Small town economic development: How to diversify your business base


My friend Micah Choquette @meetmicah asked me on Twitter, “Have you ever seen a small town struggle because it had too many of the same kind of business?”

I said that some business types seem to run in cycles. Lots of similar businesses will spring up, then competition thins them out.

Micah asked, “are certain categories of businesses prone to thinning faster than others?”

I’d guess that businesses with shorter typical life cycles, like eateries, probably will thin out faster than others.

Micah said, “My curiosity stems from an increase in the number of consignment shops popping up in my town. Doesn’t bring a lot of money.”

I recall hearing that some UK high streets suffer a glut of church-run resale shops because of tax benefits. So policy can play into it.

Micah asked, “so how does a town attract quality businesses that will help the town in the long run? What does such a biz look like?”

Now that is a great question! I said you have to grow them, and gave these two suggestions:

  1. Lower the barrier of entry so more things get tried.
  2. Network entrepreneurs together for support and ideas.

How about your town? Are you stuck with a glut of too-similar me-too businesses that don’t add much value?

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About Becky McCray

Becky started Small Biz Survival in 2006 to share rural business and community building stories and ideas with other small town business people. She and her husband own a retail liquor store in Alva, Oklahoma, and a small cattle ranch nearby. Becky is an international speaker on small business.

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