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Involving All of the Community

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We usually think of economic development as the job of a small group of community leaders. If we are trying to persuade a business to move to our community, that might be fine. However, if we want to engage in a more dynamic kind of economic development — one that utilizes the resources of the community to create new business opportunities and to make better use of the community’s existing resources — the cast of characters involved in the development process needs to be much broader.

Communities that draw on the support of a diverse cross-section of the citizenry end up with more economic development ideas and projects than communities that rely on a select few individuals.

But how is this accomplished? How can we get people involved? Indeed one of the universal complaints of community leaders is, “the same group of people do everything in this town.” But in the coffee shops it’s easy to hear other people saying, “there’s just a small group of people in this town who control everything.”

Ironically, most community leaders feel overworked and would welcome help; they do not want to keep the work of improving the community an exclusive privilege. The problem is knowing how to get others in the community involved. …

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