[When Mike Rizzo explained the Refresh Kitanning story to me, I knew you would want to learn about it. Here is how people in one small town are taking an active approach to economic and business development. – Becky ]
My name is Mike and I created a community website to hopefully inspire growth and entrepreneurship in my home town in Western PA. After years of nothing happening in my home town of Kittanning, PA I wanted to see if there was anything I could do to ignite growth. I’ve meet with a lot of people and the desire to change things around seems to be there.
We created a website (www.refreshkittanning.com) in which people can share ideas on how to make the community better. We hope to use the collective power and talents of the community to improve upon and promote the advantages of their community to the world.
The initial topic asks what type of businesses community members would like to see in town. We expect to see a wide array of ideas, ranging from massive undertakings to simple suggestions. We can then take that feedback and ask local businesses about expanding into that area. We also hope entrepreneurs who visit the site will see a need and be inspired to invest in the community. I assume the majority of people would like to see a large innovative company such as Apple or Google open up a local office, but I have no problem starting small—as one job created is better than none.
The website has a few other features for businesses, which include a free directory listing and a commercial property listing. Local businesses can also submit news or announcements to the site. This site is not only about attracting new businesses; it’s also about helping current businesses succeed.
In the age of the Internet, I think the timing is right for a project like this. The low cost of living and low cost of doing business is very advantageous for businesses. There are many businesses out there who would have much better economies of scale if they we’re located in Western PA, compared to NYC or California.
We just launched the site and the major challenge is getting people to share their ideas. Remember this is town of about 5,000 in PA, and change is still a dirty word. We’ve seen four straight decades of population decline, yet even the local news paper has yet to run our story. So certainly there is a major challenge getting the project off the ground. However I think once the rest of the community starts seeing the benefits the site and movement will take off.
I also want to remind everyone you don’t have to be a resident to share your ideas—all ideas are welcomed. Anyone with entrepreneur aspirations is strongly encouraged to regularly check the site as they might find a great opportunity.
Take a look at www.refreshkittanning.com.
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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 have a small cattle ranch and are lifelong entrepreneurs. Becky is an international speaker on small business and rural topics.