“A” is for asset-based economic development.

There are basically two approaches in the process of creating an economic development strategy for a community.  The first approach is to determine what the community needs in order to be successful.  It looks at things that the community does not have now, but if it had them would stand a good chance at economic success.  For example, one rural community that I worked with last year determined that most citizens had to drive to another county for basic health care.  It concluded that it needed a health clinic.  Having a health clinic would keep money in the local area, and may even bring in more money.  It was something that the community did not have now.  Therefore, the strategy was to bring in a health clinic.

The other approach does just the opposite.  It looks at the resources that the community has now that it can capitalize on.  The key phrase here is “that it can capitalize on.”  I have found that two of the more common things that communities overlook as assets are natural resources and history.  The natural resource may be something that can be developed and marketed, while the history may be an event in the past that today’s outsiders may be interested in coming to see where it happened.  Pelahatchie, Mississippi capitalized on a local lake and the town’s location on an Interstate highway to create a Yogi Bear Jellystone Campground-Resort.

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