Even if you are not a community developer by vocation, your presence affects a community. We all impact the neighborhoods in which we live. Earlier this month, we offered a few ways to channel that impact to foster mixed-income community. Today, we’re turning to another one of our cornerstones: economic development. We focus on economic development as one of our other pillars because it can build wealth, energy, and dignity for a local community. We wanted to take a moment and point out a few avenues for supporting economic development in a neighborhood.
#1 Explore Local Businesses
One of the easiest ways to support economic development is to familiarize yourself with businesses already in action! Spend time in your neighborhood on foot or on a bike. As Jeff has learned through his car-less March, people spend much more time and support more local businesses when they’re on foot than when they’re in a car. Take an evening or a weekend to stroll around your neighborhood and observe what’s around. You may discover a business you’ve never seen before.
If wandering feels daunting, whip out your cell phone’s map application and look up what businesses are nearby. Scroll through and save the ones that interest you. Over the next few weeks, visit one per week until you’ve hit them all!
#2 Be the First Customer
Know someone with a great business idea? Be sure to tell them what a great idea it is. If you would use their product or service, say so. Believing in a business idea and launching it can be scary. Encouragement can go a long way. Offer to be a test customer as an entrepreneur you know gets ready to start testing out their business model. It’s a great way to show support and help a business work out some kinks in the early phase.
Even if you don’t know someone who says they want to start a business, encourage potential entrepreneurs by complimenting people’s skills. Maybe you know someone who fixes cars, takes care of pets. The next time you’re with them when they put those talents to use, let them know that you’d hire them or support them if they wanted to start their own business.
#3 Advocate for Small Business-Friendly Zoning
If you are involved in town council or city planning, advocate for small business-friendly zoning. Ask for your community to feature zoning for a variety of commercial building sizes mixed in with housing. Having an eclectic building supply allows both smaller and larger businesses to find the space they need. Try to favor pedestrian-friendly spaces and avoid large-format development like strip malls. The next time a city planner wants to eliminate a driving lane on a road in your community to slow traffic, remember that safer streets can benefit your neighborhood and small businesses. Speaking up when you get the chance can pave the way for future development to benefit the local economy.
We feel overjoyed when we look at the economic development in South Atlanta. When we look at businesses like the ones emerging from Start:ME this year, we get excited at seeing our community’s gifts go to work. We know that economic development benefits the economy. We believe it also benefits the soul of the neighborhood. We hope this list helps you fortify some economic development in your area.