One aspect of downtown management that’s frequently a topic of discussion at CMSC is how to grow leadership within a community. This can be multi-faceted, of course – leaders come in many forms. Some towns have strong elected leaders while others have active citizens that doggedly pursue a particular project or cause. Regardless of who they are, cultivating this leadership – growing that passion to be engaged into a role where one is empowered to create change – is critical to the ongoing success of a downtown.
One way this can be particularly effective is by using local entrepreneurs and smart, engaged business people. Often it’s these proactive types who see an opportunity where others may not that are the catalyst in a struggling downtown. I’m sure each of us can think of an example where a new business moved into an otherwise non-descript or downtrodden area, breathing new life into the surroundings. Suddenly, the place is transformed as other businesses move in to capitalize on the success.
Building on this strength from within the community and the charisma thrown off by these bold business leaders leads to a kind of economic gardening as entrepreneurs and smart business leaders begin making changes that attract other entrepreneurs, growing success from the street up.
It’s this thrum of activity that helps create the indefinable “it” factor of a vibrant downtown. Supporting and encouraging these and other leaders is work that our member communities do every day. Often our role is to simply give local leaders “permission” to take action and to make a difference. Folks sometimes need reminding that a proactive private sector is a critical half of the public/private partnership necessary for a sustainable downtown revitalization initiative. Recognizing and growing this talent can be hard, but we know nurturing these groups leads to long term success for the businesses, residents and future leaders our downtowns need.