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Posts Tagged ‘economic development’

The Nonprofit Quarterly recently published a short piece about how artisans are playing a critical role in West Virginia’s economic development strategy.

Ruth McCambridge reported, “In West Virginia, a state rich in artisans including fashion designers, leatherworkers, and furniture makers, the Tamarack Foundation for the Arts offers business help meant to bring that local work to a more national market.

“ ‘We get artists’ work into major markets outside the state,’ CEO Alissa Novolselick said. ‘We help them get in front of power buyers, big art institutions or really high volume galleries, or different sorts of market opportunities.’

“Success in this larger arena is completely possible, she says, pointing to Blenko Glass and Fiestaware as West Virginia–based businesses with a ‘hugely diversified portfolio.’ She calls this part of a strength-based community economic development strategy, rather than just support for artists: ‘We really believe that art as economic development can be part of the total answer to working on a more diversified economy for West Virginia.’ …

“Art can create more than a visual; it can create a place. And the richness goes both ways, says Novoselick, who contends that the rural nature of the settings of many of these centers of arts development informs the art. …

“A recent study of five hundred West Virginia art entrepreneurs found that they felt the low cost of living and doing business in the state helps lower the risk of what would otherwise be a chancy endeavor.” More here.

When I was working at the magazine, we had articles from a number of New England states about their version of a “creative economy.” The perennial worry, of course, is that once the artists have done their job and brought tourists and business to an area, they may be unable to pay the inevitable higher rents. Forward-looking locales explore ways to protect artists for the long term.

Photo: MountainMade WV Handmade Art
Blenko Glass

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Here’s something fun from a BBC blog called “News from Elsewhere.” It’s about new, playful street signs in Sweden.

“A town in northern Sweden is encouraging pedestrians to hop, skip and even play air guitar like Chuck Berry as they cross the road, with a series of new street signs.

“Haparanda Council says it’s part of a scheme launched last year to rejuvenate the town centre. …

“Therese Ostling, who runs the Town Makeover project, tells Swedish TV … ‘They have got more attention than I thought — I see people taking photos of them every day, and sometimes they follow the instructions to jump, leap or whatever else the sign suggests.’

“The idea came from local woman Nadja Lukin, who … wrote to the council, as ‘Haparanda has always dared to try something new,’ and officials responded enthusiastically with signs depicting jive dancing and Monty Python’s Ministry of Silly Walks.

“The makeover, which includes rebranding the centre as the Old Town, has brought new business into the once-rundown area and will continue for another year, but the most important impact of the signs has been to ‘make people smile,’ says Ms Ostling.” More.

Without doubt, if everyone did silly walks across the street, the world would be a better place, a place full of laughter.

Photo: Swedish TV
Swedish TV asks, “Why stroll across the street when you could ‘duck walk’ like a rock’n’roll icon?

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A week ago, I went to a cheerful ribbon cutting enlivened by smiling faces and Woonsocket’s own Marching Milkman Band.

Local, state and federal officials, residents, nonprofits such as NeighborWorks Blackstone River Valley and Rhode Island Housing, businesses such as the Federal Home Loan Bank, Bank of America and Navigant Bank — and a long list of equally important partners — were celebrating the conversion of the rundown Mulvey’s Hardware into a range of new community uses.

Sandy Seone has the story at the Valley Breeze newspaper.

“A downtown building that sat dormant for more than a decade was declared officially revived this week as NeighborWorks Blackstone River Valley celebrated the grand opening of 40 South Main St.

“The $3.3 million renovation project began in 2014 and has resulted in the complete conversion of a former hardware store into six, [one-bedroom] apartments; a meeting space; a rooftop patio; a basement rental area for small businesses; and a kitchen ‘incubator’ space, which will provide top of the line appliances to small-time local cooks and bakers looking for a chance to sell their wares. …

“The six housing units in the building have all been rented – three men and three women are slated to move in soon – and the building has a waiting list of additional potential tenants. The one-bedroom apartments cost $700 per month, and include some 750 square feet of modern space with a kitchen, living room and bathroom.

“Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea was among a small group to tour the two-story building at a ribbon-cutting ceremony on [April 25].

“ ‘Those who have concerns about affordable housing can look at this and see how wonderful the right kind of development truly is,’ Gorbea noted. …

“The construction project is believed to have supported more than 25 local small businesses, and NeighborWorks officials said that the housing units should generate $100,000 annually in consumer spending.”

More at Valley Breeze, here.

Members of the Marching Milkman Band perform at the opening of the latest NeighborWorks Blackstone River Valley (NWBRV) development. According to NWBRV Executive Director Joseph Garlick, band members Emily Lisker and Bill Calhoun have played a key role in building the arts community in Woonsocket.
042516-Milkman-Marching-band-Woonsocket

 

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You might be interested in this article about how Dayton, Ohio, is welcoming immigrants as part of its effort to spur economic growth.

Dylan Scott at Governing magazine writes, “In contrast to some states’ anti-immigration policies, a few cities are actively trying to attract immigrants to boost their own economies. …

“City officials estimate that 10 percent of the Ahiska Turks in the United States have established themselves here in Dayton. But they aren’t alone. There are also immigrants from Mexico, Vietnam, Samoa and elsewhere.

“Watching some of these residents’ difficulty in adjusting to their new surroundings — some encountering language barriers and others struggling to secure housing — convinced city officials they needed to do more to help.

“Dayton’s Human Relations Council, a city department that investigates discrimination complaints, started in 2010 by initiating a study into allegations from Hispanic residents regarding housing discrimination. Around the same time, City Manager Tim Riordan and City Commissioner Matt Joseph resolved to make public services more accessible for those who spoke English as a second language.

“It didn’t take long for Dayton’s leaders to figure out that incremental steps wouldn’t do, that the immigration issue needed a comprehensive solution and the involvement of the entire community.

” ‘It requires a huge partnership. There are only so many things we can do as the city,’ Joseph says. ‘And the big thing is an attitude change. We have to make sure we’re encouraging people to be more welcoming and that the incentives are running the right way. That’s our role.’ …

“Dayton officials seized on a growing academic consensus that embracing immigrants is beneficial to the country as a whole and specifically the economy. A June 2011 Brookings Institution report concluded: ‘U.S. global competitiveness rests on the ability of immigrants and their children to thrive economically and to contribute to the nation’s productivity.’ The U.S. Chamber of Commerce wrote last year that research shows ‘immigrants significantly benefit the U.S. economy.’ ” Read more.

Photograph: Tim Witmer
Sarvar Ispahi, his son Uzeir and their family moved to the United States from Russia in 2005 after Ahiska Turks were granted refugee status by the federal government. They chose Dayton because a refugee community was already forming there.

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An article in the UK’s Guardian addresses the fact that downtowns are changing now that so much retail activity is online. Some “big thinkers” were asked their thoughts on the future of downtowns.

Writes Tim Lewis, “Across Britain, one in seven shops is now boarded up, as consumers drive to out-of-town malls or wait out the recession with their hands in their pockets. Then there is the one-click efficiency of online shopping: the UK is Europe’s leading e-retail economy, with sales estimated at £68.2bn for 2011; the market grew 16% in 2011 and is predicted to increase by a further 13% this year. That is why high street chains such as Woolworths, Zavvi and Habitat have made way for an endless parade of mobile-phone stores and charity shops.”

In response, Mary Portas, who since May 2011 has been “heading up an independent review for David Cameron’s government,” solicited ideas from a variety of creative thinkers, beyond the usual urban planners. Here are a few of the ideas that surfaced.

* Artist Martin Boyce: turn high streets into urban playgrounds
* Retailer Jane Shepherdson: offer lower rents to attract new talent
* Architect David Adjaye: bring public buildings on to the high street
* Fashion magazine editor Lorraine Candy: “create a lust for bespoke shopping”

For details on how such things might be implemented to transform the high streets and their boarded-up storefronts, read the article.

Illustration about downtowns becoming more playful: Patrick Morgan for the Observer

high street

The artist: Martin Boyce
The idea: turn high streets into urban playgrounds

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I’m learning about cash mobs and how they are used to help small businesses and promote economic development.

I like that it’s kind of a surprise for the business. The town selects a shop for some policy reason like wanting to revitalize a particular part of town or to encourage a promising entrepreneur. It promotes the business for a cash-mob day and encourages local folks to spend some money. People do because it’s fun, and because they, too, want to help.

“A cash mob works like this,” writes the Globe. “City officials, civic groups, or individuals use social media, blogs, and e-mail to spread the word about the event. As @Lowellcashmob tweeted this week, ‘Infusing revenue into Lowell businesses, you never know where the cash mob will strike!’ …

“Merchants do not run them, but are selected for a ‘hit.’ Participants are encouraged to spend $10 to $20. There often aren’t any discounts or incentives — it’s less about nabbing a Black Friday bargain and more about sharing the wealth.” More here.

Got me thinking. How else could this work? Could the town choose a local blood bank for a cash-mob day? How about a “paint the youth center” day? Or a day to buy something at the Pirate Supply Store to support the tutoring program? Would people think that was fun, too?


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A new exhibit organized by the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum in New York demonstrates the power of design to make life better for disadvantaged people.

“This is a design show about remaking the world … And that’s thrilling,” writes Michael Kimmelman, “whether it’s happening in Cupertino, Calif., or Uganda, where H.I.V. infects hundreds of people a day, and the latest news cellphone-wise has been the design and distribution of a text-messaging system that spreads health care information.

“In Kibera, an area of Nairobi, Kenya, and one of the densest slums in Africa, the challenge was different. Traditional wood and charcoal fires cause rampant respiratory disease there. Refuse fills the streets. So a Nairobian architect designed a community cooker, fueled by refuse residents collect in return for time using the ovens.

“From cellphones and cookers to cities: in Thailand, a public program called Baan Mankong Community Upgrading has, for the last eight years, been improving conditions in hundreds of that country’s 5,500 slums, bringing residents together with government and nongovernment agencies to design safer, cleaner places to live.”

Read more in the NY Times.

You will also enjoy reading about slum (favela) painting in Brazil and what a new coat of paint can do for building residents’ skills while lifting their spirits.

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