An anonymous reader left this plaintive cry on an old post here:
My Arizona small town is a mess. We are going to become a ghost town and/or absorbed into the County if we can’t generate revenue. The Town Council and Chamber are full of power plays, bickering and a Good Ol’ Boy attitude. We have no “quaintness” factor, no historical buildings, and not even a downtown center. Our business core consists of mixed-use buildings sprawled this way and that up and down the highway. However, we DO have a rich agricultural base that I’m positive can generate tourist income if approached correctly. I presented a proposal based on the “thematic approach” to tourism. My oral presentation was met with applause at the town meeting. But the Good Ol’ Boys still seem to favor big box stores and factories as the answer to our economic woes, and the Chamber does nothing but point tourists to the surrounding towns that supposedly have more to offer. Is there a way to circumvent a self-destructing Council and Chamber? Wheels spin around here, but nothing productive EVER gets done. I’m just a “lowly” female citizen with a good brain, a great plan and enthusiasm. Can anybody suggest how I can proceed when I’m up against the Good Ol’ Boys?
There are two ways to try to change a small town set in its ways: work with the existing system, or go around them.
I tend to favor going around them. Remember, every minute you spend worrying about the other people who won’t do what you want, is a minute you can’t spend doing something positive yourself. Other people do share your ideas. Find them, even if there are just two of you. Work together. Hold planning sessions where others can join in, like at the library. Be relentlessly positive in your planning, and tolerate no negativity. Take baby steps toward your goals. Build your own positive momentum, and more people will want to join you.
If you want to work with the system, learn everything you can about how it works. You have to know the system, to subvert the system. (I heard that from a smart person when I spoke in Washington.) Talk to everyone, whether they support your ideas or not. Be the connector and the center of information. Working within the system is all about networking.
What ideas can you help brainstorm to help this reader? How are you helping your town make positive changes?
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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.