As communities across the state experience changing demographics, shifting industries, evolving workplace needs and the impacts of climate change, we focus this month on factors that build resiliency and strengthen a community’s ability to prosper in the coming decades.
James Fallows, national correspondent for The Atlantic and a regular commentator on public radio, shared his list for community success with leaders at the Local Government Commission’s annual Ahwahnee conference. His observations come from traveling “smaller-town” America with his wife Deb, as part of a series for The Atlantic and the Marketplace radio program called “American Futures” that highlights people and small businesses in towns and cities all over this country.
The top 10 indicators he’s discovered that strengthen a community’s ability to prosper in the 21st century include:
1. Community Champion
Local elected officials have a critical role to play in serving as a champion for projects that will make communities unique, attractive and sustainable places to live.
2. Committed and Influential Local Citizens
City of Woodlake community member Manuel Jimenez has provided a positive outlet for the youth in the community through innovative beautification projects including a 14-acre community garden.
3. Revitalized Downtowns
Thriving downtowns attract businesses and millennials and are an indicator of a healthy, successful community.
4. Small Businesses
Investing in local entrepreneurs and nourishing a diverse array of small businesses can help safeguard against changes in demand for products and services and can provide increased resiliency to changing workplace needs.
5. Creative Efforts with Schools and Universities
From the joint use of public facilities to workforce development and community projects, schools can be a great asset to leverage for multiple benefits for the community.
6. Public-Private Partnerships
Public-private partnerships can be an attractive tool to provide the capital needed for new initiatives or the construction of major facilities. In challenging economic times, these collaborations can also provide continued or improved level of service at reduced costs, helping governments to maintain quality services despite budget constraints.
7. Public Projects
Investments in parks, community centers, signage, public art, bike paths and other community assets can help to attract additional investment while also demonstrating a pride of place that is critical, especially in challenging times.
Convenient and affordable access is an important factor in community success.
Communities that foster openness to a wide spectrum of ages, ethnicities, political views and religious beliefs seem to have a higher ability to respond to challenges and opportunities.
10. Unique Story
Resilient communities have compelling stories about what make them unique.
What’s your community story?