally. They post flyers around town including the library, city hall where you set up new gas…
  • So what if they said it’s illegal?
      “Every one of your Innovative Rural Business Models is illegal!” That was what the code enforcement guy said to me, and to the whole audience, when he spoke after I did. I just nodded and agreed. Yes, sure they are in some towns or in some circumstances. But so what? Don’t let an outdated law or rule stop a great idea for your community. Whether it’s a business or a project, you have options to move forward. The code enforcement guy went on to talk for an hour about how outdated rules and codes hold small towns back, and how they can and should adopt new…
  • Idea Friendly doesn’t mean you have to add anything new
      When we talk about doing things the Idea Friendly way, you might think I’m asking you to do a lot of new things. I’m not. You’re doing plenty now, maybe more than enough. And you have the tools you need, right there in that phone in your hand. You just need to shift some key behaviors. Every time someone proposes doing things with an Old Way behavior, you can suggest  a new Idea Friendly behavior instead. It can be as simple as saying, “Imagine IF….” and then telling about the Idea Friendly way. (“IF” is the abbreviation for Idea…
  • This is something you can do
    I’m so tired of getting asked to serve on a committee. I don’t have time to attend once a month, let alone once a week. I don’t even know if I’ll be in town to come! My health requires my attention. My kids need me. My husband is ticked because I’m always gone somewhere. Seriously, this committee stuff has to stop. STOP HOLDING COMMITTEE MEETINGS.  Want to work on the flowers in the park? Go to the park and work on them. Invite some friends to join you. You don’t need to hold a meeting to talk about working on…
  • 5 Steps to Better Customer Service
    I visit a lot of small towns. Some of our businesses have gotten lackadaisical and think locals should shop with them, just because they are a store in their town. That is not true. Small town businesses must make their customers feel important and welcome. “What causes someone to not be loyal to a business is when we feel unimportant in some way due to that business,” said Chris Brogan How do you make your customers feel important?  1. Keep a clean store. No one wants to shop in a junky environment where you can’t get around to look at the…
  • When your town loses its economic reason for being
    How many times has your town lost its economic reason for being? Think back to the reason your town was founded. Did it start with farming or transportation? Maybe it was minerals or other natural resources. No matter what it was, I’m willing to bet that it is not the prime driver in your town right now. Do you know what the next economic reason was that kept your town alive? Was there a boom? A new factory? Did a highway come through? Even that might not be your town’s reason now. How many times has your community adapted to…
  • How art helps small towns recover from disasters
    Delmont, South Dakota (pop 234), was struck by a tornado in 2015. Several people were injured, and the whole town was evacuated for safety. You could forgive the people of Delmont for despairing for the future of their town. Would anyone ever come back? Clean up and repairs started, and the town slowly made progress on recovering. In the months after, community members were meeting to talk through ongoing recovery efforts. Kenny Sherin, South Dakota State University Center for Community Vitality, was there for the meetings, and he shared this story with me. At one of those community meetings, he…
  • What will the future look like for small towns?
    First, location doesn’t matter. More and more people are working remotely and/or creating their own entrepreneurial businesses. Is your town ready for new people? Have you got cool housing (think lofts, downtown living) for younger people? Is your downtown active, have the kinds of businesses that people want? Your communities will be more walkable and offer many choices. Education gained in the real word will assist you in adapting to the future. Did you learn how to code on your own? That counts. What other hands on education have you received? Are you an artist, do you make handmade products?…
  • Sorry I didn’t read your “rural is dying” article
    That’s not actually true. I did read your article. And I shook my head through the whole thing. And I set aside being busy long enough to write down a few thoughts in response.     You went with the “this town is dying, all of rural is dying” theme. (The only other ones that I see used very much are “small towns are the idyllic past” and “rural people are a bunch of nuts.”) I’d rather talk about the #SmallTownNow than your same old stories. I disagree with your fundamental premise. Rural has a future. Small towns have long-standing relevance…
  • Eloy, AZ: Who’s First? (part three)
    Someone has to be first.  It takes a brave person, or group of persons to step up to the plate and say “We’ll go first.  We believe in this town.  We think our business idea is sound and we want to open a business here.” The first group of folks got together and opened up a shop called The Heart of Eloy Store, located where else – in the heart of Eloy.  It’s a resale shop and they all volunteer there.  It’s been cleaned up beautifully, donations will be accepted and items are then sold. Mark Benner, the Chamber Director,…
  • Every place has people and assets to build on
    Richard Florida is one of the most widely-read urban theorists, author of several books related to the Creative Class. He’s long been an advocate for urban areas, urbanization, and urban life. His writings have popularized a move towards focusing on the amenities needed to attract the Creative Class and thereby assure the future of your city. It always sounds to me like the people you have now don’t matter and the smaller your town, the bigger your disadvantage trying to attract those creatives. It’s all so urban-oriented that I’ve viewed it rather skeptically. Or at least, I’ve been skeptical about…
  • Eloy, Arizona – It Starts With Believers (Part two)
      You don’t need to be born and raised in a town to believe it can be the best town to live and work in. Mark Benner, the Chamber Director moved to Eloy to help take care of his mom. Jon Vlaming, the Community Development Director for the City has only been there for a year. Both of these gentlemen teamed up with Dick Myers, the President of the Santa Cruz Historic Museum Board. Now Dick has been in town a long time, since he was 4 years old, and he’s the go to guy for the history of the…
  • Eloy, Arizona – Is There Possibility There? (part one)
    Eloy, Arizona is a town of about 16,000 located 50 miles northwest of Tucson. Mark Benner is the Executive Director of the Chamber of Commerce and Mark took advantage of our Tour of Empty Buildings Toolkit. I was in Tucson for Chamber professional development and had the opportunity to head to Eloy to meet with Mark and his team and discuss how they could utilize the Toolkit. Eloy is spread out over approximately 100 square miles with 145 people per square mile. There are about 2,000 families living in Eloy. Of those, 58% are Hispanic, 5% are African American, 4%…
  • How a tour of empty buildings can open your eyes
    Building Possibility started as a book idea, and is gradually turning into one.  There are seven principles to building possibility and the first one is Open Your Eyes.  It’s first because as humans we tend to get caught up in the every day and forget to look around us and see what there is. People that live in big cities don’t even notice the homeless people on the streets, they are just there everyday and are part of the day to day.  If you see someone in a small town homeless chances are you probably know them.  And you’ll probably…

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