When it comes to growth, communities don’t have an economic development problem; they have a marketing problem.
In the book Town Inc., Andrew Davis studied communities across the country and found that those with a strong and marketable story faired better than communities that didn’t. Town Inc. proposes a unique prescription for economic prosperity.
Stake Your Claim
Step one is to stake your claim and determine what your community can promote that is uniquely yours. Sounds easy enough, right? But how can you “stake your claim”?
According to Davis, there are three requirements of a claim: it needs an origin story, a cornerstone for a cluster, and a visionary. An origin story is emotional and based on history, heritage, legends, and folklore. Your origin story reinforces your claim with powerful backstories.
A cornerstone for a cluster is one business which can get the ball rolling for creating a group of similar industries in your same location.
Staking your claim is using your cluster to declare your community the capital of that industry. For example, there is a grouping of recreational vehicle (RV) companies in Elkhart, Indiana, making them “The RV Capital of the World.” According to Davis, in building up this cluster of industry, you can then create location-envy and entice others in that industry to come to you.
The next step is to create location-envy. To do this, you need to link the business success to your location. For example, if you want to be a country music star, you move to Nashville. This is location-envy at play. In order to become successful, you want businesses to tie specific industry success to your town. As Andrew Davis says in the book:
“The problem is that we’re trying to answer the wrong question. All of our marketing and positioning is focused on trying to answer the question: “Why should I move to your town?” We have to stop answering that question. Otherwise, you end up with generic gobbledygook that means nothing to everyone.
Stop trying to convince people to move to town. Instead, we should position our places so that people all over the world begin asking themselves: “Why shouldn’t I move there?”
Market the Story
The final step is to create attention and preferred location status through consistent claim storytelling. Make sure you tell your story, your town tells your story, and every business in town tells your story. No one person can market your town alone; it needs to be done by everyone, everywhere, and all the time. You want everyone to know that if they want to be successful in whatever industry in which you have staked your claim, it has to be done in your town.
The best example city in the book is Warsaw, Indiana. In 1895, Revra De Pew started an entire industry in a hotel room when he discovered that broken bones heal faster with aluminum fiber splints than wooden staves.
Warsaw has staked its claim as “The Orthopedics Capital of the World,” and today, the Warsaw region is home to five of the largest companies in the orthopedics industry and represents one-third of a $38 billion industry.
“Beneath the small-town ambiance hums an $11 billion engine, a highly-profitable and fast-growing global orthopedics industry that sets this quiet Northern Indiana community apart from most other communities across the state – and the country.”
You can read more about how to grow your business, save your town, and leave your legacy in Town Inc., by Andrew Davis. It is a short read (only 200 pages) and will get you inspired to use these ideas in your own community.
- Community Development