Embrace your local community identity

It’s not uncommon for communities to try to be something they are not, or to try to lure business into their community that isn’t the right fit. Embracing your community identity and striving to be the best at what you are can set you apart.

As is often the case, communities have a desire to become home to the next big business that will be a major employer and stimulus to the local economy. This is fantastic if the capacity is in place, an adequate workforce, housing and training is in place. Also, critical infrastructure is a must for major industry to consider a community as a viable site to locate.

This does not mean that the lack of these traits automatically rules a community out, but it will make the attraction effort nearly impossible.

A better strategy might be to embrace the identity of the community and build upon it. Major brands that we know of truly embrace what they are, as opposed to what they want to be or are not. The example of the new Coke in the 1980’s is a great example of how trying to be something they are not can have a negative outcome.

If you community is in close proximity to a neighboring community with many of the key assets that industry is looking for, collaboration with that community to serve as a great place for employees to live, recreate, or educate their families could be a win-win for both communities.

Not only will a strategy such as this highlight the area or region, but will increase capacity for both communities while giving the perception of local cooperation, which is paramount for successful attraction efforts.

Reach out to your local economic development organizations in your county or region for guidance and assistance with these efforts. Conducting strategic visioning with a collaborative focus in mind will greatly increase the viability and competitive advantage for your community.

Embrace your local community identity and be the best at what you are.

Michigan State University Extension has had a unique relationship with the regional economic development organization Northern Lakes Economic Alliance (NLEA) for more than 20 years. Recognizing the strength of combining resources, this partnership focuses on economic development, entrepreneurship growth and community infrastructure throughout a four-county region in the northwest Lower Peninsula, specifically Antrim, Charlevoix, Cheboygan and Emmet counties. As a result, the NLEA utilizes resources offered through MSU Extension as it provides leadership to state-wide programs sponsored by MSU Extension.” 

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