One of the largest mountains to climb for many communities or downtown districts is the term I refer to as a “poverty-minded” attitude. Yes, many communities and downtowns need to overcome the economic issues of social or demographic poverty, but that is not what “poverty minded” refers to in this context.
Poverty minded as it relates to this column refers to the mind-set of those who are actually in a position to make transformation and revitalization happen. Despite being in this position, they are stuck in a poverty-minded attitude due to the their long-term battle and association with poverty experienced through community decay.
I recently worked with a business that wouldn’t accept credit cards because it cost a few percentage points on each of the transactions. When convinced to move into the current century, they were thrilled as their business increased nearly 30%. Trying to save those few pennies was costing them hundreds or even thousands in potential business. These same problems and mind-sets exist on an even greater and more devastating scale in city governments and civic leaders who control the future and financial destiny of the community and downtown.
Make no mistake; this poverty mind-set is an easy mind-set to have. As one watches the decay of their community, downtown or businesses accelerate around them, it is easy to believe decay is normal and to be expected. After all, they have numerous examples of decay happening in hundreds or even thousands of towns across the country.
How does a community, downtown or business overcome a poverty mind-set and begin transforming? What is the common ingredient successful communities and downtown districts have adopted that flows through all their transformation and revitalization efforts? The answer is almost too simple. I believe the common ingredient is found by simply looking at what might be the opposite of a poverty mind-set. That common ingredient is something we all seek and are drawn toward, that is a positive can-do attitude.
The first step in any transformation and revitalization of a community or downtown district is a strong vision coupled with a very healthy dose of optimism. When you couple a strong vision with genuine optimism, many communities and downtown obstacles can be overcome. The poverty mind-set crowd or thought process must be overwhelmed with vision and a positive can-do attitude that is infectious. Everyone wants to be associated with a winner; few want to claim to be a member of the losing team.
Yes, the vision must be realistic. Yes, the optimism must be based on that realistic vision. Far too many communities or downtowns fail to understand just how much ability they already have to succeed. Never underestimate the ability of the residents of a community and business owners to do outstanding things. Many communities and downtowns are wallowing in self-pity while others across the country are undergoing incredible and sustainable transformation.
Oftentimes, those biggest obstacles are our own citizens and those in a position to enact the greatest change. The greatest task is converting them to the vision and the dream. Of course, you have quite a bit to lose. No change usually just means more of the same decay and demise of your downtown.
As you might have determined, this column is short on actual specifics and long on mind-sets and attitudes. That is by design as it is the vision mind-set and positive attitude that must be present in order to succeed. I have seen few if any communities or downtown districts succeed without having this strong will to win and succeed. The time is now for change. We must change or be rendered inadequate in the world that is transforming around us.
John A. Newby, author of the "Building Main Street, Not Wall Street " column and Facebook group dedicated to helping communities and media companies work together allowing both to not just survive, but thrive in a world where truly local is lost to Amazon, Wall Street chains and others. His email at: john@360MediaAlliance.net.