In 2012, let’s dedicate ourselves to a “maker” system of economics that’s based on creating new value, not trading old value. Let’s focus on those who develop tools within our community to replace consumption as an end in itself, and create a manifesto that guides city contracts and organizations, including the Chamber of Commerce, to seek the participation of local creative entrepreneurs first.
To encourage more entrepreneurs, the city should make it easier to launch a business. Navigating our building and fire codes and permitting costs is daunting and can result in a heavier-than-anticipated debt load, especially for manufacturers.
Leaders must recognize the arts and cultural events as part of economic development. Our officials need to embrace the vitality of our community’s creative sector and pursue more strategic planning and top-down directives aimed at involving small, creative businesses and grass-roots cultural innovators. As economic drivers, outdoor cultural events can be encouraged, not just managed or kept from causing harm. “Asheville is filled with thousands of creative entrepreneurs whose vital energy is, as yet, unharnessed. Let’s bring that to bear on our economic woes,” urges Kitty Love, executive director of the Asheville Area Arts Council.
In 2010, WNC consumers bought $62 million worth of local food, the Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project estimates. As a top food destination, Asheville is at the center of this market. In 2012, city leaders should be seen at the tailgate markets and farm tours. They can lead by example, choosing local food and food providers for conferences and events, and buying community-supported agriculture subscriptions for themselves and their employees. By promoting the Asheville City Market’s ability to accept EBT payments and encouraging area schools to buy locally grown food, they would show that they understand the critical link between our food and our community’s health.
Let’s recognize the deep connection between quality public schools and a thriving economy. “Asheville City Schools are the city’s schools, and we must invest in our urban public schools to keep families within the city limits who will live, work and shop in our urban centers,” notes Leah Ferguson, co-director of the Asheville City Schools Foundation.
Embrace our community fiber network & the increasing importance of our community’s ability to run and operate our own high speed broadband. Our community is lucky to have both a nonprofit broadband “middle-mile” provider (ERC Broadband) and a nonprofit broadband “last-mile” provider (Mountain Area Information Network). By supporting local nonprofit broadband infrastructure local independent businesses are ensured affordable access and the freedom to innovate at the grassroots level and a crucial accessible alternative to the absentee-owned cable and telephone companies.
Leaders should publicly shift their bank accounts to small local banks and credit unions & encourage the city, county, foundations, utilities & businesses to follow suit & develop relationships with the banks that are willing to invest back into their communities.
When considering subsidizing businesses to move their operations here, we should consider what kinds of impact shifting those subsidies would provide locally-owned independent businesses & business incubators within our community.
It’s time to join the ever-increasing number of cities (including Los Angeles and most recently New York City) that have taken a stand against corporate personhood, adopting resolutions declaring that money isn’t speech and corporations aren’t people.
These are just a few key issues. Ultimately, we hope 2012 will be a pivotal year for our city leaders to embrace our widely accepted community campaign, promoting the key role of locally owned businesses in our economy’s vitality.
Originally published in the Mountain Xpress: http://www.mountainx.com/article/38979/Community-economics